Last night I saw Giselle at the Orange County Performing Arts Center in Southern California. I had an OK seat in the orchestra section - too far to the right so part of stage right was blocked by the curtain.
After I came home I watched parts of the La Scala film version with Ferri and Murru so that I could make some comparisons between the traditional version and Sylvie’s.
It is hard to do that with only one viewing of the newer Giselle, but here are my first impressions.
It seems to me that when a choreographer is going to rework a classic, the resulting work should be more than just different.
It should bring a new emotion to the piece, a new aesthetic. To be innovative and not just dissimilar.
This version did not meet that criteria.
Evidently Sylvie was trying to achieve a more realistic look at the ballet.
Well, a piece with dead girls dancing is not a realistic ballet to begin with!
Hilaire broke his foot in rehearsal so had to be replaced by Murru - who was great as Albrecht. I thought his performance was much better than on Wednesday night in Carmen.
His line was long and elegant with terrific jumps, neat feet and graceful hands that were not wimpy.
Hilarion, Andrea Volpintesta, was also very good - in the small amount of dance he did. His opening scene was lost behind a scrim and bad, bad lighting, which remained rather dim the whole ballet.
Sylvie danced beautifully, but not memorably, if that makes sense. Her choreography in Act I is almost ballet-lite - rather simplistic with many 180-degree, 'six o'clock' leg lifts. Impressive the first few times you see it, but then too much of a good thing is not a good thing.
At first I thought the lack of dance in the first act was so that Sylvie could show off more - nope, she didn't do that either!
The main set was drab — a movable thing that made a shallow stage even more shallow in the first act. It swung around and I could never figure out WHY! It was very annoying.
One side was Giselle’s front door and I think the other side was meant to be the opposite side of the street, it was hard to tell.
So what you had was a wide set piece that split the stage in half depth wise; drastically reducing the amount of actual dance space. Traditional would have been better here.
At the end of Act One the flat piece opened up into a three-sided tavern - which was pretty neat - bottles hanging down from the air added a “pub” feel to it.
If the set was drab then the costumes were more so. I read that the dresses and such were created by some big designer. Well, they were simply ugly. Bad hats and scarves covering up the girls hair.
They looked like the dresses my great-grandmother would have worn tilling the fields in the wild west.
No colour. Nothing to make them stand apart from the set. It all blended together in one brownish mush. Even Sylvie’s blue dress was drab.
The dancers wore NO makeup — which was ok if one was in the orchestra section of the house, but those poor people up in the tiers must not have been able to see any facial expressions I'll bet.
In comparing last night’s version with the film, much dance was left out - not nearly as much peasant dancing in the opening.
The wonderful peasant pdd by Deborah Gismondi and Antonio Sutera was reduced to one solo each. The dancers were very good in the limited amount of space they had but the few lifts and jumps were constrained.
Evidently Sylvie reduced the amount of mime to make for a cleaner story - but it didn’t really work all that well. Hard to tell what was going on if one didn’t know the story.
The loves me-loves me not flower scene was so understated and quick you could hardly see what was happening. Again I wonder what the folks in the tiers could see.
During the very long intermission ( they had to chance floors) I talked with several people. They like what they saw but were not hugely impressed ... one guy said, lots of motion, but not a lot of dance.
The applause was respectful, but not overwhelming.
The stage was littered with these big faux boulders— three Wilis danced out among them — nice floating bourees.
Their costumes were quite lovely - variations on different wedding dresses. Very effective.
The three girls danced a bit and the rocks rose - up and up and up and there they hung. They blocked some of the light that was supposed to be on the dancers!
The corps and queen Wilis (Beatrice Carbone) actually had the best dance!
This was one part that I liked better than the traditional version. The Wilis’ movements were more lyrical and less rigid than in the film.
The theater had lighting problems in the second act. One key light wouldn’t stay on and another side/back light kept flashing just off-stage making it look as if the scene had poor lightning effects happening.
One of the things Guillem could have changed for the better would have been less walking around in the mourning scene of Act II
The Ferri version has Albrecht entering and walking around emoting to beautiful music in the Act II opening.
Last night the walking around seems to have been increased and there was less emoting.
This would have been a great opportunity for Guillem to add some poignant adagio dancing for Albrecht.
Technical problems caused the ending of the ballet to lose some of its impact. One of the smoke machines at the end made so much hissing noise it totally disrupted the tragic flow. Very disconcerting to say the least.
Lest I sound too negative, all in all I am glad I went. There was good dance - just too little of it.
I saw Sylvie dance and that was a treat because she is such a name. There were some good moments but just not enough to go WOW.
There was a long standing ovation at the end which told me that people really appreciated the second act. Murru was especially treated well as was Guillem.
My sense is that this is a somewhat condensed version of the traditional. And shorter in this case does not mean better.