His Majesty’s Theatre, 13 September
West Australian Ballet first performed this visually beautiful production of Giselle in 2014. A traditional interpretation remaining true to the work’s 1841 origins, it is a quintessential Romantic ballet set in both human and metaphysical worlds, and explores the consequences of deception and the transcendental power of love. Staged by Aurélien Scannella and Sandy Delasalle, after Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot, the production is a perfect fit for the company of 30 dancers and six young artists, and the relatively small confines of His Majesty’s Theatre stage. Friday’s opening night performance was impressive by the entire company, featuring first-class dancing and some outstanding individual performances.
Australian-born conductor Jessica Gethin led West Australian Symphony Orchestra through Adolphe Adam’s melodic score with verve, producing rich, full, amplified sound. The additional music in the score composed by Burgmüller, was added by Corelli for the Peasant Pas de Deux in Act I; Petipa later added Drigo’s music used for Giselle’s Act I variation, and Pugni’s music for Giselle’s waltz variation in Act II. The ballet’s overture introduces Adam’s use of leitmotifs reflecting the location, mood, tragedy and supernatural aspects of the story, and these leitmotifs recur as reminders throughout the ballet.
Gloriously lit by Jon Buswell, the work’s scenic stage settings are based on original designs by Peter Cazalet. Act I reveals a charming, rural landscape with a rustic, timber cottage and hut, and woodland leafy stage surrounds framing distant blush-blue cloudy sky and outlying hills. Act II takes place by Giselle’s grave in a misty, hauntingly picturesque glade by moonlight, inhabited at night by Wilis, spectres of jilted young women who have died before their wedding day, and take revenge on men who cross their path.
The ballet begins as Albrecht, Duke of Silesia (Oscar Valdés), disguises himself as a peasant, and flirts and dances with Giselle (Chihiro Nomura), an inexperienced, gentle, young woman who is smitten. Watching jealously is gamekeeper Hilarion (Jesse Homes) who loves Giselle and is suspicious of Albrecht. The couple join villagers celebrating harvest in brightly performed solos, ensemble dances, a dynamic men’s group dance, and an eye-catching duo. (Candice Adea and Julio Blanes). The arrival of a hunting party with the Prince of Courtland (Craig Lord-Sole) and his daughter Bathilde (Polly Hilton) who is betrothed to Albrecht, brings the merriment to an end. Hilarion, triggering Giselle’s heart-breaking mental and physical demise, reveals Albrecht’s deceit.
Act II opens as guilt-ridden Hilarion prays by Giselle’s grave before trying to escape, as Myrtha, Queen of the Wilis (Polly Hilton) commands the space. Hilton’s bourrées, sustained fiifths, brilliant jetés, and vindictive, unearthly demeanour were intimidating in a standout performance. A chastened Albrecht brings lillies to the graveyard and Giselle rises from her grave to forgive Albrecht and dance with him and save him from the Wilis. The ethereal white-clad Wilis and their leaders (Carina Roberts and Claire Voss) inspired ensemble work with lovely arabesque lines, poetic symmetry and control deservedly drew audience applause throughout.
Chihiro Nomura shone in a captivating interpretation of this technically demanding and emotionally challenging role, with beautifully controlled adagio sections, lyrical flowing port de bras, and an exquisite pas de deux and aching farewell with Valdés in a performance of great distinction.
Oscar Valdés gave a splendid performance as an arrogant, privileged man and showcased his clean technique, superb elevation, elegant footwork, and, ultimately, Albrecht’s anguish.
Jesse Homes danced powerfully as always, and Candice Adea and Julio Blanes, both technical virtuosos, excelled in peasant pas de deux, with Adea’s lovely, musical style and Blanes’s impressive use of stage space and ebullient, travelling, soaring jumps.
'Giselle' plays until September 29.