How Mozart Got Stiffed: The Story of Les petits riens

How dancers might have looked in Mozart's day.(Photo: gaglias (Flickr))
How dancers might have looked in Mozart's day.(Photo: gaglias (Flickr))

Pretend you’re Mozart for a moment.

It’s 1778. You’ve just arrived by coach in Paris, where you’ve never been before. Your jacket is rumpled, your wig is a tad cockeyed. The natives have never heard of you and shrug off your musical genius in that Gallic way en route to finding a good croissant.

But alas! One day the famous choreographer Jean-Georges Noverre offers you and a few other composers a gig composing music for a new score for a ballet, Les petits riens, he had choreographed several years before.

You take the job, because – what? you’re too good for the most noted choreographer in Paris? Plus, it will be good exposure. So you compose pleasant little ditties for his gavottes, passepieds and pantomimes. Why, here are some of those steps now:

Opening night rolls around. The dancers are corseted, the orchestra musicians have stumbled to their seats. You arrive at the theater to find no mention of your name on the program.

You need a Gelusil, but they haven’t been invented yet. So, as the dancers jump and twirl, the veins at your temples throb in time with your unacknowledged music.

After the show, you find a nice Parisian bar and order a nightcap. Then, as dawn’s pink hues envelop the earth, you zigzag home, muttering, in the local custom, “Sacré bleu!”

Later that day, you roll out of bed and land on a copy of the newspaper. Unaware of the film of drool and printer’s ink shadowing your face, you shuffle through the pages for the review of the previous night’s performance. The critic will surely have researched the name of the composer of last night’s music, n’est-ce pas?

Mais non. You find the review, but your name is nowhere mentioned. You then realize that you, young Mozart, aren’t in Kansas anymore. You’re in Paris, where the ballet has reigned supreme since the reign of the Sun King, and where everything but footwork is mere decoration. Dommage.

So, enjoy these videos of some of that footwork performed by the Canadian baroque dance company, La Belle Danse. I must admit they’re fun. Pouf!

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