Bettina's Take: Dom Perignon, Bob Wilson and Lang Lang at Versailles
Dom Perignon gala at the Chateau de Versailles
The house of Dom Perignon produces some of the finest, most delicious, most complex champagnes in the world. Dom Perignon Vintage 2003, Dom Perignon Rose 2000, and Dom Perignon Oenotheque 1966 have been deemed exceptional vintages by Dom Perignon's Chef de Cave Richard Geoffroy, so exceptional that the venerable house commissioned Alexandre Desplat to write a piece of music for each, to be staged, designed and directed by Robert Wilson, and played by uber-pianist Lang Lang. The performance, a grand back tie event, took place in the chapel at the palace of Versailles, and every detail was other wordly.
A curtain made of roses greeted guests at cocktails outside the chapel, where one of Wilson's performers, dressed as Marie-Antoinette, stood still as a statue. The performance itself used the oval space in an ingenious way: Lang Lang and his piano sat on a black rotating platform in the center, and several lucite and neon chairs were symmetrically placed, so that everyone in the audience could see each movement at one moment or another. The artists were dressed all in white with mime-like makeup, except for one dressed in black and another, twirling, with multicolored ribbons against a white outfit.
What was most striking was that the performers were smiling as they were dancing and gesturing; there was a lightness to the choreography, sets, music, and virtuosity that correlated directly with the feel of the champagne.
"It's a grand palace here in Versailles, baroque in its lines, and everything in it is curvilinear, so I was thinking of something that would be a counterpoint," said Wilson. "Maybe it's easier to see a computer on a baroque commode than two baroque objects together. This is a palace for a Sun King, it's gold and shimmering, so I designed chairs that have cold neon lights in them that are very different from the gold of the palace, the lines in the choreography of the performers are more linear, straight lines. There are only two different kinds of lines in the world, a straight line and a curved line, so I put straight lines in this baroque palace."
After Lang Lang wowed guests with an encore of a Chopin waltz, guests moved up a winding staircase - used for trysts, no doubt, in the 18th century - for an extraordinary dinner, prepared by Jean-Francois Piege, and a taste of these marvelous vintages. Isabelle Huppert, Charlotte Rampling, Laurence Ferrari, Clotilde Courau, Philippine and Amelie Nothomb joined Wilson, Becca Cason Thrash (in Dolce & Gabbana), and Sheika Paula Al Sabah at the long tables topped only with black tablecloths. The centerpieces were brought out by an army of waiters in navy Dom Perignon uniforms, stark black square containers with green moss inside. Waiters poured liquid out of silver teapots onto the moss to create clouds of white smoke that ethereally spread throughout the table tops, as guests marveled and gasped with delight.
The 1966 vintage was served, followed by a variety of creations on mirrored trays that reflected the intricate ceiling. Capon with fruit reduction followed with a tasting of the rose. The dessert was a double delight of white chocolate filled with multiple flavors, moulded into candelabras, and a jasmine-flavored pudding, paired with the 2003.
"This evening was pure magic," said Al-Sabah, gorgeous in an Yves Saint Laurent caftan and Yves Saint Laurent shoes, expressing the general sentiment at the end of the evening. "It was in the chapel of the chateau de Versailles, which is extraordinary by itself. Bob Wilson's choreography, Lang Lang's music, a beautiful dinner, it was unforgettable."