Paris opera ballet star named at strike-struck performance

20th November 2007, Comments 0 comments

20 November 2007, PARIS - Amid a strike-struck performance of "The Nutcracker", with dancers performing in practise leotards, barebones lighting and no stage-sets, the Paris Opera late Monday named a new star-dancer to its prestigious ballet corps.

20 November 2007

PARIS - Amid a strike-struck performance of "The Nutcracker", with dancers performing in practise leotards, barebones lighting and no stage-sets, the Paris Opera late Monday named a new star-dancer to its prestigious ballet corps.

Dorothee Gilbert, 23, one of a handful in costume among the 40-odd dancers performing the Nureyev-choreographed ballet, brought down the house as Clara in the opera house hit by a wave of strikes sweeping France.

Hours before the performance, the Paris Opera said it was being forced to put on the show "with only one decor and no costumes" due to the strike, and opera-lovers who turned up were warned at the doors that the ballet would be at its most minimalist, or tickets swapped or reimbursed.

Since October 18, when French trade unions launched protests against government plans to reform the pension system, the Paris Opera has cancelled 13 performances, running up losses of around 2.5 million euros (3.7 million dollars), according to management.

While the 2,700-seat Bastille Opera house was far from full for Monday evening's "Nutcracker Suite" by Tchaikovsky, the lack of sets and lighting failed to dampen the enthusiasm of the crowd who gave Gilbert and the ballet applause after applause.

She is the 18th member of the 346-year-old Opera ballet to achieve the status of "etoile", or star, 10 of them men and eight of them women. The ballet has 154 permanent dancers as well as a school.

The protests follow plans by President Nicolas Sarkozy's government to reform special pension benefits enabling early retirement for 500,000 public sector workers.

The 1,680 permanent staff of the Opera have one of the oldest pension systems in France, created in 1698 by Louis XIV for the Opera's predecessor, the Royal Academy of Music.

The most spectacular measure concerns the dancers of the Opera ballet, who can retire at 40 -- and must do so by 42 -- after a mimimum 10 years in service. The 102 members of the Opera choir can retire aged 50.

AFP

Subject: French news

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