Giselle is a wonderful mixture of classical ballet with a fairy tale story with a few interesting twists to the tale. In this story, Giselle rebukes the advances of gamekeeper Hilarion as she has fallen deeply in love with Albrecht. the man of her dreams. Albrecht however is a Count in disguise as a peasant and is already promised to another. To say that Giselle takes this news badly when she finds out the truth is a bit of an understatement as she dies of a broken heart.
In Act Two we visit Giselle’s grave with Hilarion visiting it in the moonlit glade as the vengeful Wilis spirits gather to seek as they do revenge on any man who enters this space at night. The Wilis are spirits of women jilted by their lovers (usually at the altar) and seek revenge here by forcing any man to dance until he is dead.
This production by Royal New Zealand Ballet is a wonderful piece of pure classical ballet and with a total cast of over 30 dancers is a big production to be touring with.
Principal roles are played by Lucy Green as Giselle, Kohei Iwamato as Albrecht and Jacob Chown as Hilarion. As you would expect from principal roles in any company like this, the standard of dance is very high, but Lucy and Kohei are exceptional in their respective roles and make a wonderful dancing partnership together.
This is really a work in two halves. Act One is bright and full of colour with its typical peasant village setting, dancing village folk, a wedding – Tonia Looker and Shaun James Kelly make a wonderful newly-wed couple here and of course it is Giselle who catches the bride’s bouquet when it is thrown.
Act Two however is far darker as we are at Giselle’s grave in the moonlit glade. Here we meet the spirits all dressed in white. Mayu Tanigaito as Myrtha leader of the spirits gives a wonderful performance in this Second Act as she leads her company of spirits to take vengeance upon Albrecht and Hilarion. Against this setting of a dark moonlit set with all the female dancers in white dresses, Lucy Green gives the audience another outstanding display of power, grace and balance, and great stage presence as a dancer. Jacob Chown as Hilarion gets to display some impressive skills too, but it is Kohei Iwamoto as Albrecht who gets to show the audience why he is dancing the principal male role this evening.
Act Two is pretty much the image that many young girls will have of a ballerina – dressed in white, moving effortlessly and gracefully en pointe back and forward across a stage. There is something almost surreal about this beautiful setting as they are trying to force a man to dance to his death.
This foreboding moonlit scene in Act Two owes a lot to Scenic Designer Howard C Jones and Lighting Designer Kendall Smith as it is a combination of their skills that provide the setting for these wonderful dancers to work on.
Music for Giselle is by Adolphe Adam and this is itself a pleasure to listen to as it is just a wonderful piece of work in its own right. Music for this show is pre-recorded rather than with a live orchestra, and at a short after show talk with principals Lucy Green and Kohei Iwamoto they were kind enough to explain that touring requirements and schedules just made a live orchestra (much as they love performing with one) impossible for this tour.
This is just simply a great classical ballet performed by great dancers. I hope Royal New Zealand Ballet do not take too long to return to Scotland with more classical performances.
Review by Tom King