Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Review: the ROH's 'Giselle'

by Katherine Tobin

Natalia Osipova in Giselle
Having throughly enjoyed the Royal Opera House's production of The Nutcracker, streamed live to Portsmouth's Vue cinema where I went to see it, I was excited when I returned again last week for their streaming of Giselle.

One of the most famous ballets, it promised to be particularly special due to the female lead playing Giselle, Natalia Osipova. Having recently moved to the English National Ballet, Osipova is known for her impeccable technique and style, and she certainly did not disappoint on this occasion, bringing the troubled role of Giselle to life with apparent ease.

Giselle tells the story of a girl who falls madly in love with a duke masquerading as a commoner, Albrecht. When she discovers his true identity, she is irreversibly heartbroken, and at the end of the first act, in her descent into madness, she stabs herself and dies.

The second act takes us into the spiritual world of the woods where we see the "Wilis", the ghosts of virgins who have died of unrequited love, and who protect the woods from men.  The Queen of the Wilis calls on them to accept Giselle as one of their own, but when Albrechet arrives at Giselle's grave in the wood, Giselle must dance with him until the Wilis lose their power over him and cannot kill him.  The ballet ends with Albrecht, realising that Giselle has saved him, crying at her grave.

The production was particularly beautiful for me because of the two leads - Natalia Osipova as Giselle and Carlos Acosta as Albrecht.  Whilst Acosta was charming, and powerfully emotive, it was Osipova who absolutely shone in the most sought-after female ballet role.

Osipova, as well as being technically outstanding, was able to effortlessly portray the vulnerability,  innocence and subsequent fragility and torment that the role demanded.
For Act One, Osipova's love-stricken character was complemented by a choreography of fast-paced footwork and quick turns, which was contrasted in Act Two by floating jumps, lifts and extensions and the incorporation of the Corps de Ballet, as the Wilis, who provided a seamless and unified body of movement.

Despite many people nowadays suggesting that ballet is boring and old fashioned, for me ballet, when done as well as this production of Giselle, is anything but. As well as being totally in awe of their physical prowess - strength, stamina and flexibility are key for a good performance - I think it is beautiful.

Of course, it's not everyone's cup of tea, but having watched this performance of Giselle, it is easy to understand why so many people both love and respect the art.

Read Julia Alsop's article debunking myths about opera here.

1 comment:

  1. This is a lovely article but Natalia has actually moved to The Royal Ballet, not The English National Ballet.


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