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Royal New Zealand Ballet - Giselle & mixed programme - UK Tour 2015


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I saw 2 performances of RNZB at Edinburgh in Giselle, the production by Johan Kobborg and Ethan Stiefel. Essentially it's a traditional version but with a few tweaks. It is seen through the eyes of Albrecht; a dancer representing an older Albrecht appears at the opening and at the end of each act, remembering his relationship with Giselle. The role of Hilarion is expanded, both dramatically and in dance. The 'peasant pas de deux' is performed by a bride and her groom, plus Giselle, Albrecht and Hilarion.

 

 The production is convincing and the dancers are very well rehearsed. The scenery is basic, the cottage for Giselle and her mother and the building Albrecht uses are mere shacks. The lighting is mostly mercifully bright compared to most ballets nowadays. The costumes are attractive but slightly simpler than for most productions which often make peasants very well dressed. The biggest production drawback is that there is no live music and the tape is very loud.

 

The first Giselle I saw was Lucy Green, who is strong technically and convincing in both acts. Her Hilarion, Kohei Iwamoto, danced well in the second act but came across as a lively lad rather than an aristocrat in disguise in Act 1. Jacob Chown, as Hilarion, gave a strong performance as Hilarion. Myrtha was Mayu Tanigaito who doesn't have a good enough jump for the role, nor the necessary authority.

 

However, maybe she was saving herself as at the evening performance she was Giselle. Her dancing was stronger. I liked the start of her Act 1, she was charming and shy but in the Mad Scene she was grumpy rather than tragic. Her Albrecht was an Italian guest, Carlo Di Lanno, who danced strongly. Abigail Boyle was a more authoritative Myrtha. The standard of Moyna and Zulma at the 2 performances varied but the corps danced in unison.

 

Overall it is well worth going to if you can get to Canterbury or High Wycombe. And for fans of Northern Ballet or BRB, there is a chance to see former dancers, respectively, John Hull (who was the Duke in both performances) and Lori Gilchrist (Zulma at one performance); or Nathanael Skelton ( a lively peasant).

 

The company is also performing a mixed bill, at Leeds next week, at the Linbury and at Canterbury.

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Overall it is well worth going to if you can get to Canterbury or High Wycombe. 

 

I didn't even know it was on :(.  Soon, presumably?

 

Anyway, after my nightmare experience yesterday I'm not sure I want to risk rail travel again just yet :(

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Thanks, aileen.  I take it it's normal Giselle-length?  Getting back from HW is always a problem in the late evening, but I may give it a go, in the hope that it can't be as horrendous as my trip back from Southampton last night - or perhaps I should say this morning.

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I've seen 3 performances over the weekend.

 

SheilaC has described the production very well. I saw the same 2 casts as Sheila.

 

I thought the performances were terrific, as Sheila says they were very well rehearsed. The dancers also acted convincingly.

 

I loved the way what we would normally see as the peasant pdd has been used more as a wedding party with Giselle, Albrecht and Hilarion also participating in the dancing. I loved the incredibly snooty hunting party. Interestingly the Duke and Mathilde did not stay in the house but left with the rest of the hunting party and a picnic provided by the villagers. It didn't detract from the later revelation. I like the prologue and epilogue with older Albrecht, it adds a roundness to the story telling.

 

I enjoyed Kohei Iwamoto's performance as Albrecht tremendously. I thought he came over rather well as an aristocrat pretending to be a peasant - yes he was a bit of a lad but when he told Wilfrid to leave and went to grab the sword he didn't have he immediately showed he was an aristocrat by his stance and expression. His dancing was absolutely gorgeous throughout - he has the most beautifully soft leap with lots of ballon. Lucy Green was a delight as Giselle and they have a very strong on stage rapport.

 

IMHO this is an intelligent and very enjoyable production danced well by an attractive company.

 

I'm looking forward to the mixed programme in Leeds this week.

 

The performance lasts 2 hours. I understand the mixed programme is a similar length.

 

It was nice bumping into DonQ Fan too!

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I can but echo Janet's review having seen the matinee and evening shows on Saturday. I loved the way Kobborg and Stiefel made more sense out of the story using the bride and groom/wedding party...much better! Lovely dancing, costumes and sets throughout excepting that Albrecht had navy tights in Act2 making it harder to see his wonderful dancing/footwork. I was very impressed with Iwamoto he landed so softly from all his jumps. Myrtha last night was really good she certainly took no prisoners! Liked the use of projections at the start of both acts. Pity there wasn't a live orchestra, but it was a good recording they used. The show was 2 hours and time keeping was spot on.

Edited by Don Q Fan
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I saw the Giselle matinee at High Wycombe today.

 

Having seen the feisty 'Rooster' women at the Wells last night at first the (peasant) women in Giselle seemed terribly twee and this did slightly affect my enjoyment of the first part of the performance. I'm not very familiar with the RB version but it seemed to me that there was less mime by Berthe which explains the events in the second act. The role of Albrecht's fiancée was scaled down in this version; there was much less interplay between her and Giselle (no gift of the necklace). What was very good in the RNZB version was the clear differentiation between the peasants and the noblemen. In particular, Albrecht (the tall, handsome and clean shaven Joseph Skelton) was physically very different from Hilarion (the shorter, stockier and bearded Jacob Chown).

 

Tonia Looker was cast as Giselle and she was convincing as a shy and naive village girl. With the exception of the beginning of the 'hopping solo' when she struggled a bit (I suspect that the music was too slow for her) she danced well. Her 'mad scene' and death did not have as much impact as I am used to seeing; I don't know whether that was down to acting, choreography or the lack of live music. Myrthe was strongly danced by Hayley Donnison, and Moyna (Yang Liu) also stood out. I felt that, overall, the second act was stronger than the first with an evocative set and some excellent dancing by the Wilis who were suitably mysterious and menacing. The only thing that spoiled it was the pdd for Giselle and Albrecht; he nearly dropped her from a horizontal overhead lift and after that I felt a bit nervous about the remaining partner work.

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I saw the matinée in High Wycombe yesterday. Within the confines of recorded music, very small stage and small scale corps I thought the company gave a beautiful and very affecting interpretation. Tonia Looker and Joseph Skelton both gave moving and convincing portrayals and made the bond of love more evident in Act I than is sometimes seen. The effect of the entrance of the wilis was diminished by their reduced number, but they danced very beautifully and created a menacing and mysterious atmosphere.

 

As others have said, the production is essentially traditional, but with some adjustments to the usual staging. I liked the extra choreography for Hilarion in Act I and the wedding scenario. It seemed odd to reduce Berthe's mime, which should both tell the story and illuminate the mother/daughter relationship. Giselle dies in Albrecht's arms, not Berthe's, which surprised me, but I know the RB version best. Perhaps this is shown in other productions?

 

I have no issue with the older Albrecht appearing to frame each Act, except for the revisionist final scene. The ballet closes as he revisits Giselle's grave, now bereft of flowers, and the wilis suddenly appear and advance as if to claim him. This seems to me an artistic disaster, undermining the meaning and symbolism of the work itself, and diminishing the impact of the company's heartfelt performance.

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I saw this last night at High Wycombe and loved this production. It's so interesting seeing the variety of responses to different versions as well.  Personally I really loved the framing story with the older Albrecht, and I found the ending very menacing with the advance of the Wilis on Albrecht to silence apart from the  toll of the church bells. It also made good use of the loud closing music in the score- if my memory serves me correctly, I don't think the recent Bolshoi production used that but ended quietly and for some reason I really missed those final bars. We saw Mayu Tanigaito's Giselle, which radiated innocence. I  liked the way the production felt more modern with the dress looking Victorian- it made Giselle seem like a symbol of an innocence associated with a past world that would disappear over the next few decades with the developments and the next century and the First World War. I also loved the flower symbolism and the tree and roots on the backcloth. Everything seemed made to work together and no moment was wasted. I liked Carlo Di Lanno's Albrecht which showed his bred nobility that he couldn't disguise, and Paul Mathews Hilarion made me really care about his character. Only bit I wasnt' sure I liked was the village idiot figure pulling the wedding cart. Loved the portrayal of the nobility- they seemed really nasty and abrupt, and the crooked dwellings of the peasants emphasised the class aspect. It was interesting that Abigail Boyle played both Bathilde and Myrtha-a bit of doubling that really made me think.

 

After the Bolshoi's hammy trapdoors and moving tree branch, it was lovely to see a simple and effective second act with sufficient but not overpowering mists and lightening.  Overall a lovely production I thought- much as I really enjoy re-workings of the classics like Matthew Bourne's, for me, the traditional version with some individual twists like this really wins.

Edited by pianolady
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I saw the mixed programme in Leeds last week.  There are 4 pieces and it is very contemporary in style.

 

The opener was Javier de Frutos' The Anatomy of a Passing Cloud, for six men and six women.  It opens with four groups of 3, holding hands and threading around each other.  The music seems to be a male voice choir.  There are lots of sections in this bright and lovely production.  The way the soundtrack is worked it sounds as though someone is searching through radio stations so you get a piece of music then the static when you turn the dial before more music.  There are various groupings and group dances and the mood goes from spiritual to happy to melancholy and beyond.  It was a delight.

 

The middle 2 pieces were commissioned last year for a WW1 commemoration programme.  Andrew Simmons' Dear Horizon, again is for six men and six women.  There is a striking set of what seems to be barriers and poppies and netting at the back of the stage and hanging down.  The women seem to be fatalistic about their men going to war, the men die, the women grieve.  It is a striking and moving piece.

 

I found Neil Ieremia's Passchendaele, for a larger cast, incredibly moving.  You see the men preparing for war and making ritualistic motions that reminded me a bit of Hakas I have seen on TV.  This piece powerfully shows the futility of war.

 

The final work of the evening was Andonis Foniadakis' Selon Desir, which I found somewhat frenetic.  I thought I was going to loathe it when it first started but I got drawn into it and ended up enjoying it despite its freneticism.

 

Together with Giselle this programme shows off the talents of this 36-strong company very well.  They certainly are a company worth watching!

 

The programme lasts around 2 hrs and 15 mins.

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I am in two minds as to whether I shall go and see this production. The problem is that I increasingly feel that Giselle doesn't need tweaking to make the story make more sense or full scale re-working to make it relevant and bring it into the twenty first century. What Giselle really needs is a full scale restoration of the entire choreographic text including the mime, which originally made up about forty percent of the ballet.

 

According to those who were involved in the restored version produced by Pacific North West Ballet the effect of restoring the text is to restore the close relationship that originally existed between the score and the stage action and to enlarge and enhance the characterisation not only of Giselle but of Albrecht, Wilfred, Hilarion,Berthe and Bathilde. As Adam, the composer of the score,was actually in the rehearsal room the music for this ballet supports the action whether dance or mime to an extraordinary degree if the full text is performed. The extracts that I have seen of PNB's production persuades me that the enthusiasm of the re-stagers for the results of their handiwork is justified and not merely puff. Picking away at an already savagely cut ballet classic is unlikely to solve problems that were created by stagers whose main concern during the twentieth century was to make the ballet conform to the dictates of choreographic fashion.

Edited by FLOSS
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Although there are many many productions of Giselle around the world, it is probably the least mangled ballet of all the classics. 

 

While of course some productions tell the story (often through good casting) better then others, it is only the Mary Skeaping version as danced by ENB which completely adheres to the beautiful romantic style, and in both acts.  

 

The Cuban version, originally also staged by Skeaping has become distorted through the decades).

 

I am here of course only referring to the traditional version.

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I like the Skeaping version too. But PNB seem to have staged a much fuller version of Giselle by using Henri Justament's records of the revival he mounted at the Opera in 1868.The clips that I have seen

of the PNB production are fascinating. They reveal a far closer relationship between music and action than I have ever seen in any other production.

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The company has some lovely dancers. Anyone attending the performances at the Linbury is unlikely to be disappointed by the quality of the performances.

 

My previous comments about new productions of Giselle should not be interpreted as suggesting that I am not open to new ideas but merely that as so much has been cut from this ballet over the years that perhaps now the only room for manoeuvre comes from restoring music and choreography previously cut rather than further cuts.

 

The company is not big.Its size means that adjustments to the choreography were to be expected but I am not sure that the changes that were made were ones that were actually needed. The ballet begins during the overture as the audience is shown the figure of a long haired man.Shortly after the audience has identified him as the middle aged Albrecht the ballet,as we know it, begins.The standard stage action occurs Albrecht and Wilfred standard stage business. Albrecht and Giselle. Albrecht knocks on the cottage door, she comes on stage they dance; standard stage business including he loves me he loves me not. When Berthe leaves her cottage she is carrying a white dress and is accompanied by a young woman.Berthe we discover is dress maker.Berthe's Bridal Boutique? The group choreography for the villagers is altered in large part I think to cover the fact that they are so few in number;dancing in circles draws less attention to the size of the corps;Giselle dances her traditional variation.

 

MAIN DIFFERENCES.

1)The peasants in this production are not involved in harvesting grapes as a result Giselle is not crowned as queen of the vintage. Instead a young bridal couple are brought onto the stage in a cart that of the type that is usually used for Giselle's "coronation".It is their wedding that is being celebrated and Giselle is merely another villager rather than the focus of all eyes.

 

2)Berthe does not have her traditional mime warning about the Willis instead she warns Guselle that Albrecht will break her heart.

 

3)The peasant pas de deux is opened up and transformed into a pas de cinq.During the course of the pas the bridal couple dance as do Albrecht and Giselle both as couples and individuals and Hilarion also has a solo.

 

4)Bathilde and the hunting party arrive.Giselle tells her that she sews her own clothes. It is difficult to know why as Giselle never actually touches Bathilde's dress. Giselle tells Bathilde that she is getting married .Bathilde does not give Giselle a necklace.The group drink and leave almost as soon as they have arrived.

 

5)Giselle's madness and death.This Giselle does not kill herself with a sword.She dies.She dies in Albrecht's arms. There is a great deal of Albrecht and Hilarion gesticulating at each other about who is really to blame for Giselle's death. Berthe pushes Albrecht away but not before he has established how very much be regrets Giselle's death.

 

 

The action for act 2 is standard until near the end. The corps for this act comprises fourteen Willis including Moyna and Zulme. At the point at which Albrecht is usually to be found walking towards the front of the stage as the curtains close we are now shown the middle aged Albrecht brooding over his loss.The last we see of him it is night and he is standing by Giselle's grave facing a Willis who is approaching him.

 

It is strange but the framing device combined with the shift of emphasis reducing Giselle to a mere villager loved by two men rather than the centre of the village's collective attention throughout act 1 has the effect of diminishing her significance in the ballet and altering the balance of the ballet as a whole.I don't think that it was intended but you could almost call this version of the ballet Albrecht rather than Giselle.Of course cutting,altering and rearranging texts was a standard part of theatre practice in the Victorian era when this ballet was created.It was usually actor managers who engaged in such activities to enhance the part that they were going to play.Both the men involved in staging his work have danced in it in the past.Their revision of the text though apparently minor has created an Albrecht who is such a decent chap and so remorseful that I could not help thinking that he would have told Bathilde that the wedding was off.

Edited by FLOSS
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