Playhouse, Qld Performing Arts Centre
Originally cancelled in 2022 because of the February floods that decimated the Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC), the Queensland Ballet’s production of Giselle finally opened last week to a full and very enthusiastic house.
The quintessential Romantic ballet, Giselle’s appeal is universal – a tale of love and betrayal, overlaid with a generous dose of the supernatural, with striking sets and costumes, and the melodic Adolphe Adam score.
The real power of the ballet, however, lies in its ability to succinctly describe the drama as it unfolds, and here, in Ai-Gul Gaisina’s production for QB, we have that clarity. All the characters are well drawn, therefore believable.
There are apparently six casts over the two week season, allowing younger dancers to perform, but on opening night the lead roles were danced by principal artists Mia Heathcote and Patricio Revé.
Heathcote is a natural Giselle, capturing the character’s charm and naivety, and galvanising this audience member with her descent into madness, despite a girl munching potato chips in the next seat! In Act 2 Heathcote embodied the otherworldly with a feather-like quality supported by exquisitely articulated feet and legs.
Revé’s interpretation of Albrecht was a little vague in the first act, residing somewhere between idle flirt and downright cad, but his remorse was unmistakeable in Act 2 as he faced the possibility of death at the hands of the Wilis. A little too much abandonment nearly undid his en dehors attitude turns, but he redeemed himself with an immaculate 32 entrechat six.
These two dancers are perfectly matched, their Act 2 pas de deux exquisitely seamless.
Supporting roles are also especially well developed. As Giselle’s overprotective mother Berthe, Lucy Green was most convincing, explaining her concern for her daughter’s health with clearly delivered mine, laying the foundation for the subsequent tragedy.
Gaisina makes Hilarion a meatier character, and in a strong interpretation of the role, Vito Bernasconi elicits real sympathy for his unrequited love of Giselle. Showing wonderfully clean, buoyant jetés, his despair was palpable in the opening moments of Act 2.
Yanela Piñera also delivered an immaculate Myrtha, Queen of the Wilis, with buoyant elevation and crisp six de vole, and was ably supported by Chiara Gonzalez and Laura Tosar as the lead Wilis.
Gaisina makes the usual Peasant Pas de deux divertissement in Act 1 a pas de huit, which was performed by all eight dancers with great energy, clean execution and lovely ballon. In fact, it was a most solid performance by the whole company, especially from the female corps who were particularly splendid with precision in Act 2. I only wished there could have been a few more of them. Twelve Wilis seemed rather parsimonious, even on the smaller Playhouse stage.
The set and costume designs by Peter Cazalet enliven this production, lit by Ben Hughes, while Camerata – Queensland’s Chamber Orchestra, under Music Director Nigel Gaynor, underpinned the whole with an elegant interpretation of Adam’s melodious score.
There seemed to be more than a few newcomers to the ballet, this performance, which, if they left the potato chips at home, is encouraging for the industry. Giselle makes a wonderful introduction to the art form.
- DENISE RICHARDSON
'Giselle' continues until April 29. For more information, go here.