If you think you can guess what the ever-surprising Lyon Opera Ballet has up its sleeve now, well…
It’s a vertical and horizontal trip through the air, a somersault through space in which the future and past collide in a universe populated by unnamable creatures. This is “Tricodex,” a 90-minute passport through the magical, glittering forest of Philippe Decouflé’s imagination that will be presented by Lyon Opera Ballet during its 20th tour of North America, April 2–24.
Marking Decouflé’s first ballet for a company other than his own, “Tricodex” is his third work inspired by “Codex Serafinius: A Visual Encyclopedia of an Imaginary Universe,” the fantastical compendium created in 1981 by Italian artist and naturalist Luigi Serafini. In this 400-page scientific treatise Serafini created huge “engravings in old-fashioned colors of various types of microbes and crawling ferns.”
Decouflé’s own enchanted universe combines tableaux of breathtaking beauty with witty aerial ballets. At one point, a dancing bicyclist performs airborne feats eighteen feet above the stage. Two ballerinas in bright blue tutus have a high time defying gravity in a whimsical bungee-jumping duet. It is also a world of animated sculpture in which trees hover in secret conversation while a half-human male tree travels forward, magnetized by a red-headed woman in an equally vibrant red costume. Watch for the hilarious choreographic tableau that comments on the vanity of the male species via cinematic, pictorial and sculptural references stretched to their witty limits.
“Tricodex” features music by Sébastien Libolt and Hugues de Courson. The extraordinary costumes are by Philippe Guillotel, with lighting by Patrice Besombes. Jean Rabasse designed the décor and Pierre-Jean Verbraeken is responsible for the flying and object design. The films are by Dominique Willoughby.
Given its commitment to imaginative and risk-taking repertoire, it is fitting that the Lyon Opera Ballet, which has been directed by Yorgos Loukos since 1990, would present a work by Decouflé. The company first won the American heart in 1987 with its performances of “Cendrillon,” Maguy Marin’s magical transformation of the Cinderella story, and then again in 1996 when it opened the Lincoln Center International Festival with its performance of Marin’s equally imaginative reinvention of “Coppelia.” Creating a blueprint for a contemporary ballet company, Lyon Opera Ballet has acquired and commissioned works from some of the world’s most innovative European choreographers including William Forsythe, Jiri Kylian, Nacho Duato, Mathilde Monnier, Ohad Naharin and Angelin Preljocaj, as well as some of America’s leading contemporary artists such as Karole Armitage, Lucinda Childs, Stephen Petronio, Trisha Brown, John Jasperse and Bill T. Jones, who served as the company’s resident choreographer from 1994–1997.
As France’s most well traveled dance company, LOB’s reputation is recognized worldwide. In 1995, it was named Opéra National de Lyon, elevating it to the same level as the Opéra National de Paris. That same year, the company performed as part of the United Nations’ 50th Anniversary Celebration in San Francisco. In 1999, it traveled to Moscow where it was the first modern ballet troupe to perform at the historic Bolshoi Theater.