Originally choreographed in 1841 by Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot to the music of Adolphe Adam, Giselle is famous for its hauntingly beautiful second act and tragic love story, making it one of the most recognisable and widely performed ballets today. David Poole’s adaption for the Cape Town City Ballet retains the romantic style and aesthetic of the ballet, and with live music by the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra and guest performers Hikaru Kobayashi and Federico Bonelli from the Royal Ballet, it’s a must-see.
Kobayashi and Bonelli bring Giselle and Albrecht’s relationship to life, not only with their technical prowess, but with their passionate sincerity. Kobayashi perfectly captures the playful, innocent Giselle, who falls for cheeky, charming Albrecht. It is unsurprising to see such electric chemistry between real-life married couple Kobayashi and Bonelli. They exude a refreshingly authentic physical attraction that is often overshadowed by the playful flirtation of the first act. This emotional connection is paralleled by the harmony of their dancing; they move in and out of partner work with such precision that even the arcs of their jumps rise and fall together. And how delightful to see the CTCB members – the women in particular – raise their game to match. The synchrony of the Peasant pas de six was fantastic, the dancers even staying in alignment through the promenades. All the peasant dances were light, fun and folky, with colourful costumes and characters painting the stage. Amongst all the vibrant celebration, Elizabeth Nienaber’s fast, articulate footwork and radiant joy stood out in her solo and her pas de deux with Ivan Boonzaaier.
The final scene of the first act, in which Giselle learns of Albrecht’s deceit, can easily turn into the frantic ravings of a woman scorned, but Kobayashi plays it with such simplicity and heart-breaking confusion that it becomes beautifully poignant. Act 2 begins with the hazy forest scene in anticipation of the events to come, as the ethereal Wilis start filling the stage. Kim Vieira is well suited to role of Myrtha, Queen of the Wilis, with her expressive hands and commanding stage presence. The ladies of the corps performed better than I’ve ever seen them, with all 24 of them moving as one unit, all arms and legs at the same level, at the same time. Such clarity is not only visually pleasing and powerful but allows the choreography and musicality of the ballet to be fully appreciated.
The second act also gives one time to sit in awe of the flawless leads. Kobayashi’s transformation in energy and physicality from Act 1 to 2 is superb, and she holds her balances effortlessly, as if she really were a hovering ghost, waiting to float back onto stage. Meanwhile, Bonelli has a chance to show off; it’s a delight to watch him leap and land so gracefully. Take note of his exquisite feet, especially during the batterie sequences.
The only shortcoming in the production is that men in the corps need to pull together more in the first act. The rest is top class; don’t miss the chance to watch the company perform this captivating story so skilfully.
Giselle is currently running at the Artscape Opera House, Cape Town from 25 September to 4 October 2015.