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Paris Opera Ballet's Giselle - Singapore, Jan 2012


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Paris Opera Ballet

Giselle

19th to 21st January 2012

Esplanade Theatre, Singapore

 

“Exploration and research, in order to progress… Classical ballet is still the heart and core of the company”, said the Director of Dance of the Paris Opera Ballet, Brigitte Lefèvre.

With this, she brought Paris Opera Ballet on their second visit to Singapore, (the first visit was in 1995) presenting Giselle, a romantic gem, a timeless love story and a truly French creation.

Juxtaposing the past and the present, respecting the work of the great masters and the style of the Romantic era, as well as developing the standards of classical ballet; Patrice Bart and Eugène Polyakov presented a refreshing approach to the 1841 classic and introduced a spectrum of choreographic devices and challenging movements for the dancers.

In this 1991 version, the choreographers used a ‘Freeze Frame’ method (used in film making) in the ballet, creating an illusion of a still photograph. The ensemble in Act 1 froze at the critical moment, when Albrecht’s identity was exposed and this drew the audience’s focus on Giselle, as she began to make sense of Albrecht’s betrayal. Such methods introduced a contemporary dimension to the work. The sets designs in Act 1 were picturesque and the woods in Act 2 were cleverly created to reveal a strong perspective of depth.

Under the baton of Koen Kessels, the Singapore Lyric Opera Orchestra accompanied for all four performances. The music was beautifully performed and in entire support to the dancers, especially the principals, soloists and the many mime scenes in the ballet.

There seemed to be a fairly tense atmosphere on the opening night, the dancers and orchestra seemed to be more cautious in their performance. Laëtitia Pujol, as Giselle, was careful in her dancing for Act 1. By Act 2, she approached with much more aplomb and gave a breathtaking performance as the willi. Partnering her was Benjamin Pech as Albrecht, who similarly took heed in his first Act and developed a more assured performance after.

One of the most challenging choreography in the ballet was the Peasant Pas de Deux in Act 1. The movements were intricate and involved a great deal of technical skills to accomplish the batteries (beating of the legs while jumping), tour en l’air (turns in the air) and pirouettes. Mélanie Hurel and Mallory Gaudion attempted this pas de deux on the opening night. He took an unfortunate slip close to the end of his solo, and managed to regain his pace almost immediate; Hurel, on the other hand, gave a clean and delightful performance. Myriam Ould Braham and Fabien Révillion performed the same pas de deux for the two consecutive evenings. Braham was delicate and performed her part almost effortlessly, while, Révillion kept a strong control in his back muscles and performed outstandingly in the demanding solos.

Emilie Cozette portrayed as a strong and intense Myrthe, Queen of the Wilis, on the first and second evenings. Nolwenn Daniel shared the role and performed on the final show, demonstrating promising potential and a good sense of elevation in her jumps. The various dancers, that performed as the two leading wilis on all shows were commendable, demonstrating great flair and beautiful lines.

The reputable corp de ballet of the Paris Opera Ballet performed in great harmony and finesse. It was indeed a beautiful and pleasing sight for the eyes to view such amazing unity.

A complete change in atmosphere was evident in the second and final evenings’ performance. The ensemble of villagers was warmer and it created a different dynamic to the overall presentation. Led by Clairemarie Osta and Mathieu Ganio as Giselle and Albrecht, their performance was one of the most enlightening romantic ballets, one has ever experienced. Ganio’s Albrecht was passionate and knew that his playboy ways has ended the moment he realised his true love was Giselle. Osta’s Giselle demonstrated a clear transition from an innocent and earnest young girl who has found true love, to her heartbreaking devastation, that led to a tormented mental state of insanity. She approached her Mad Scene without any inhibition but with utmost conviction. Beside mesmerising the audience with his great ballon and executing his batteries with stunning accuracy, Ganio portrayed a dejected and remorseful Albrecht in Act 2. Osta embodied a gentle and merciful Giselle in Act 2, with an exceptionally expressive upper body whilst delivering the technical demands of the role. One was completely moved by their breathtaking performance.

Without a doubt, this almost sell-out production of Giselle encompasses and respects the romantic lines, styles and music of the 1841 version; at the same time, decorative technical feats are included to challenge the dancers and to demonstrate the evolution of the vocabulary. Lefèvre once mentioned, “Classical ballet is not a dinosaur, it is constantly evolving” and indeed it is, and one looks forward to more of this hopeful company in possible new adventures very soon.

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