A Farewell to Houston Ballet’s ‘Marie’

7 Mar

By JOHN DeMERS

At the end of Stanton’s Welch’s ambitious storytelling extravaganza known simply as Marie, we see the famous woman’s only surviving daughter waving goodbye to her spirit, lit against the gardens of Versailles. And we certainly know how the daughter feels, since Houston Ballet’s second try at the work is now history as well. If anything, thanks to lead Melody Herrera’s embodiment of Antoinette, Marie has taken on even greater grandeur in the years since its world premiere. 

In this rather intense (especially for ballet) tale of the French Revolution, the tragedy at the end was far more powerful than before, while the happy times near the beginning (like the dance above from Marie’s carefree revels at Versailles) were even happier. The contrast between these two emotions was every bit as dramatic as that between the wealthy court dwellers and the smudge-faced, rag-wrapped rebels who sound their death knell in the shadow of the guillotine.

One of the quirks of Welch’s rendering is that, while Marie is married to the king of France (who, Texas-style, seems to prefer hunting) , she saves her most passionate dancing for a Polish count with whom she has an affair. This is doubly quirky considering that classical ballet has no shortage of men torn between two lovers (including, of course, Prince Siegfried and those swans, Black and White); but not very many women. I suppose that at this point we’re supposed to say: It’s good to be the queen. Still, Herrera and Connor Walsh were endlessly impressive as the lovers.

 

In the strictest sense of storytelling, the closing visual of Marie waving farewell to her daughter seems something of an add-on. But one, it’s definitely an improvement over the guillotine. And it also underlines the unforgettable identity that Marie Antoinette brought to world history. Sitting in our seats at the Wortham Center, we really hated to see her go.

Photos by Amitava Sarkar (top to bottom): Melody Herrera and Ian Casady; Charles Louis-Yoshiyama with artists of Houston Ballet; Herrera and Connor Walsh; Herrera waves farewell to her daughter.

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One Response to “A Farewell to Houston Ballet’s ‘Marie’”

  1. Ballet Bags July 2, 2011 at 7:34 pm #

    I will miss this ballet alot. I really liked it.

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