• Julia Sumzina

Le Rouge et le Noir by Pierre Lacotte: the tragedy of passions

Le Rouge et le Noir: Chronique du XIXe siècle is a historical psychological novel by Stendhal, published in 1830. Pierre Lacotte, a dancer and choregrapher, the legend of Paris Opera Ballet, has created a great piece, a ballet based on this novel, which preserves main line but places accents a little different way.



The Red and the Black… what it means? The life of the protagonist, Julien Sorel, is coloured in passionate secular red and clerical black, which symbolizes renunciation uncharacteristic for ambitious Julien. A protégé of the abbé Chélan, he breaks into the world of the aristocracy in the period of the Restauration. His story shows that love and ambitions are the most sinful and dangerous passions. Firstly we pay attention on two love stories, with Madame de Rênal and Mathilde de La Mole which lead Julien Sorel through the plot. If we go deeper, here we will see that desire, politics and religion can shape a human into an experienced player or a flash of lightning, bright and passionate, emotional and tragic, as it exactly happened with the protagonist.

The study of complicated personalities expressed by the Lacotte’s choreography, costume and set design, accompanied by a musical anthology from Jules Massenet looks spectacular on the stage of l’Opéra Garnier.

The audience in different countries had an opportunity to see the live stream from Paris Opera on 21 October. So, let’s talk about it in details.


Julien Sorel performed by Hugo Marchand, with all his power of youth, looks ambitious, hot tempered, selfish and flirty, but charming, strong and sincere. He seems living on stage, changing with the story going, loving and suffering, desiring freedom and success. His stunning legerity, with such a high stature and athletic build, flawless technique: accuracy, perfect feet and arms deserve admiration.


Audric Bezard as l’abbé Chélan is one of the main characters of the ballet. His figure is paternal and loving, instructive and

patronizing, clerically strict and humble at the same time. The interaction between Chélan

and Julien is breathtaking in all duets, with impressive lifts and emotional bound. The choreography of this character is special: he is both a catholic cross and a thin and light, but strongest bulk of a Gothic cathedral; Lacotte’s pietà in the third act duet astonishes by its symbolism.


The match between fragile femininity and inner strength, love and hatred, passion and purity inside Madame de Rênal performed by Dorothée Gilbert is amazing. The Paris Opera Ballet étoile dances and acts all the spectre of emotions with the ideal technical part. Her four Pas de Deux with Hugo Marchand are fascinating: natural, sensual and very technically clean and wonderfully harmonious in each movement.


Stéphane Bullion makes his Monsieur de Rênal noble and imperious, at the same time he performs a human being with inartificial emotions. He is fast and controls his body perfectly, demonstrating the flying jumps and the amazing small feet technique.


Disappointed, desperate and vengeful Élisa by Roxane Stojanov and insidious and cruel l'abbé Castanede by Pablo Legasa are very bright characters with strong individual traits as in choreography as in acting part.



Two very different and charming ladies from the high society Mathilde de la Mole (Bianca Scudamore) and La Maréchale de Fervaques (Camille Bon) showed their best in graceful and playful Pas de Deux. Each of the characters colours the story of Julien Sorel, mostly wearing white and light blue, in all the tints, but red and black stayed dominative.



The atmosphere of the XIX century, full of sparkling beauty and solemn gloom is alive on stage with the highest speed and complicity of Pierre Lacotte’s choreography, it brings the spectators to the 1820-1830s. This ballet may seem long and enormous, but the lightness of performing and dynamic of actions 100% make it worth to watch and admire.


Text: Julia Sumzina

Photos: Svetlana Loboff, OnP

Video: OnP

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