2006-08-17 / Arts & Entertainment

Master Choreographer's Ballet "Jewels" To Be Presened On PBS

Agns Letestu and Jean-Guillaume Bart are featured in the Diamonds section of 'Jewels' From The Paris Opera Ballet on PBS (check local listings).                            Francette LevieuxAgns Letestu and Jean-Guillaume Bart are featured in the Diamonds section of 'Jewels' From The Paris Opera Ballet on PBS (check local listings). Francette Levieux Master choreographer George Balanchine created many gems, but only one "Jewels." As sparkling, seductive and finely crafted as anything by Faberge or Van Cleef & Arpels, the 1967 work, set to music by Faur, Stravinsky and Tchaikovsky, remains a multifaceted showcase for virtuoso dancing, as demonstrated in the current production at the Paris Opera Ballet.

Starring company favorites Kader Belarbi, Aurlie Dupont, Mathieu Ganio, Marie-Agns Gillot, Agns Letestu, Clairemarie Osta, and Latitia Pujol, and featuring striking sets and costumes by luxe couturier Christian Lacroix, the acclaimed staging premieres August 28 at 10 p.m. (ET) on Thirteen/ WNET New York's GREAT PERFORMANCES on PBS (check local listings). Paul Connelly leads the Paris Opera Orchestra.

Inspired by a visit to a Fifth Avenue jeweler, the work is divided by Balanchine into three parts: Emeralds, Rubies and Diamonds. "I have always liked jewels," the choreographer said, "after all, I am an Oriental, from Georgia in the Caucasus. I like the color of gems, the beauty of stones."

Diamonds is set to the music of Tchaikovsky in 'Jewels' From The Paris Opera Ballet, on Thirteen/WNET New York's Great Performances.                                         Photos by  Francette Levieux Diamonds is set to the music of Tchaikovsky in 'Jewels' From The Paris Opera Ballet, on Thirteen/WNET New York's Great Performances. Photos by Francette Levieux He set Emeralds to French composer Gabriel Faur’s Pellas et Mlisande and Shylock; Rubies to Igor Stravinsky's Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra. For Diamonds, the glittering Grand Finale, he used Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 3 (minus the first movement).

While the dances have nothing literally to do with precious stones - Arlene Croce suggested the title hinted at "a pretext if not a plot" - they are indeed jewels. Since the work's premiere in 1967 with Balanchine's own New York City Ballet, audiences and critics have enjoyed making up their own minds as to what the pieces are about. The sensuous Emeralds, for many, evokes 19th-century Paris, particularly the fluid, wafting choreography of the Ro-mantic era ballerinas.

With its jagged Stravinsky rhythms, Rubies can be seen as Balanchine's salute to the energy and speed of his adopted nation's dancers. It is sexy, witty, flirtatious, and an enduring audience favorite. Diamonds surely represents his nod to the Imperial Russian Ballet, where he trained and where the great Petipa created such classics as Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty, also set to music by Tchaikovsky. The piece is white-hot brilliance personified.

The oldest national ballet company in the world, the Paris Opera Ballet has had a long relationship with George Balanchine. His popular Symphony in C was created for the company, and premiered there in 1947 as Le Palais de crystal. The Rubies section of Jewels was taken into the repertoire in 1974, and today the company boasts 27 Balanchine works.

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