Review: Royal New Zealand Ballet's Giselle

By Raewyn Whyte

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A scene from Giselle.  Photo:  Stephen A'Court
A scene from Giselle. Photo: Stephen A'Court

It is easy to see why the Royal NZ Ballet's signature work Giselle has earned popular and critical acclaim at home in New Zealand and around the world: it is simply superb in every way.

Revisioned by Ethan Stiefel and Johan Kobborg, this version of the 1841 classic presents 21st century ballet technique and a naturalism in performance that makes the story emotionally convincing. The action is attentively matched to the repeating melodies and motifs of the score by Adolph Adam which carry the tale along, played beautifully on this occasion by the APO conducted by Marc Taddei.

In the lead roles on opening night in Auckland, Lucy Green as Giselle, guest former principal dancer Qi Huan as Albrecht, and Mayu Tanigaito as Myrtha, Queen of the Willis, were everything you could wish for. Their virtuoso performances were technically impeccable and utterly riveting, bringing subtle nuances to the various incidents which combine to tell the story of Giselle's doomed love for Albrecht.

The entire cast were similarly outstanding. As villagers in Act 1, they were joyous and vivacious; as the (in)famous Wilis in Act 2, in elegant long layers of tulle, they were magnificently arrayed in the exacting formations which are the hallmark of this ballet.

Set design by Howard Jones utilizes transparent scrims, providing a village below a looming castle, and the mysterious forest between the two where the Wilis, the vengeful spirits of jilted brides, live. A beautiful front cloth morphs into the roots of a giant tree, used to frame the action and close the narrative arc, as Albrecht, later in his life reaps the ultimate consequences of his youthful indiscretion, a fitting new ending.

What: Giselle - Royal NZ Ballet
Where & when:, ASB Theatre 31 August - 3 September; then to Rotorua and Palmerston North.

- NZ Herald

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