Friday 24 October 2008

A Gypsy Spectacle

I first came across Theatre Zingaro about 10 years ago, when I accidentally saw a documentary with a friend, Pip, about the founding of the company and the making of their first show 'Opera Equestre'. I was blown away, stunned, astounded, to put it mildly! It was the most beautifully moving and intense piece of theatre I had ever seen, combining incredible horsemanship with magical storytelling accompanied by the haunting sounds of a company of Berber musicians.
Bartabas, founder of Theatre Zingaro, is an unrivalled horseman, and a showman in the purest gypsy tradition. ( He is also the founder of The Académie du Spectacle Équestre (Academy of Equestrian Arts) in the Grand Ecurie of the Palace of Versailles - see the Youtube video at the end of this post for a sampling of his classical Haute Ecole work)
Pip and I followed their progress, and watched all the DVDs, and dreamed of making a trip to their purpose built amphitheatre at Aubervilliers, Paris, to see them perform. Tragically, Pip died suddenly and unexpectedly a couple of years ago, but last September, her husband Patrick, myself and three other friends made it to Paris for a weekend to see the latest show Battuta, a frenetic, passionate and moving show, which would have touched Pip's bohemian soul.

Battuta is a wild and exhilarating Gypsy spectacle with the musical accompaniment played by Moldavian fiddlers ( This was the icing on the cake for me - one of my favourite bands is Fanfare Ciocarlia, a Moldavian Brass Band - if you feel rather unsure about that, listen to them first - it's like nothing you could imagine!) With geese, and a dancing bear (not a real one, I hasten to add) a gypsy wagon made from a 2CV, and spectacular horsemanship, it is the most inspirational performance I have ever seen. I urge everyone to see it if they can!

In the rougher Parisien suburbs, lies Zingaro's home. Comprising a couple of beautifully crafted wooden buildings, and a collection of painted caravans and wagons to make anyone with a drop of gypsy blood in their veins envious! The first building, the original wooden' big top' is now a canteen serving hot beef stew and warm spiced red wine and houses the costumes from previous performances around the walls. Only the French could make a canteen this cool - trestle tables, and sawdust floor, roll ups and red wine and the smell of horses, and smoke drifting in from the bonfire outside the door ( I can't imagine Health and Safety regulations in the UK allowing anyone to light a huge blaze in the middle of the city, let alone without any barriers so that the general public can stand around occasionally poking the fire!)

The larger building is effectively a huge wooden circus tent, with integral stables. You enter up stairs and then along a gallery over the stables, lit with chandeliers, able to look down and see all the horses ready for their performances. It was truly amazing!

Thanks for putting up with the superlatives - I promise not to go overboard again!


Dianne said...

Dear Danielle
Thank you so much for visiting my blog and introducing me to yours. I have read all of it checked out all the links. I love it stating with name of the blog to all your wonderful art work. It was like reading a book, a fantasy one which I love. I adore horse but live in the city so seldom get to see any.
I have sooooo enjoyed reading your blog, bringing some excitment to my boring city life. I love anything from Great Britian, love fantasy, fairys ect. You have made my day. Now I'm off to buy some of your work on ebay, I love so many it will be very difficult to choose a few. I will keep 3 for my self and 1 will be a Christmas gift for a friend who has a fairy room and one of your prints will be a fabulous fit in there.. I will be back as often as I can, thanks agin for sharing your life with us.....

Tonniece said...

Hi Danielle

I too just read you whole blog and was totally swept away.If you don't write books you should, what a fantastic read.

Have a wonderful day


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