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American Ballet Theatre: Giselle 2012

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American Ballet Theatre

Giselle 2012

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 Jaffe, Susan Jones, Irina Kolpakova,
Clinton Luckett, Nancy Raffa
Ormsby Wilkins, Music Director
Kelly Ryan, Director of Press and Public Relations
James Timm, Director of Marketing and Brand Management
Susan Morgan, Manager of Press and Online Media

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
May 18, 2012

(Read More ABT Reviews)

Conductor: Charles Barker

Giselle (1841, Paris, 1987, Current Production, ABT): Choreography after Jean Coralli, Jules Perrot, and Marius Petipa, Staged by Kevin McKenzie, Libretto by Théophile 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, Performed by Performed by Xiomara Reyes as Giselle, Herman Cornejo as Count Albrecht, Sascha Radetsky as Hilarion, the village huntsman, Julio Bragado-Young as Wilfred, the squire, Kelley Boyd as Berthe, Giselle’s mother, Roman Zhurbin as The Prince of Courland, Luciana Paris as Bathilde, the Prince’s daughter, Isabella Boylston and Blaine Hoven as Peasant Pas de Deux, Devon Teuscher as Myrta, Stella Abrera as Moyna, Kristi Boone as Zulma, and the Company as Court Ladies and Gentlemen, Giselle’s Friends, Villagers, and The Wilis.

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).

Seeing Herman Cornejo and Xiomara Reyes together again in Giselle, seasoned roles for this duo, as Count Albrecht and Giselle, was like opening a favorite book. They are reliably poignant and possessed. Kevin McKenzie’s staging in an evocative vineyard setting, near the Rhine, with storybook cottages and leafy forests, allows for Albrecht and Hilarion to set up the storyline with early illustrative gestures. Mr. Cornejo and Julio Bragado-Young (as Wilfred, the count’s squire) were quite engaging in the first scene, as Albrecht pretends to be a peasant, to woo Giselle, not revealing that he’s already engaged to Bathilde, the prince’s daughter. Ms. Reyes danced her daisy scene of “he loves me, he loves me not” with such rhythm, that the musicality played for days in my mind. There’s maximized chemistry between these two principal dancers, as well as physical compatibility. The daisy teasing was ingénue and endearing. For Giselle’s mad scene, Ms. Reyes let it all go, with her hair gone wild and her eyes bulging with distress, as she learns of Albrecht’s duplicity.

Kelley Boyd, as Berthe, Giselle’s mother, was appropriately nurturing and overcome, after, with nuanced dramatics, she had warned Giselle of the fate of becoming a Wili. As Hilarion, the huntsman whom Giselle has rejected for Albrecht, Sascha Radetsky exudes seething anger and revenge. As far as Giselle was concerned, she was engaged to Albrecht, and Ms. Reyes powerfully enacted the intense sense of loss, when Bathilde (Luciana Paris, in one of her best roles) shows Giselle her own engagement ring from Albrecht. Ms. Paris was the quintessential image of hauteur. Earlier, the Peasant Pas de Deux featured Isabella Boylston and Blaine Hoven, with spirited zest.

But, it’s in Act II that the magic begins, with ethereal female corps dances of shadowy, shimmering Wilis, who are fiancées who have died, rejected and unmarried, after shock and a broken heart. They dance in the forest with Myrta, their Queen, and her retinue, Moyna and Zulma, from dusk to dawn, when the church bell is heard at four AM. At that moment, the Wilis descend back into their graves. But, during the night, should any male enter their space, they dance him to death, until he expires or falls over a cliff. When Hilarion arrived, he met his fate. Mr. Radetsky was exuberant, spinning about in dizzying dervish, but he was no match for twenty-one Wilis. When Albrecht arrives, he finds Giselle, who has just been blessed with rosemary twigs by a severe, but energized Myrta (Devon Teuscher). Ms. Reyes’ pas de deux with Mr. Cornejo was impassioned, eerie, filled with fervor and vitality. He swung her light figure, as she rotated her feet quickly and vividly. Ms. Reyes bows her head forward, and, with her compact physique, she looks like a little sprite. She exudes paleness and porcelain fragility. Mr. Cornejo achieves astounding elevation in his sideway leg rotations in en air kicks, as he passes by the line of threatening Wilis, in his effort at survival. He’s dancing to run out the clock, before it strikes four. The audience can feel his palpable tension and dissipation. Devon Teuscher, as Myrta, dances with compelling presence. Charles Barker kept the Adolphe Adam score radiant and rapturous.

It should be noted that I revisited Giselle the next day, May 19 matinee, to catch David Hallberg and Natalia Osipova in the leads, to compare interpretations. Mr. Hallberg was the quintessential Albrecht, but never the peasant Loys (the pretend name that Albrecht gives Giselle, to hide his noble identity). He exudes refined sophistication and breeding throughout, the quintessential Count. Mr. Hallberg’s side and frontal kicks and foot rotations in the Wili scenes were breathtaking, but they were not more skillful or superior to Mr. Cornejo’s, as Mr. Cornejo has the compact physique and muscularity to push against gravity. Yet, Mr. Hallberg dances with mesmerizing feats and creates a stunning, magnetic vision in space. Ms. Osipova is surreal as Giselle, most captivating in Act II, where Ms. Reyes shone brightest in Act I, as the vivacious peasant girl and in her mad scene. While Ms. Reyes was stunning and captivating as Giselle, the Wili, Ms. Osipova was unearthly, a feather. Her feet almost do not touch ground, as she glides in space, what almost seemed an optical illusion. Her performance with Mr. Hallberg was almost filmatic, illusory. Overall, I was glad to see both performances, with their nuanced and dazzling interpretations. Kudos to all.

Xiomara Reyes and Herman Cornejo
in "Giselle"
Courtesy of Rosalie O'Connor

Natalia Osipova and David Hallberg
in "Giselle"
Courtesy of Gene Schiavone

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