The Garden at Giverny
Monet Impressions: The Gardens at Giverny
I began by thinking of the “Water Lilies” and how in my mind I often thought of them as upside down ballerinas in tutus. After taking a trip to Paris and visiting the Musee Marmottan, I was left with many vivid impressions on my mind and in my imagination. The wonderful movement and color of the pair of paintings from 1920, “Path Under the Rose Arches” draw you into the paintings’ vanishing point; the color and movement being so vivid that I imagined a riotous bacchanal type dance. On listening to Claude Debussy’s “Fetes” from his Nocturnes the music seemed a perfect match for the paintings.
I was further entranced by the way Monet depicted the clouds reflected in the water of the lily ponds and particularly the 1914 canvas in which the clouds appear to be moving through the painting. Again music from Debussy’s Nocturnes seemed the perfect accompaniment for the dance, this time the Nuages or Clouds movement. The “Artist’s Garden” of 1900 depicts a field of purple irises, and it was the “Sirenes” from Nocturnes that led me to imagine Monet walking in his garden intoxicated by the beauty and fragrance of the flowers, picking one flower in particular and falling into a reverie so deep that it was hard for him to return to reality.
As to the “Water Lilies” themselves, there are so many beautiful paintings that it was hard to pick one on which to base the ballet. All the paintings ended up being influential, but it was the 1897 canvas – “Water Lilies, Evening Effect” that particularly caught my mind. Two extremely white flowers are huddled close together in the pond as if they were in love with each other. That image kept coming back to me as I listened to Ernest Chausson’s tone poem, “Death of Love.” In the end, I imagined one lily drifting up stream leaving the other bereft.
These are some of the thoughts I had while choreographing this ballet. The others I will leave to you to figure out on your own. —Robert Weiss