Archive for the ‘Giselle’ Category

Giselle, with Osipova and Vasiliev, Mikhailovsky Ballet, London Coliseum, March 2013

27 March, 2013

What a pleasure this was. I’ve not seen the Mikhailovsky Giselle before, but it’s a fine production created in 2007 by Nikita Dolgushin, with excellent designs by Vyacheslav Okunev well lit by Mikhail Mekler. And the orchestra under Valery Ovsyanikov played with huge spirit, giving a performance far better than some of his work with the Royal Ballet. The dancing on the first night was led by Osipova and Vasiliev, who were both lured away from the Bolshoi in December 2011.

© Mikhailovsky Theatre

© Mikhailovsky Theatre

Natalia Osipova as Giselle was extraordinary. Her control, her wonderful jumps with gentle unhurried beats, and above all her musicality. Every tiny movement of her body showed how she felt the music. Of course, this is how it should be, but it so rarely is and even with some of the most brilliant dancers the music may be nothing but background. Here it is the essence. Yet it should not be supposed that Ms. Osipova is merely a very musical dancer with perfect technique — she is an actress, and her death in Act I following her shock that her lover is the Count, already betrothed to another, was heartbreaking.

As the Count himself, Ivan Vasiliev also showed fine dramatic talent, so sure of himself at first, yet horribly uncertain when the Gamekeeper, who adores Giselle, summons the hunting party to unmask him. In his powerful Act II solo, as fine fortissimos from the Russian orchestral brass demanded he dance to death, he showed himself to be almost exhausted before dawn rose at stage rear and the wilis power faded. The two of them together showed her to be a mere wisp, floating in the air as he moved on the ground, and her ability to float already showed itself with her solo dancing in Act I.

The other dancers gave fine support to these two principals, with good ensemble work from the corps in Act II, and full engagement by all dancers with the action in Act I. Ekaterina Borchenko as Queen of the Wilis in Act II performed fine jetés, and her borrées as she glided around the stage were a delight. Vladimir Tsal as the Gamekeeper was wonderful in his mime and his forceful interaction with the Count, and Anna Novosyolova as a rather young looking mother of Giselle showed grief at the end of Act I reminiscent of a Lady Capulet. And in the Act I peasant pas-de-deux, Sabina Yapparova showed glorious control and her musical dancing was a delight.

Altogether a terrific performance, and though you may not get the same two principals, this is a lovely production. Beautiful costumes, and the sets give a feeling of a world beyond, with a winding road to the castle in Act I, and a moonlit stream in Act II. The performance itself shows attention to detail that seems to have been lacking in some London shows by big Russian ballet companies in recent years. A great success for the Mikhailovsky ballet.

Performances of Giselle continue until March 29, followed by Don Quixote and other productions until April 7 — for details click here.

Giselle, Royal Ballet, live relay from Covent Garden, January 2011

20 January, 2011

This two-act ballet creates a wonderful dichotomy between daylight and night-time. Act I is set in the everyday world, but the second act takes place in world of the wilis, spirits of dead maidens who rise up and destroy any young man they encounter. The story is straightforward. Count Albrecht, disguised as a peasant, wins the heart of Giselle, displacing her previous lover Hilarion. But Hilarion unmasks Albrecht and the shock devastates Giselle, who dies. Both men visit her grave at night and encounter the wilis. Hilarion they destroy, but Giselle helps Albrecht to live until dawn when the power of the wilis fades away. As they leave the stage, Albrecht tries to grasp the wraith that was Giselle, but she eludes him and vanishes.

Nuñez as Giselle in Act 1, photos by Johan Persson

The story lends itself to psychological interpretation, but this is ballet, not opera, and there is no gimmickry. The choreography and the music amply express the emotions and it’s up to the dancers to exhibit it all. On this occasion Marianela Nuñez gave a charming performance as Giselle, particularly in Act I where her main solo was beautifully danced, and her mad scene was a mixture of heartfelt sincerity and abject anguish. She was superbly partnered by Rupert Pennefather who showed a lovely line, well expressing his noble station in life. Gary Avis gave us a strong portrayal of Hilarion, and Genesia Rosato was excellent as Giselle’s mother, Berthe, an important character whose mime sequences express so much. That’s where a first view of this ballet is not enough because it’s not possible to grasp the significance of the mime gestures at first sight. Unfortunately stage performance has largely lost the language of mime, yet Berthe clearly explains about the wilis and their power over young men who carelessly strut their way through life.

But it’s not all mime, and there’s plenty of dancing in Act I, which was beautifully performed. The pas-de-six was headed Yuhui Choe and Ricardo Cervera; she was glorious as usual, and I found his musicality outstanding. Anyone seeing this ballet for the first time might miss the significance of the sword and the hunting horn, but Hilarion clearly compares the crests and realises Albrecht is of the same household as the noble hunting party. When he forces this knowledge on Giselle she goes crazy, and after a short mad scene she dies.

Nuñez and Pennefather in Act 2

In Act II, Helen Crawford was a fine queen of the wilis, with her big jumps and sense of command, well assisted by Yuhui Choe and Sian Murphy as her attendants. Pennefather and Nuñez were very good together, and I only wish that at the start of their first encounter in the woods the music had not been at such a lifeless tempo, forcing them to move in such slow motion. Apart from this one moment, Koen Kessels’ conducting was full of energy and emotion. It was notably better than the previous week, which was, I suppose, due to extra rehearsals for this live relay. If that’s the case then let us hope the ballet conductors can get more time with the orchestra in future because it makes a big difference to the performance.

This production by Peter Wright makes Giselle one of the strongest ballets in the Company’s classical repertoire, and the updated lighting by David Finn for Act II is wonderfully atmospheric. It conveys the ghostliness of the wilis and their world, which is essential to the story.

Performances with a variety of different casts continue until February 19 — for a review of another cast click here, and for details of further performances click here.

Giselle with Benjamin and Watson, Royal Ballet, January 2011

16 January, 2011

Giselle is a jewel in the Royal Ballet’s repertoire, and this production by Peter Wright carefully preserves the nineteenth century mime sequences in Act I, where Giselle’s mother warns about the legend of the wilis who will capture some carefree young fellow and make him dance to his death. The young Count Albrecht, sowing his wild oats disguised as a peasant, wins Giselle’s heart, but his wooing raises a passion that destroys her, though as a spirit in Act II she finally saves him from being destroyed by the wilis.

The Wilis in Act II, photo by Bill Cooper

As Giselle herself, Leanne Benjamin was excellent in the Act I mad scene when she learns that her lover has tricked her and betrayed his own fiancée, but her performance in Act II was really superb when, light as a feather, she invested the wraith of Giselle with a wonderfully ethereal quality. Her rejected lover Hilarion was superbly portrayed by Johannes Stepanek, showing a fine firmness and resolve in Act I, only to fall foul of forces beyond his control as the wilis dance him to death in Act II. Giselle’s lover Albrecht was danced by Edward Watson, and much though I admire him in other ballets he lacked the insouciance I associate with this role. As queen of the wilis, Itziar Mendizabal was suitably cold, but lacked the heartless dominance that should come from her big jumps and imperious stage presence.

The corps de ballet performed well in both acts, and the leading wilis Moyna and Zulme in Act II were beautifully danced by Yuhui Choe and Sian Murphy. The Act I scenes came over very well, with an excellent pas-de-six headed by Yuhui Choe and Kenta Kura, who showed his stunning talent for appearing to float in the air. Deidre Chapman gave a fine performance of the extensive mime scenes as Giselle’s mother, and Johannes Stepanek’s observations of Albrecht’s missing sword and his eventual discovery of his rival’s identity was carried through to perfection.

Good conducting by Koen Kessels, who is in the orchestra pit for all the January performances, and next week I shall report on a different cast featuring Marianela Nuñez and Rupert Pennefather. Performances with a variety of different casts continue until February 19 — for more details click here.

Giselle, Royal Ballet, April 2009

6 April, 2009

 

giselle-banner[1]

I attended two performances: the opening night of a new series on 6th April, and a second one on 28thApril.

On 6th April the cast was headed by Marianela Nuñez and Carlos Acosta as Giselle and Albrecht. Both were excellent, and her jumps in Act II were terrific. Their pas-de-deux work was beautifully controlled, if a little mechanical, and each one danced extremely well on their own. Gary Avis was a very fine Hilarion, utterly convincing, without over-acting in any way. As Queen of the Wilis we had Helen Crawford, dancing elegantly and commanding the stage in Act II, with her two attendants beautifully danced by Samantha Raine and Hikaru Kobayashi, the first with superb poise and control, and the second with extremely graceful arm movements. The pas de six in Act I was very well performed by Laura Morera, Ricardo Cervera, Samantha Raine, Kenta Kura, Hikaru Kobayashi and Brian Maloney, and this was an excellent cast, with Thomas Whiteside and Genesia Rosato doing a fine job as Albrecht’s squire and Giselle’s mother. My only complaint is that thecorps de ballet lacked rigour, but this may come with later performances — when the wilis exit in fours after Hilarion’s death, each four should be in a rhombus shape, which only one group out of six managed. But this was altogether a wonderful performance of Giselle, and Boris Gruzin conducted with vibrancy and sensitivity.

The second performance I saw, on 28th April, had a cast headed by Tamara Rojo and Rupert Pennefather as Giselle and Albrecht, and they were brilliant, both in their pas-de-deux work and individually in Act II. Pennefather has a beautiful line that gives him authority on stage, and their musicality comes through very well when they dance together. They also acted their parts convincingly in Act I, as did Bennet Gartside who was an excellent Hilarion. The pas-de-six in Act I was led by Yuhui Choe and Yohei Sasaki, with Elizabeth Harrod, Fernando Montaño, Emma Maguire and Ernst Meisner. Choe and Sasaki were terrific, and she was also excellent in Act II as one of the two attendants for Myrtha, the Queen of the Wilis. Myrtha herself was danced by Laura McCulloch, who did some fine jumps, but seemed slightly off the music. Her other attendant, apart from Yuhui Choe, was Sian Murphy.

The corps de ballet had a better shape in Act II than on the opening night, and my only complaint about this second act, and it’s a small one, is that I thought it lacked the emotional energy of opening night. This of course is one of those things that depend so much on the night, and it’s difficult to pin down the reason. The conductor was Boris Gruzin who also did the opening performance on 6th April.