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Femmes Fatales Take Paris, Johnny Acts, Toy Trove: Fall Season

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Mechanical horse
Mechanical horse of the Imperial Prince, Napoleon Eugene, will be on view at the Grand Palais between Sept. 14 and Jan. 23. Source: Reunion des Musees Nationaux, Paris via Bloomberg

Sept. 12 (Bloomberg) -- The Paris theater season starts with two seniors not exactly known for their acting talents: Johnny Hallyday and Mikhail Baryshnikov.

Hallyday, France’s only real rock star, appears for the first time in a play as Chicken in Tennessee Williams’s rarely revived “Kingdom of Earth.” Chicken is, according to the text, “a young man of 30 or 35.” Hallyday is 68.

As Napoleon is supposed to have said, “Impossible n’est pas francais.” Information:

Baryshnikov, 63, dances a bit but mostly talks in Russian. “In Paris” (Sept. 8-17) is a dialogue between two refugees adapted from a 1940 novella by Ivan Bunin, Russia’s first winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature.


Another two-hander, written by another Nobel Prize winner, is Toni Morrison’s “Desdemona,” directed by Peter Sellars. The second character is Barbara, the dead maid whose sad song of the willow Desdemona recalls in her own hour of death. The show, which also features musicians and a chorus, runs Oct. 13 to 21 and travels to Los Angeles and New York.


Predatory Lulu

If Desdemona is the archetypal victim of a male-dominated society, Lulu is the opposite -- the man-eating femme fatale. She appears twice, in Frank Wedekind’s play, directed by Robert Wilson with music by Lou Reed, a guest performance of the Berliner Ensemble (Nov. 4-13), and in a revival of Alban Berg’s work at the Opera Bastille, directed by Willy Decker and conducted by Michael Schonwandt (Oct. 18-Nov. 5).


The first new production at the Opera Bastille is Gounod’s “Faust,” with Roberto Alagna in the title role and Inva Mula as Marguerite. Jean-Louis Martinoty directs, Alain Lombard conducts (Sept. 22-Oct. 25).


California Collectors

The safest bets in visual arts are, as usual, the museum shows. The Grand Palais starts with an appeal to the inner child in all of us: “Of Toys and Men” (Sept. 14-Jan. 23, 2012) traces the history of toys from antiquity to now.

Later, (Oct. 5-Jan. 16, 2012), the collectors Gertrude, Michael and Leo Stein take center stage at the Grand Palais. In 1903, the rich kids from California settled in Paris and explored the avant-garde long before French curators.

“Matisse, Cezanne, Picasso -- The Adventure of the Steins,” an exhibition coming from San Francisco and later traveling to New York, will be on view from Oct. 5 to Jan. 16, 2012. “Cezanne et Paris” at the Musee du Luxembourg (Oct. 12-Feb. 26, 2012) presents a different angle of the story.

Information: or

Two exhibitions at the Louvre dive into the distant past: “The Forbidden City” (Sept. 29-Jan. 9, 2012) explores relations between the Chinese emperors and the French kings; “The Kingdom of Alexander the Great” (Oct. 13-Jan. 16, 2012) traces the history of Macedonia. Information:

“Beaute, Morale et Volupte” at the Musee d’Orsay (Sept. 13-Jan. 15, 2012), a show organized by London’s Victoria & Albert Museum and traveling next year to San Francisco, evokes the Aesthetic Movement of the late 19th century that preached the gospel of beauty even if it collided with Victorian morality. The collision sometimes ended badly, as in the case of Oscar Wilde.


(Jorg von Uthmann is a critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

To contact the writer on the story: Jorg von Uthmann in Paris at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Beech at

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