Review: Camille

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This performance will never leave me. Cape Town City Ballet’s reproduction of Veronica Paeper’s Camille is a riveting production combining the always-classic tragedy of lost love with the perfection of its dancers. Each detail has been thought out with care and creativity to bring this story to life, engulfing the audience with beauty from its sumptuous sets to a single joyful smile flashing out from a pirouette.

Laura Bosenberg as the courtesan Camille takes her balletic interpretation and performance to another standard. The final scene, in which the dying Camille dances a final pas de deux with her young lover Armand (eloquently danced by Thomas Thorne) is a duet of demandingly ‘loose’ structure and technique, but filled to its brim with passion and sincerity and heartfelt grief for the separation of two people in love. Camille’s body is limp and weak, yet her dark circled eyes still gaze at the man she loves in the same tender, awe-filled manner as they did when their eyes first met across a crowded room.  It is a ravishing piece of ballet and tugs at the heartstrings of anyone who has lost a loved one.

The Cape Philharmonic Orchestra, as conducted by Allan Stephenson, gives a stellar interpretation of the music from Verdi’s La Traviata – the opera which shares the story of La Dame aux camélias. From the moments of quiet subtlety to those of thunderous zeal and splendour, the music perfectly depicts the minute-to-minute emotions throughout the production. Turmoil is created in the orchestra pit as Armand’s father, splendidly played by a stalking Johnny Bovang, orders Camille to take her leave in order to save the family name.  And just so is the joy of flirtation and falling in love echoed musically, as Camille and Armand’s eyes lock from opposite sides of the stage. It is a visual, aural and emotional feast.

Magnificent set design, costumes and lighting transport the audience right into the centre of the drama in every scene, from the buzz of an upmarket bordello to the cool spaces of a quiet country house.  Just as impressive is the simple efficiency of the opening scene, in which Armand and his family stand under a dull light on an otherwise black stage, beneath a family portrait in a broad gold frame – all that is needed to explain the family dynamics and introduce the story.

Given the demanding nature of Veronica Paeper’s complicated choreography, the role of Camille is shared across the various performances between principal dancers Laura Bosenberg and Kim Vieira and the exquisite Tracy Li, a former Senior Principal, who returns to the stage to perform as a guest dancer.  The role of Armand, likewise, is shared between principal dancer Thomas Thorne and young soloists Daniel Szybkowski and Jesse Milligan.

With such a team of talented, passionate dancers the inimitable Elizabeth Triegaardt has once again produced a superb piece of theatre that will engage, delight and entrance even the most cautious ballet-goer.

Kristan Wood

Cape Town City Ballet’s Camille runs at the Artscape Opera House from 2 – 12 May 2013.

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