Lady of The Camellias-The Irish National Ballet

“The Irish National Ballet celebrated in fine style at the Abbey Theatre with the first performance of a fascinating ballet, “Lady Of The Camellias” choreographed by its artistic adviser Domy Reiter-Soffer.
showing keen dramatic sense, he has pared down the story to its essential elements, and treated the theme in a properly balletic way by introducing elements of fantasy, which, in fact, add greatly to the atmosphere and intensify the drama. The dancers of the corps de ballet, for example are used functionally and symbolically, rather than just as a decorative addition, and serve different purposes at different times.
Reiter-Soffer maintains a remarkable standard: in his use of dance images, in his production of the carefully selected artists, and in his choice of music by Saint Saens, which gives him what he needs as a basis for his choreography at each stage of the action. In the opening scene last night Kathleen Smith as Marguerite, looked confident and gave a beautifully understated and compelling performance. Even her moments of great joy, dancing with her beloved Armand, she projected an undercurrent of sadness, and her interpretation reached a splendid climax in her portrayal of the death of Marguerite, in Armand's embrace, and reaching one arm high in the air in her despair. Peter Wood was no less admirable as Armand. He has often worked with Reiter-Soffer in the past and understands perfectly how to make his intelligent body move smoothly and powerfully through the phase, although some of his movements are technically very difficult”.
( Fernau Hall- The Daily Telegraph).


“Irish National ballet opened at the Abbey Theatre last night with a new splendid ballet created by Domy Reiter-Soffer's “Lady Of The Camellias”, and well deserved the reception it got from a rapturous audience, who cheered the choreographer and the dancers. All his work has combined an exceptionally musical sensitivity with a superb sense of drama, but dumas story of Marguerite and Armand, which inspired Verdi's opera La Traviata , he has found a way of expressing the whole tragic story in wonderful movement which never seems forced or implausible. I have always found it hard to accept a heroine singing powerfully while dying of lung disease, But Kathleen Smith's fitful bursts of energy and sudden collapses as Marguerite are both plausible and beautifully balletic. Coughing is not normally the most graceful of actions, yet Choreographer and dancer have here brilliantly combined plausibility and grace. There are two wonderful moments when Marguerite and Armand are separated from one another physically but neither of them aware of anyone else. The first when they are at the performance of “Samson and Delilah” and the strains of ‘softly awakes my heart' exactly expresses their dawning love for one another. The second after Marguerite has left Armand in order to spare his family shame, is when they are in a crowded salon surrounded by Danse Macabre of the demimondaines. In both cases the action of all the others is frozen, as the two go to one another in their minds and hearts.
The middle act, where the lovers are living happy, simple lives in the country is beautifully contrasted with the other two acts, in movements and style evoking peasant and country feel with costumes in soft rustic shades in contrast to the glitter of Paris, until Armand ‘s father comes to spoil the idyll, almost literally trying to twist his son's arm in a brilliant pas de deux, vainly trying to bend him to his will.
Saint- Saens's music has been brilliantly edited to mirror the dramatic changes by Domy Reiter-Soffer, who has been superbly served by his cast, especially Kathleen Smith in her moving portrayal, and Peter Wood as Armand, gallant, romantic and tortured. In contrast Anna Donovan was very effective as the dizzy Prudence Marguerite's friend, I have never seen drunkenness so effectively conveyed in dance, and seldom seen funnier dancing. What ever you do, get yourself to the Abbey Theater somehow”.
(Carolyn Swift- The Irish Times).


“Domy Reiter-Soffer's new ballet “Lady of the Camellias” was a triumph by any standards. Dramatically the story has almost everything: love, scandal, fatal illness, family conflict, self-sacrifice, deathbed reconciliation and alluringly risqué setting in the Parisian demi-monde of the mid 19 th century.
Reiter-Soffer has added humour and a deep exploration of the emotional triangle between Armand, his father and his dying mistress Marguerite. Armand was danced by Peter Wood who has a quality of vulnerability, immaturity and still attached to his dominant father, as is shown by unusual pas de deux for the two men which opens the ballet. Wood is well up to the technical demands of partnering Kathleen Smith, whose Marguerite is at once human and elegant, gay, tender and tragic by turns as one has come to expect of her. The Standard of the dancing was high and a special mention should be made of Anna Donovan, for her often very funny Prudence, Donald Lloyd as the father, Denise Roberts as Olympe and Roger Wade as the Comte de Giray all danced their roles with conviction. The sets and costumes were a delight and the music of Saint-Saens was a better choice than any Verdi adaptation. The whole company rose to the occasion and danced this very dramatic romantic ballet with skill and bravura”.
(Ginnie Kennealy- The Sunday Press).


“Domy Reiter-Soffer's “Lady Of The Camellias” a full length ballet for the Irish National Ballet opened last night at the Abbey Theatre was long overdue, the wait was eminently worthwhile.
The Ballet is based on the autobiographical romantic novel by Alexander Dumas Fils and set to the music of Saint Saens. The two blend perfectly, the romantic theme is painted with all the boldness, broadness and clarity that one associates with a Reiter-Soffer ballet. In the lady of the Camellias, he has a rich narrative seam, which he mines richly and faithfully and the main characters, Armand and Marguerite, have been richly drawn, with generosity of spirit that makes the ballet something unique and special. He is rewarded with some riveting performances from Kathleen Smith in the role of the consumptive courtesan Marguerite Gautier, a tailor-made tragic role and she responds to the role with a compelling a performance as one could hope to see. The part is a showcase for her talents, allowing plenty of scope for her renowned Dramatic skills and also as a delightful lyrical dancer in the scenes of bucolic happiness with Armand. Peter Wood as Armand, is a real find for the company. The young American physical stature is most imposing giving a tremendous performance. Act one is largely a scene set, showing the vacuity of Parisian high society as Marguerite has an unhappy love affair before she falls passionately in love with Armand, here both Roger Wade as the Count and Anna Donovan as prudence give a splendid performances and considerable contributions in the supporting parts. Act Two starts with the couple living happily in the country and ends with Armand's father- a fine performance by Donald Lloyd- prevailing on Marguerite to end the affair for his son's and family's sakes.
Act Three opens with a superb tableau of high society decadence. Armand has be-courtesan Olympe (Denise Roberts). He tries and fails to win back Marguerite and eventually cruelly rejects Olympe who danced the role with conviction.
Finally destitute and dying, Marguerite sends for Armand and they are re-united on her deathbed. Lady of the Camellias is a skillfully choreographed and dramatically crafted ballet and enormous edition to the company's repertoire”.
(Graham Sennett- The Evening Press).


“DomyReiter Soffer's full length ballet, Lady Of The Camellias, opened to an enthusiastic response last night in the Abbey Theatre. As performed by he Irish National Ballet, it is a work, which highlights the development of the company and is a fitting celebration of their 10 th Anniversary. In the past, Domy Reiter-Soffer's work has tended to be dramatic using lighting and sound to create a form of very modern theatrical ballet. Lady Of The Camellias, is more lyrical- even surprisingly so- but nevertheless dramatic and moving. It is a work, which will bear, repeated viewings, because of its human quality and completeness. It also looks a wonderful work to dance to, and the strengths of each dancer are used to the full. Anna Donovan is a revelation as skittish Prudence and has a drunken scene, which is the funniest thing I have seen in the theatre in a long time.
The ensemble work is excellent and Domy shows again how effectively he can use space. His Opera scene and the opening of the third act to Danse Macabre have a stately quality that is brilliantly effective.
Another most unusual and effective piece of dancing is the pas de deux between Armand, danced by Peter Wood and his father danced by Donald Lloyd. This highlights the talent of wood's work. The center of the story is Marguerite's illness, and inevitably Kathleen Smith's performance in the title role is truly phenomenal and it comes into its own in the final act. There is a very effective episode in Danse Macabre when she suddenly falls ill, and then the final pas de deux with Armand, slow sensual and with a suitable edge of urgency before she dies, held upright, in Armand's arms. The Music of Saint Saens is beautifully put together and emphasizes the high romanticism of the ballet. As for the costume and décor they are luscious combining art deco with late nineteenth century most ingeniously.
Lady of the Camellias has one other great virtue. As well as appealing to anyone who loves theatre, it will be enjoyed by those who have little acquaintance with ballet”.
(Lindie Naughton- The Irish Press).


“Lady of the Camellias which opened last night at the opera house is the archetype story of star crossed lovers. It is a love story of great emotion and tragedy, played against a backdrop of the lavish salons of the 19 th century Paris . The Irish National Ballet in their production choreographed by Domy Reiter-Soffer has all the gaiety, high living and sadness of this true love story, based on the love affair between Alexandre Dumas Fils and Marie Duplessis. Kathleen Smith danced Marguerite and Howard Epstein Armand. It is highly dramatic work, given all the passion, gaiety and tragedy demanded. In this three act ballet, never dull or dragging, the characters are so effectively and effortlessly convincing that the production never wavers, and the audience of last night was carried along with them, through scenes of devotional love and agonizing moments of true theatre.
Softly awakes my heart from the opera Samson and Delilah was true shock coup de theatre when during it the two lovers meet for the first time, was indeed a stunning tableau, at which they excelled. The music of Camille Saint Saens was very apt, and often very daring with intense delicacy and also humorous. Prudence, danced by Anna Donovan, giving a delightfully humorous drunk with exuberance, without ever losing the discipline of the dance. One of the most moving scenes was that of Armand's father beseeching and entreating the young couple to part, because of social pressure. Alasdair Lindfoot as the father was aloof and yet caring, sharing a strong bond with his son, and then showing a restrained sympathy and affection for Marguerite. Throughout Kathleen Smith was stunning, with the true strength and yet a delicate approach of Marguerite. She worked well with the delightful Nanine, her maid Carol Bryans. Anna Donovan was at once her loyal friend and flighty rival, her performance was notable throughout the ballet. The Irish National Ballet's presentation is intensely emotional and most enjoyable experience. It was a night of elegance and wonderful dancing to remember”.
(Isabel Healy- The Irish Times).

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