True love and tragedy in Boston Ballet’s Lady of the Camellias
Val Caniparoli adapts a famous Dumas love story
Lady of the Camellias
Venue: Boston Opera House
Running through March 8
Choreographed by Val Caniparoli, Lady of the Camellias by Boston Ballet is an emotion-filled display of the talent that makes the company so special.
The story of Lady of the Camellias is based on the novel of 19th century author Alexandre Dumas, well known for penning The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo. Set to music by Chopin, the ballet follows the events of a courtesan, Marguerite Gautier, and a young gentleman, Armand Duval.
The story goes that Armand becomes smitten with Marguerite at a party at her apartment, and their love blossoms, much to the frustration of Marguerite’s protector, the Baron de Varville. However, Armand’s father appears in the summer of their love to Marguerite, and demands that she renounce Armand so that the family may maintain their respectability. Marguerite, who wishes to protect Armand, devises a plan to deceive Armand and make him hate her, leading up to the tragic events of the third and final act.
Four pairs of principal dancers play Marguerite and Armand: Kathleen Breen Combes with Yury Yanowsky; Erica Cornejo with Lasha Khozashvili; Ashley Ellis with Sabi Varga; and Anais Chalendard with Eris Nezha.
The first of many beautiful pair dances, known as pas de deux, came at the end of the first act. On opening night, Combes and Yanowsky were splendid - she playing the delicate Marguerite, for whom true love is restoring her innocence, and he Armand, whose naivete and passion control his actions. Notably, Combes brought out one of the most tragic aspects of the story - the fact that Marguerite gradually succumbs to an unknown illness. Combes adds a perfect amount of fragility to each scene, making Marguerite’s condition progressively more apparent. Without words, she conveys the suffering of her character and the strain of being governed by the interests of so many men.
Awing the audience with sheer strength was Bo Busby as Armand Duval, Sr. He towered over the rest of the cast, giving great articulation to his movements. Busby’s arabesques, in which he extended one long leg and supported his weight on the other, looked almost ridiculous for a man of his stature, but they were all the more impressive. At the end of Act II, he drew gasps from the audience when he picked up the well-built Yanowsky in a father-son dance, cradling him with striking ease.
But who truly stood out was the petite ballerina from Japan, principal dancer Misa Kuranaga as Nichette, a good friend of Marguerite’s. At just 5’1”, Kuranaga performed with a superb level of technical skill and, most surprisingly, expressiveness, despite her small size.
Music by 19th-century Romantic composer Frédéric Chopin accompanied the performance. Much of it was light solo piano, lilting over multiple pas de deux. Two operatic performances accompanied some of the most heartbreaking scenes. The score, just as much as the dancing, clung to the audience well after the ballet’s dreamy conclusion.