It’s International Dance Day, and Gramilano’s uploaded a short compilation of clips from the first act of the little known ballet by Jules Massenet: La Cigale.
The video was recorded in the Teatro Comunale in Treviso in 1988 and features Carla Fracci and Paul Chalmer.
The premiere of La Cigale was on 4 February 1904 at Paris Opéra Comique. The libretto was by Henri Cain, who had already collaborated several times with Massenet – including writing the libretto for the opera Cendrillon – and the two men would create many more pieces after this ballet.
The story is a retelling of the fable The Grasshopper and the Ant. The grasshopper being a cicada (cigale) and the ant here is ‘La Pauvrette’ (the poor little one).
La Pauvrette, after being welcomed, taken in, and fed by La Cigale, is rude and cruel when the situation is reversed. Cigale is left to die in the snow at the close of the ballet. Fracci is La Cigale and Chalmer is her Petit Ami.
The director Beppe Menegatti, always on the lookout for unusual pieces, often his own creations, and always a vehicle for his wife, Fracci, asked Anna Anni – maybe best known for her many projects with Franco Zeffirelli – to design the beautiful costumes and Loris Gai to choreograph.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano’) about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman’s Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia’ column for Dancing Times magazine.