Wuthering Heights

Les Hauts de Hurlevent

 

BALLET IN TWO PARTS BASED ON THE EMILE BRONTE NOVEL

 

Original music   Philippe Hersant

Choreography and staging   Kader Belarbi

Adaptation   Agathe Berman et Kader Belarbi

Sets and lighting   Peter Pabst

Costumes   Elsa Pavanel

 

THE NOVEL

 

Wuthering Heights, published in 1847 and written by Emily Brontë, under the pseudonym of Ellis Bell, is “perhaps the finest and most profoundly violent of love stories“ (Georges Bataille).

The recollections of a traveller (Lockwood) who recounts the memories of Nelly the governess, the story of Wuthering Heights tells how childish passion is transformed into destructive hate. On the wild and windswept Yorkshire moors, live two families, the Earnshaws and the Lintons.

One day, the father of the Earnshaw family brings home from Liverpool an orphan whom he has decided to adopt and call by the name of Heathcliff.

Heathcliff, who becomes his favourite child, is detested by Hindley, the legitimate son. 

For many years, Heathcliff keeps secret his love for Catherine, the daughter of his benefactor.

After the death of her father, Catherine grows closer to Heathcliff. Torn between love for her childhood companion and the material and social advancement offered by the Linton family, Catherine decides to marry Edgar Linton.

She never truly recovers from this heart-rending choice and dies after giving birth to a daughter.

After three years of absence, during which he seems to have made his fortune, Heathcliff returns and sets about taking his devilish revenge on the two families and their descendants.

 

 

THE BALLET

 

Although Wuthering Heights has already given rise to several stage and screen versions, this is the first time that the Paris Opera Ballet has presented an adaptation of the well-known novel.

Freely drawing their inspiration from Emily Brontë’s work, Kader Belarbi and Agathe Berman have written the libretto for this production.

Kader Belarbi’s choreography is performed to an original score composed by Philippe Hersant with costumes by Elsa Pavanel.

Staging and lighting are conceived by Peter Pabst.

From a choreographic point of view, Kader Belarbi seeks to establish a parallel between the novel and romantic ballet, several of whose forms he uses and transposes :

- a two-act construction : the real -social reality- for the first act ; the unreal -transfiguration– for the second act ;

- the recurrence of antagonistic figures (masculine/feminine, high/low, sky/earth) ;

- the use of leitmotivs (both choreographic and musical) associated with the various characters ;

- the concrete and symbolic omnipresence of the four elements (earth, air, fire, water) ;

- appearances / disappearances.

 

The corps de ballet plays an important role of chorus (like the Wilis in Giselle or the Swans in Swan Lake), both as peasants and bourgeois, witnessing the unfolding drama. In particular, they give multiple expression to the characters of Catherine and Heathcliff, in the form of two groups :

- the male chorus, the “body guards“, represents the cruel, dark, devilish and destructive side of Heathcliff : his secret character ;

- the female chorus, the “soul guards“, brings physical expression to Catherine in their ghostly and ethereal apparitions (on pointe shoes).