David H. Koch Theater, New York, NY; November 12, 2014 (m)
“Giselle” is the best known ballet of the Romantic Era, originally choreographed by Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot in 1841. The Mikhailovsky Ballet production (given the full title “Giselle, ou Les Wilis”) is a Nikita Dolgushin revision after that and Petipa’s 1850 version. It is a lovely, traditional staging of the classic work.
“Giselle” is the story of a young peasant girl – in this telling of the story, one with a weak heart – who falls in love with a young man she thinks is a farmer from a nearby village, but who is in fact Count Albrecht. The local gamekeeper, Hilarion, who loves her, is jealous. When he reveals the truth, Giselle goes mad and dies.Anastasia Soboleva is a very innocent and shy Giselle. She is so completely in love with Albrecht that her world crumbles to bits when she discovers that he has betrayed her. Her mad scene is very natural and very moving. In Act II, and now as a Wili, Soboleva showed off her deep arabesques and gorgeous jumps. She was feather light as she floated across the stage.
As good as Soboleva was, the real find for me in this “Giselle” was her Albrecht, Victor Lebedev. In Act I, he was very young and irresponsible. He is a teenager who does not think about his real world or his real fiancée, Bathilde, when he is with Giselle. He has absolutely no idea that he is hurting the shy young girl with the weak heart until she goes mad and dies.
In Act II, where he sees the spirit of Giselle and dances with her (she having forgiven him), and where the Wilis try to dance him to death, Lebedev’s showed off his beautiful line and elegant manner. This Albrecht is a noble full of feeling – love, guilt and especially grief. As a performer the young principal is sensational. His dancing also showed off his soaring leaps, his double tours en l’air and his entrechats (which are even better than David Hallberg’s). One of the many wonderful things about Soboleva and Lebedev’s “Giselle” was how in sync their dancing was – especially the side by side jumps. Their chemistry in Act I was very natural and unaffected. In Act II it was otherworldly, even spiritual.
The ending of the ballet was very touching. After Giselle returns to her grave, Albrecht breathes in the scent of the lilies she has dropped on the stage, feeling his oneness with her one final time. Then, as he falls on her grave, he weeps inconsolably. Tears streamed from my eyes.
Although Soboleva and Lebedev were the best things about the performance, others deserve mention. Irina Kosheleva’s Queen of the Wilis has a vengeful leap, but her landings are a bit heavy. When the Wilis do their criss-crossing, the sound of their footfalls is quite distracting and takes away from the power of their movements.
Andrey Kasyanenko’s Hilarion came across as a very rough character. I don’t think a sensitive girl like Giselle would fall for him, even if Albrecht were not in the picture. As Giselle’s mother, Berthe, Anna Novosyolova appeared very real and totally devoted to her daughter. In the peasant pas de deux Ivan Zaytsev was a disappointment. His leaps lacked elevation and his landings were quite clunky. It’s hard to believe that he is a principal dancer. His partner, Anna Kuligina, however, impressed with her sparkling footwork.