Giselle is without doubt one of the world’s most popular ballets, and the Cape Town City Ballet is currently performing a world class production by Elizabeth Triegaardt. From the local and guest dancers down to Peter Cazalet’s original sets and 40-year-old costumes, one can safely bank on being delightfully enchanted.
Of course, such promise and high expectation can lead to disenchantment and I confess to a hint of this during the first act, due to some imbalanced synchronization and heavy footwork. Even the otherwise watertight Ivan Boonzaairer in the role of Hilarion suffered some slight off-balance landings following his grand foutté en tournant. But being the opening night – and Friday the 13th – one can forgive this.
There was improved synchronicity from the particularly enjoyable dancers Celeste George, Alexander Vivian-Riding, Kirstel Jensen, Jesse Milligan, Mariette Opperman and Craig Pedro. They bemused the audience and inspired applause with nearly every pas de deux and solo entrée.
A technique that was impossible to fault was that of CTCB’s principal male dancer, the virtuoso, cavalier Thomas Thorne dancing as Albrecht in the male lead role. His technical confidence and the delicacy of his movements allowed attention to fall simultaneously on story and dance as he wove them together seamlessly, a quality matched by ballerina Angela Hansford as the Queen of the Wilis in the second act.
But the night’s star was undoubtedly principal ballerina Megan Swart who, in the lead role of Giselle, was quite simply exceptional as she poured heart and soul into her dance. Adding to the intense emotion of this production, this is Swart’s last role. After 15 years as a ballerina, Swart is sadly hanging up her ballet shoes.
The Cape Philharmonic Orchestra, expertly conducted by Graham Scott, was as always truly sensational, and the sets were cleverly complemented with lighting that accentuated the dancers’ finest facial features to a degree that was visible even from the back of the auditorium. During the ominous ambience at the onset of the second act, Shamiel Abrahams’ lighting was particularly impressive as the Wilis (virgins in the afterlife who have died of unreciprocated love) magically materialized out of the foliage of the woods as they took to the stage for the eerie, albeit awe-inspiring ‘white act’. The tragedy was palpable.
With a stage fit for the crème de la crème of romantic ballet, we were carried off to a fantasy land of peasants and noblemen, with Giselle taking centre stage. Apart from a few inconsequential hiccups, this classic tragic love story never lost its intensity and emotion. This production of Giselle should be on every Balletomane’s events calendar.
Cape Town City Ballet’s production of Giselle opened on 13 and runs until 22 April 2012 at Artscape Opera House.