Sporting Monte-Carlo

Durée approximative 1h

Aram Hovhannisyan et Michel Petrossian
Sept, les anges de Sinjar (création mondiale, commande du Printemps des Arts de Monte-Carlo)

Co-production Compagnie Hallet Eghayan, Ensemble Orchestral Contemporain et Festival Printemps des Arts de Monte-Carlo
Avec la permission des Éditions Gravis Verlag GmbH, 2022. Sept, les anges de Sinjar – Ballet par Michel Petrossian et Aram Hovhannisyan

Compagnie Hallet Eghayan
Michel Hallet Eghayan, chorégraphie
Ensemble Orchestral Contemporain
Léo Margue, direction

Sept, les anges de Sinjar

The ballet Sept, les anges de Sinjar is inspired by the mythology and the imaginary world of the Yazidis. The basis of the story is the creating of angels by Xwedê (God) – which process takes place over the course of a week. One angel is created each day, starting with the main figure, Melek Taûs, the Peacock Angel. To make this angel’s arrival in the world the ballet’s dramatic culmination, the narrative thread is reversed. The story thus begins with the last angel, Nourâel, created on Saturday, and continues with Shemnâel (Friday), Anzazil (Thursday), Machâel (Wednesday), Israfil (Tuesday), Dardâel (Monday) and, finally, Melek Taûs.

Six danced solos, one for each angel, are interwoven with musical interludes, called Temps qui passent (passing moments), inspired by the cultures surrounding the Yazidi world – Hebrew, Arab, Armenian, Persian, etc. This group of linked movements forms the first part of the ballet, which ends with an instrumental and choreographic final tutti, representing the creation of the Peacock Angel. Two aspects of the latter are expressed: the hidden, dark and even evil side and the side that is light-filled, transparent and the source of all good.

The link with the Yazidi theme is different for the choreographer and for the composers. For Michel Hallet, it represents an initial impetus provided by the tragic current situation of the Yazidis, who have been on the brink of extermination – a situation echoed in the more recent events in the Caucasus, at the Armenian border. The composers have primarily sought a thematic link with the Yazidi’s imaginary world, particularly the literary setting of the week of angel creation, the characteristics of each angel, the symbolism of numbers and the hymn tradition of the Qawalis(Yazidi cantors). There are thus two mutually overlaid settings – two approaches leading to parallel and mutually enriching choreographic and musical writing.

The supposed integration of good and evil in their religion has led to the Yazidis acquiring an entrenched reputation as “Devil worshippers.” This duality, which reaches its height in the figure of Melek Taûs in the final tutti, is introduced at the outset. Temps qui passe 1, yézidi (Petrossian) and L’ange Nouraïl (Hovhannisyan), which open the ballet, explore two forms of the flute. The first work, entrusted to the piccolo, is based on motifs from an authentic Yazidi hymn. L’ange Nouraïl unfolds in a powerful solo for alto flute, enriched by decorative flights and meticulous work with timbral transformation that exploits all the instrument’s contemporary techniques. The contrast between the two composers’ worlds extends this initial dichotomy. Temps qui passe 2, hébraïque recalls the monodic nostalgia of Nouraïl and the harp figures anticipate the of stasis-in-movement quality of L’ange Dardaïl.

In this piece, violin and cor anglais start off with a monodic duo, before adding musical figures that create the illusion of several instruments. It is preparatory music, inviting the emergence of dance. Temps qui passent 2 is a veritable “anacrusis”, with solo percussion generating a beat that plunges us into L’ange Anzazil –an unbroken surge of energy, with a continuous flow of rapidly shifting images. Temps qui passe 4, arabe comes as a pause, with rhythmic patterns gradually coming up to the still surface, like bubbles rising from the depths of a lake. L’ange Machaël, entrusted to the trumpet and the bassoon, makes this rhythmic agitation clearer, taking on an almost machine-like quality.

In Temps qui passe 5, perse, an uneven, asymmetrical beat makes time more concrete and vertical, before it spills into diffracted and sudden chords. L’ange Israfil pits the horn (exploring its natural harmonics) against the harp (dealing with tortuous chromaticism), while the viola tries to create bridges between these two contrasting worlds. Without the usual transition, L’ange Dardaïl, on the cello, comes back to motifs from the hymn that a Yazidi Qawali would sing while circumambulating the tomb of Sheikh ‘Adî.

At this point, the second part of the ballet opens, with its two final tuttis. Five dancers start things off, moving smoothly. A female dancer brings rupture. Outwardly (and literally), this is the dark side of Melek Taûs. As far as the performance is concerned, it is an acceptance of the dark side in each of us – an acceptance expressed, here, by celebration. The dancers wear colored shawls, which open slowly in the second half of the tutti. Above, a fluttering quality is created by the shimmering fabrics and the movement of heads and arms while, below, the movement of feet and legs suggests a faster-moving temporality. While the first tutti presents itself as a prelude to the twinkling darkness, the second glorifies the light-filled side of Melek Taûs, revealing a quality common to all the preceding Temps qui passent. By means of a symbolic color, the idea of transcendence reveals itself at the very end, in a suspension of movement. The final movement of the dance then appears as an ancient echo running through the entire work, bringing to light what has been present – without being evident – throughout the performance.

Michel Petrossian

Photo / Compagnie Hallet Eghayan ©Victoria Philippe