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American Ballet Theatre

Giselle 2009

Metropolitan Opera House

Kevin McKenzie, Artistic Director
Rachel S. Moore, Executive Director
Alexei Ratmansky, Artist in Residence
Victor Barbee, Associate Artistic Director
Ballet Masters:
Susan Jones, Irina Kolpakova, Georgina Parkinson
Clinton Luckett, Nancy Raffa
Ormsby Wilkins, Music Director
Kelly Ryan, Director of Press and Public Relations
Susan Morgan, Press Associate

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
June 12, 2009

(Read More ABT Reviews)

Giselle (1841, Paris, 1987, Current Production, ABT): Choreography after Jean Coralli, Jules Perrot, and Marius Petipa, Libretto by Theophile Gautier, on a theme by Heinrich Heine, Orchestrated by John Lanchbery, Music by Adolphe Adam, Scenery by Gianni Quaranta, Costumes by Anna Anni, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton. Set near the Rhine, Hilarion, a hunter in love with villager, Giselle, leaves wild game and flowers on her doorstep. Count Albrecht, disguised as Loys, a peasant, swears love to Giselle and uses a “he loves me, he loves me not” daisy to prove his intentions. Loys and Hilarion wish to duel, but the villagers return, and Giselle risks her weak heart to dance for Bathilde, the prince’s daughter, part of a hunting party.

Bathilde gives Giselle her golden necklace, but havoc breaks loose when Giselle discovers that Loys is an imposter, affianced to Bathilde. Giselle dances herself to death of a broken heart and becomes a Wili, a maiden whose fiancée failed to marry her prior to her death. Wili Queen Myrta helps the Wilis dance and entrap men between dusk and dawn, and Hilarion meets a cruel fate. However, Albrecht is saved by Giselle, who dances with him until 4 AM, when the clock strikes, and the Wilis lose power. Giselle returns to her grave, with many calla lilies strewn about. (Based on ABT Program Notes).

Cast on June 8, 2009:

Conductor: Ormsby Wilkins
Performed by Nina Ananiashvili as Giselle, Marcelo Gomes as Count Albrecht, Gennadi Saveliev as Hilarion, the village huntsman, Carlos Lopez as Wilfred, the squire, Susan Jones as Berthe, Giselle’s mother, Victor Barbee as The Prince of Courland, Maria Bystrova as Bathilde, the prince’s daughter, Maria Riccetto and Jared Matthews as Peasant Pas de Deux, Gillian Murphy as Myrta, Isabella Boylston as Moyna, Yuriko Kajiya as Zulma, and the Company as Court Ladies and Gentlemen, Giselle’s Friends, Villagers, and The Wilis.

Cast on June 12, 2009:

Conductor: Ormsby Wilkins
Performed by Nina Ananiashvili as Giselle, Jose Manuel Carreño as Count Albrecht, Gennadi Saveliev as Hilarion, the village huntsman, Alexei Agoudine as Wilfred, the squire, Susan Jones as Berthe, Giselle’s mother, Victor Barbee as The Prince of Courland, Kristi Boone as Bathilde, the prince’s daughter, Sarah Lane and Daniil Simkin as Peasant Pas de Deux, Gillian Murphy as Myrta, Isabella Boylston as Moyna, Hee Seo as Zulma, and the Company as Court Ladies and Gentlemen, Giselle’s Friends, Villagers, and The Wilis.

This being Nina Ananiashvili’s Farewell Season, I caught both of her Giselles, one with Marcelo Gomes and one with Jose Manuel Carreño as her two Albrechts. On both nights Gillian Murphy danced the role of Myrta, Queen of the Wilis, and Gennadi Saveliev danced the role of Hilarion, the huntsman and rival for Giselle. On both nights the air was thick, and the crowd thicker. For each successive “almost last ballet” for Ms. Ananiashvili, the audience stopped the ballet, mid-Act, for bows and accolades. In the case of Giselle, Ms. Ananiashvili remained in the role, the vulnerable vision of the ingénue, who died of a broken heart and unrequited love. Her performance this particular season, in this particular role, was definitively surreal, whisper soft, a floating vision. On both nights, as well, Ormsby Wilkins conducted, and he kept the Orchestra in Act II almost as quiet as a Wili rising from her grave.

Ms. Ananiashvili, this season, is her most theatrical, witty, scintillating, and engaging. The Opera House is all hers, every time she appears, and she molds the moment with extra effort, whether in the libretto dramatics or the sweep of the choreography. When plucking the daisy to see if Loys, aka Albrecht, loves her, she acted with such intensity that I almost forgot this was a ballet. When the mad scene arose, and her hair fell and she grabbed a sword, circling it with a gaze of impending doom, she was operatic, fitting for The Met. On June 12, she evoked a memory of Marianna Tcherkassky, dancing that same mad scene, decades ago. In Act II, as Giselle the Wili, Ms. Ananiashvili bent forward, leg up, as a mournful soul, as Wilis do in the midnight to 4:00 AM somberness, before the spell breaks at the four chimes of the bell. When Ms. Ananiashvili tried to save Albrecht from the encircling Wilis (all of whom died of broken hearts), who would dance him to death and force him over the cliff (as they do to any man who wanders into the Bavarian forest during those fateful four hours), she was impassioned. She gave each moment every stretch of muscle and disciplined effort that she could muster.

With Marcelo Gomes, Ms. Ananiashvili seemed most vulnerable, as he lifted her effortlessly and ethereally. With Jose Manuel Carreño, Ms. Ananiashvili seemed most seductive, as he lifted her lovingly and urgently. On June 8, Mr. Gomes was replete with enthusiasm, as he partnered Ms. Ananiashvili this one last time. On June 12, Mr. Carreño was the quintessential rogue, who chooses his destiny all too late. This was his own turn to partner Ms. Ananiashvili this one last time, as well. Swan Lake, in two weeks, was reserved for Angel Corella, while La Sylphide was reserved for Maxim Beloserkovsky (although David Hallberg would be cast, due to injury). Thus, each of these two performances took on an extra fervor, as the clock ticked, not only for Giselle to save Albrecht, but for Ms. Ananiashvili to have one final performance with each long-time partner.

Mr. Carreño danced the Act II choreography, in which he tried to out-dance the four chimes of the church bell, as the Wilis become more and more fierce, with feet sideways, en air, evocative of Julio Bocca’s Farewell Giselle, some years ago. Mr. Gomes danced that same segment differently, legs high up, in tiny en air kicks, with mile-high jumps, also trying to dance to survive. On both nights, Ms. Ananiashvili steadfastly threw herself between Albrecht and Myrta. As for Myrta, Gillian Murphy was unusually poignant and vulnerable, yet stoic and strong. She added a theatrical nuance this season, as she showed acknowledgment that Giselle would not bend to her will and join the ensemble of Wilis as one of the fold. Ms. Murphy was proud, yet stirring, as she added depth and texture to her performance and affect. Gennadi Saveliev, as Hilarion, was also most pronounced theatrically, as he performed these final two nights with Ms. Ananiashvili, as well. He exuded rapture and indignation at her rejection, and devotion and determination in stealing her from Albrecht, especially after he reveals Albrecht’s duplicity as Loys the Peasant and Albrecht the Count.

Carlos Lopez and Alexei Agoudine, as Wilfred, danced with persuasion, and Susan Jones and Victor Barbee, as Berthe, Giselle’s mother, and Prince of Courland, Bathilde’s father, were seasoned actors, on both nights. The Peasant Pas de Deux was dramatically better on June 12, with Daniil Simkin and Sarah Lane, a duo to watch, together and individually, for growing virtuosity and audience engagement. They have dynamic gestures and mutual chemistry that captivate the eye. As Bathilde, Albrecht’s regal fiancée, Kristi Boone on June 12 presented the essential edge of the rejected lover, the woman scorned. In the roles of Myrta’s assistants, Moyna and Zulma, Isabella Boylston, on both nights, as well as both Yuriko Kajiya and Hee Seo, captured the essence of the reserved Wilis, who would assist Myrta in the rapid circles of death-inducing Wilis. The female Corps was eloquent and spiritual in its ensemble dances, especially as they emerge from the woodlands and dance through and past choreographed lines, all gossamer Wilis, bent forward, hopping solemnly, one leg raised to the rear, a vision beyond words.

Kudos to Nina Ananiashvili on her Farewell Season. Kudos to the Company and to Ormsby Wilkins and Ballet Theatre Orchestra.

Nina Ananiashvili in "Giselle"
Courtesy of Gene Schiavone

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at