Left - Lindy Wills & Tristan Message. Cover - The Australian Ballet presents Giselle. Photos - Danielle Lyonne
The Australian Ballet’s production of Giselle was so classic, so archetypal, that one could almost believe they were sitting in a theatre in 1841 and watching the original premiere. Everything from the sets, the costumes, and the choreography spelled traditional, making for a quixotic, beautiful production.
Giselle was originally choreographed for ballet great Carlotta Grisi in 1841, and is the only ballet of the Romantic period still in regular performance repertoire. The story combines the simplicities of peasant life with the mysteries of the supernatural, in a classic tale of love, loss and betrayal. Young maiden Giselle falls for the shockingly handsome Albrecht, who unfortunately is actually a nobleman disguised as a peasant. Upon learning of his duplicity, Giselle goes mad and dies of a broken heart. In the second act, Giselle has joined the wilis – once scorned women who come back in the afterlife to take their revenge upon men. The Queen of the Wilis demands Albrecht must die for his betrayal, but Giselle’s undying love protects Albrecht until morning, when the spell of the Wilis is broken, and Albrecht goes free.
The stage for The Australian Ballet’s Giselle is awash with autumn hues. Golds, browns and forest greens dominate the first act, while the second half is almost entirely performed under an eerily green light, adding to the supernatural feel. The immaculately designed sets by Peter Farmer encompassed all that was earthy, natural and homely about the peasant life, and all that was mysterious in the forest of the Wilis. The costumes, particularly of the peasants, adapted to the mise-en-scene with ease, and the imperative use of the romantic tutu was still, thankfully, present.
Maina Gielgud’s choreography is natural, effortless ballet. The choreography carries the story with ease, and the dancers are given room to heighten the story with their own well-crafted emotional performances. Each dancer brings something afresh to the characters, and each relationship is dynamic and compelling. While the first half of the performance uses much more gesture based performance, in order to convey the larger part of the story, the second half is where we see some spectacular technical choreography, particularly the solos of Albrecht and the Queen of the Wilis.
Giselle’s original score was composed by Adolphe Adam, who shocked his audience with the use of leitmotifs, not often applied in ballet compositions in his time, but for which the score is now famous. Performed in this production by the Queensland Orchestra, the score is light, hypnotizing and enchanting – as if the very Wilis themselves performed in the pit, trying to seduce us all.
At the end of the day, you go to see Giselle because you go to see one of the classics of ballet. And you won’t be disappointed with this fine performance.
The Australian Ballet presents
Venue: Lyric Theatre, QPAC
Dates: Brisbane 8 -12 July (7 performances)
Tickets: Adult Tickets from $30-$99 (a booking fee may apply and proof of age may be required for concession tickets)
Bookings: Brisbane 136 246