Roland Petit created a ballet based on "In Search of Lost Time" for the Ballet de Marseille in the 1970s. Petit's intention was not to make a faithful adaptation of the novel, but to capture its flavour and convey, through a number of selected scenes, the narrator's incessant fluctuations between happiness and torment. The highlights are the series of poetical pas de deux.
The ballet entered the repertoire of the Paris Opera Ballet in recent years. This is a live recording of a performance at Paris Garnier in 2007. Petit's earlier production for the Ballet de Marseille used more realistic stage sets, but the current Paris version has minimal stage sets. Also, the costumes were redesigned.
An early scene depicting Swann's passion for Odette, danced to Violin Sonata (1st movement) by Franck, is beautifully done. The scene of a group of young girls playing on the beach ("Les jeunes filles en fleur"), which the narrator watches totally fascinated, is danced to La Mer by Debussy: the choreography is full of freshness and purity. The pas de deux by Albertine and her girlfriend, Andree, depicting Sapphic love, is sensitively done. The scene of possessive love of the narrator for Albertine ("La regarder dormir"/Looking at her sleeping), which is choreographed to Psyche by Franck and "Organ" Symphony (2nd movement) by Saint-Saens, is beautifully performed by Herve Moreau and the attractive Eleonora Abbagnato. The choreography reminds me of the bedroom scene in "Manon" by Kenneth MacMillan.
There are also scenes of Charlus's passion for an attractive young man (Morel) and two men's (Morel and Saint-Loup) relationship: these refer to Proust's own sexual orientation. Finally, the choreography for the last scene of a salon given by the Duchesse of Guermantes is jerky and abrupt - which looks appropriate as it takes place after the World War I, showing the aged personalities due to the passage of time. Wagner's solemn Rienzi Overture accompanies it to great effects.
Petit's selection of evocative music for each scene is based on Proust's own taste - mostly works by French composers of the corresponding period for the book: Franck, Debussy, Faure and Saint-Saens. This masterpiece of the twentieth-century ballet is impressively performed by the current top dancers - all handsome and attractive - of the Paris Opera Ballet. I cannot recommend the DVD too highly.