White Skirt Wednesday: Sights Unseen

[The art of seeing while not looking, even though it is so very hard not to look – paging Orpheus: “never send a man to do a woman’s job”. Aspasia could do it. And she also got her love interest. (Sort of.) – Patricia Petibon (Aspasia) in Mozart’s “Mitridate”, Paris 2016]

You didn’t think we were through with the new screencaps yet, did you? (general announcement: we are not. Not by far.)

One of my favorite moments of Patricia Petibon’s Aspasia in this production is the way she channels moments of non-action into vivid storytelling. Her cue is simple: she must not turn around, but she turns it into a scene speaking of how desperately she wants to turn around, and telling her relation to the other characters present through that.

There are other moments (few, in this production) that hold empty cues – the kind of miming without a clear goal that you often get in bad choir stagings: an impulse without aim. Here, you have got the opposite: something that tells a lot and has a very clear focus, using only minimal action.

[You had one job, Sifare. There were just two people to choose from, and you went and hugged the wrong one. It’s not that unreasonable that Aspasia is kind of through with your father complex in the end. – But snark aside: The way Petibon channels the entire scene going on behind her – through her own focus, so that she only needs to mark by body tension and very small pose changes – is flawless. It also turns Sifare into a ping-pong ball of sorts in between the physical presence of Aspasia on one side, and of Mitridate on the other. – Myrtò Papatanasiu (Sifare), Michael Spyres (Mitridate), Patricia Petibon (Aspasia) in Mozart’s “Mitridate”, Paris 2016]

[The point where the story that happens elsewhere on stage and is not even in the frame is visible on someone’s face: that is excellent acting. It’s also messing with my higher brain functions, every single time. – Patricia Petibon (Aspasia) in Mozart’s “Mitridate”, Paris 2016]

3 thoughts on “White Skirt Wednesday: Sights Unseen”

  1. Back, after 4 days having the higher res version of pix#2 staring at me..
    i might have mentioned it before also during our extensive discussion, this is a really personal and poignant scene i find: she is alone at the center stage facing danger, absolutely exposed. and “you”, by whichever association is linked to her, she knows you are here, and behind her back, you choose to “blend in” to stay out of danger. This new angle and look is really making me pause, and I can’t help but seeing myself or imagining myself in Sifare’s shoes in so many situations and have done / pondering where I should be… I ought to print this picture out for the wall.. a very good self reflection..

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    1. That is a very good point for self reflection, and for training one’s social muscles.
      It’s also about thinking about what one can do in a given situation, what a change of action could bring or not bring… In this reading and staging, we could argue that by foregoing his father (someone I still would argue he is tied to through a history of abuse) and standing next to Aspasia instead, Sifare would not change anything: if anything, he would get them both killed sooner.
      But the ‘betrayal’ and the ‘humanity’ at this point is that Sifare is *not* calculating that way. (“ah… won’t help her. Okay, I won’t go to her then, better try to calm down M.”) His instinctive reaction is governed by fear and a guilty conscience and he tries to appease his father, even as he cannot look at him (his gaze goes in another direction).
      And what we would like to see, perhaps, is the instinctively heroic, the “I cannot help but run to your side even if it does not get us anywhere” – but that is the conflict, that instinct warring with the fear and the sense of duty (didn’t MP touch on that as a core aspect in one of her interviews on the issue?), resulting in “blending in”. At least for a few more minutes because we then have Sifare bodily trying to stop his father from hurting Aspasia. But of course, at this first moment, the person alone and exposed centerstage does not know that, and how can you do right by her?

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      1. yes, my comment wasn’t really criticizing Sifare one way or another, simply reflection as well as an admiration for how both PP and MP (and Spryres) carry the scene such that you really see the intensity/conflict/danger with their (subtle) action.

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