“The Opera”: when fiction takes its quarters at the Palais Garnier

(AFP) – Applause bonus, supernumerary, coryphée: never a fiction before “The Opera”, a long-awaited series, has depicted in such detail the universe both glamorous and codified of the Paris Opera and his prestigious ballet company.

The shooting of a season 2 began even before the broadcast of the first eight episodes from Tuesday on OCS.

Will an “aging” star manage to rise again? The series revolves around the dancer Zoé Monin (Ariane Labed) that the Opera wants to dismiss, the young dance director Sébastien Cheneau (Raphaël Personnaz) who wants to dust off the company, or the black dancer Flora (Suzy Bemba), supernumerary (engaged in CDD) who fights to integrate the company.

The world of ballet has often been portrayed on screen (“Black Swan”, “Tiny Pretty Things”, “Flesh and Bone” etc.). But “The Opera”, without avoiding some clichés, tells with realism the daily life of the dancers of the Opera and that of the men and women of the shadows (managers, assistants …), the relationship with the patrons or with the Ministry of Culture.

Sequences were shot at the Palais Garnier in Paris (grand staircase, roof, artists’ entrance, grand foyer), but most of it was shot at the Opéra de Liège (Belgium). The rehearsal rooms have been reconstituted, and the cast mixes former dancers and actors who have trained and are dubbed during the dance scenes.

– “Negotiations and frustrations” –

At the Séries Mania festival – where Ariane Labed was crowned best actress in French competition -, screenwriters and directors explained that they wanted to show a series on subjects such as diversity, suffering at work or the right to a second chance. Beyond the dance.

“What surprised me the most is the anchoring in our contemporary society of the Opera, which I imagined a little stupidly caught in a reality belonging to 1890”, declared Raphaël Personnaz.

“It obviously interested me to have glamor, dance and beauty, but also to show in this profession the negotiations and the frustrations”, explains Benjamin Adam who created the series with Cécile Ducrocq (“Bureau des Légendes “, “Ten percent”).

In the background, a strike notice, the tensions or complicity between old and new and attempts to reform an institution deemed resistant to change.

And above all, winks supported to the turbulent mandate of Benjamin Millepied, dance director who had brought a touch of glamor to the Opera and tried to reform the company before slamming the door in 2016, at the end of a year.

“What I see today is a sclerotic troupe, dancers who train for an internal promotion competition with barely one place per year, talents who can’t stand not being named ( star) “, affirms the character of Sébastien Cheneau.

– “One influence among others” –

Millepied had made no secret of his criticisms of the Ballet’s very strict hierarchy or the terrifying in-house promotion competition which he said paralyzed the dancers.

He had deplored the lack of diversity, compared the corps de ballet to “wallpaper” and entrusted a star role to the Métis dancer Letizia Galloni when she was still only coryphae, a step far from that of star.

The “reform of the status of the stars” in the series recalls Millepied’s desire to highlight young dancers. The stars then felt “put in the closet”, a bit like the character of Zoe Monin.

The writers assure that Millepied was “one influence among others”. They documented themselves, discussing with dancers and other employees of the Opera, and had for “advice” Astrid Boitel, a former student at the Opera School of Dance where she was also assistant director.

So much so that the creators of the series “can now compare different versions of Swan Lake,” jokes producer Florence Levard.