Giselle - Royal New Zealand Ballet
12 August 2016, St James Theatre, Wellington
Reviewed by Deirdre Tarrant
Returning to the stage is the 2012 production by Ethan Stiefel and Johan Kobborg. A stand out memory for me of this first production was the performance by internationally acclaimed ballerina Gillian Murphy. Details of the actual production were less of a memory so a chance to revisit one of the great and most enduring classical ballets was not to be missed!
I saw both casts and must comment briefly on the opening night cast as well as my 'official' DANZ attendance in the second night. Lucy Green as Giselle was the epitome of young, naive, blind love and she danced superbly in both Acts. Her Albrecht, Qi Huan, was outstanding. His high ranking position, duplicity and noble misdemeanour should have us all against him, but emotionally he manages to turn us head over heels and we plead for his life along with Giselle. Myrtha, the Queen of the Wilis, and her relentless spirits first drive the hapless Hilarion to death then turn their vengeance on Albrecht forcing him to dance to his death. Saved by the bell and the forgiveness of his Giselle who dances for him and with him until dawn lights the gloomy shadows of the graveyard, Albrecht lives.
Having seen Mayu Tanigaito as a cruel and forbidding Myrtha it was with some trepidation that I took my seat to see her dance the role of Giselle the next night. I need not have worried. Impeccable control, precision, stability and with a theatrical command that was wonderful to watch this Giselle was a little more knowing but fell as hard for her Albrecht, danced by guest artist Daniel Gaudiello. He had an expansiveness, surety and line that filled the theatre and he loved her too. A doomed relationship and desperation was etched in every moment of their excellent pas de deux.
Act 2 at the graveside was heart-breaking and all the technical mastery - the seemingly impossible elevation and endless entrechat six as Albrecht dances for his life, was there. Giselle suspended every arabesque and floated her couru effortlessly as she sought to save him. Clytie Campbell was efficient in her control of her Wilis and the Corps were tighter and more together on their second night. This is a ballet that demands extreme technical mastery but above that it is an emotional watershed for everyone onstage. There is no rest- the emotional impact is relentless, the music surges forward, time is running out.
Both casts delivered and how exciting to see this ballet gripping and relevant and danced by four stunning leads. I am not convinced by all the changes, but the 21st Century has a Giselle here that highlights the issues that still exist. Social standing, desperate relationships, doomed outcomes and a passion strong enough to change the world. Our actions haunt us and retribution will ultimately be paid. Orchestra Wellington under the baton of Marc Taddei played the magical score by Adolphe Adam beautifully and with that sense of urgency which drove a memorable evening forward. We were all caught in our own doom and dancing for freedom! Bravo!