Monday, July 04, 2005

Choderlos de Laclos

Valmont, a Romantic hero with very bad press...

Mme de Merteuil in Les Liaisons Dangereuses at Sadler's WellsPosted by Picasa

I'm eager to visit London before August 14 in order not to miss a ballet adaptation of Uncle Choderlos' masterpiece. Another example of these private collections one ends up engaged upon in one's life. After the novel-in-letters itself, the screen adaptations, and the West End theatrical production, I think the no-words choreographic approach might bring something fresh and new.
My own "reading" of Valmont is not shared by everyone including, from what I've read , by Adam Cooper himself, who will dance the Vicomte at Sadler's Wells. The luciferine traits of Valmont, his "fucking bastard" quality, the amorality of his behaviour as a cold seducer - that's what almost everybody chooses to underline. I tend to be less harsh in my appreciation. For me the death-wish (fulfilled on the final duel) that follows the desperate realization that it is too late now - that he hast lost for good Mme de Tourvelle who was indeed his one great Love - has all the marks of Early post-Classical Romanticism at its very best. Classical literature, for all its wit and luminosity, lacked something that a wise portion of over-the-top romanticism could remedy. A century later, or so, Romanticism had degenerated (like Baroque into Rococo) and was no longer palatable outside adolescent tastes. But Valmont, like Oneguine, is what Casanova would have been if only he had been born a noble, or what Byron almost managed to be (albeit with the club foot as the albatross he had to carry around his neck all his short life). And that is what? Well, the classical rational elegance of a French formal garden with symmetrical bushes and clipped hedges plus the romantic generosity of heart, the abandonment of reason in the pursuit of the last chance of redemption through unique, unheard of, love.

On the Ballet version we are promised a "rape scene" involving Valmont and Cécile. I must object to this interpretation. "Rape" is too loaded a word to use without proper consideration. Some boundaries cannot be crossed: if you label Valmont a rapist you cannot even consider that the man has any of those post-Tourvelle redeeming features.

Under these circumstances I'm considering going to London in order to boo the ballet, and to organize a anti-globalization-type demonstration against the maltreatment of my dear old Vicomte.

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