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Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal

April 5, 2019

Giselle

Reviewed April 4, 2019

NAC Southam Hall, Ottawa

(Repeat performances April 5 & 6, 8 p.m.)

LGBCM giselle

Giselle is the quintessential beautiful classic ballet. Even though this Jules Perrot and Jean Coralli creation was first performed 178 years ago, Giselle continues to draw audiences across the world because it’s a ballet that is rife with history, drama and, yes, real dancing.

In fact, it is about the young village girl Giselle who loves nothing more than to dance. And, as the story goes, she dances not only during her short, sweet life, but in her death with the hordes of ghostly “wilis,” young brides-to-be who have died before their wedding days and who condemn men to dance themselves to death.

The appeal is the timeless tale: young undying love, betrayal, awakening, heartbreak, and survival. And, in spite of its macabre story, it is a romantic ethereal dancey work that is beautiful to behold.

The Ottawa performance is a world premiere of a re-adapted Giselle, re-staged by Les Grands Ballets Canadiens’ new artistic director Ivan Cavallari. Cavallari, who was smitten with the black-and-white television production of Giselle he saw when he was a young boy – the one featuring Rudolf Nureyev – grew up to dance in Giselle. And now he thought it was time, after two decades, to revive the ageless ballet for Les Grands, staying true to the original’s famous tableaux of pointes and white tutus.

Cavallari has streamlined the production somewhat, maintaining the traditions of the Marius Petipa 1903 version, including the famous ballet blanc of the second act, where some 20 hypnotically graceful ballerinas, clad in full white tutus and floaty sleeves, cast a mesmerizing spell over the shadowy woodland as they dance precisely in union.

This act contrasts with the light and jubilant celebration of the opening act, when groups of young men and women, dressed in bright earthy-hued costumes, dance innocently and playfully in a field of flowers.

The music, by 19th century Parisian composer Adolphe Charles Adam and performed live by National Arts Centre Orchestra, is an enchanting accompaniment, from the elegant and joyful flute interludes of the first act to the soft strings and harp of the second.

The set, built by the scenery fabrication shop Productions Yves Nicol in Montreal, is fairly minimal – a backdrop on which projections display a field of flowers, a moonlit woodland or, for the dramatic finale, a pure white and then black ground. Nevertheless, the projections are vivid and delightfully effective.

Yui Sugawara, who danced Giselle on opening night, is an ethereal protagonist, playing through the demanding roller coaster of emotions as naïve flirtatious maiden, besotted lover or defiant yearning ghost, even if her descent into madness and death seems a little hurried and unconvincing.

From → Ballet

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