Giselle - revisited Oct. 9th, 2017 - Vienna State Ballet
Elena Tschernikova’s version of „Giselle“ is somehow not one of my personal favourites – and this since its Première in 1993. But this is something personal... I could live with some liberties that were taken in the story line and even with the Willis’ costumes, that are not very becoming to every single dancer.
But, as it was “very fashionable” in those years, some stagings tried to disembody its original romanticism to make things more “up to date” and if you did not do it, you simply were not "in": most notably Marcia Haydée’s version for the Stuttgarter Ballett, in which Giselle does not die of a broken heard but is hit incidentally by Hilarion’s sword while he is fighting with Albrecht because (in her own words) “Nobody dies of love”. Miss Haydée could not have been more mistaken about that!
This disembodiment – more stretched arms, nearly no “inclined” romantic arabesques, the Willis' strong hand movements (instead of ethereal ones) while “rejecting” Albrecht when he is asking for their help - just to name a few examples - are not effective. They robbed the ballet of some beautiful moments but didn’t add anything to it. Much of the romanticism is gone but nothing came instead of it.
If I may ask: why?
Nevertheless “Giselle” is (and always will be) my favourite ballet and yesterday’s evening was one with a brilliant display of talents.
There are only a few words to describe Miss Ioanna Avraam’s début as Giselle:
an incandescent Star of first magnitude!
She has that certain looked for “Giselle quality”. Something that is also becoming rarer and rarer nowadays (as the so-called “swan quality”). I have been following Miss Avraam’s career for quite a number of years and I have seen her dancing dozens of roles season after season until she was promoted to a soloist. It is my humble meaning that this is more than time to turn this fantastic dancer, at last, into an Etoíle.
Even though I missed some “real finishing” of certain movements at the beginning of the evening, her timing was precise – one cannot forget how “nerves” must be while dancing your first Giselle. Like “Professor Higgins” would say in "My fair Lady": “As raw as meat in a butcher’s window”. I know this is a very strange comparison… but it is like that!
The first act was fantastic and ended with a very “deeply felt” mad-scene… These are the moments when the wind and sun and sea from the Mediterranean shine through this artist's veins: EMOTIONS. Pure emotions. These are the moments in which I feel thankful to be witnessing one special work of art!
There was a lot of expectation about the second act and she was impeccable in her technique, emotional performance and interpretation. From her slow and very controlled Arabesques and Développés up to the famous batterie during which the audience (well, at least I do) sits very straight on their seats in order not to miss one second of it (and the closings of the fifth position), all this filled with an emotional awareness of the role, of the situation, of all colleagues around her… an artist!
An absolute perfect performance caressed by her “Modigliani looks” that are VERY becoming on stage! Bravo, Miss Avraam!
Denys Cherevychko, like always perfect, gave a tremendous display of his technique – his never ending Entrechats during the second act nearly stopped the show. His interpretation of Albrecht was somehow new to me. Neither the “romantic man", honestly and madly in love with the maiden nor the cynical Albrecht, the “playboy” that uses the girl as a toy and is plagued by a sense of guilt that never leaves him (like played by Baryshnikov at the end of his - classical - career).
Mr. Chrervychko’s Albrecht was more of a young boy, perhaps at the end of his teens – that is in love with a girl and is not really understanding and aware of the “stormy sea” into which he is heading with his boat… interesting!
Alexis Forabosco, always a pleasure to watch on stage because of his extreme professionalism andpresence, gave life to the haunted Hilarion, the poor devil that is in love with Giselle even if in a very possessive, jealous way. Even though this version took some liberties with the character (he, in fact nearly, begs Albrecht to kill him) it was a beautiful display of controlled emotion. Somehow he reminded me quite strongly of Maurizio Vanadia (Teatro alla Scala), another most talented dancer that danced my favourite Hilarion until today to Ferri’s Giselle, Murru’s Albrecht and Seabra’s Myrtha.
Oxana Kiyanenko lacked the “essence” of her character, Myrtha. There was no sign of the “elderly” frustrated, mean virgin with her hatred towards men. The queen of the Willis that incited them against the “ones” she hated. At this moment one must comment on Myrtha’s entrance at the beginning of the second act: it is normally, a most feared part of the ballet (also for the audience – because we suffer along with the performer. Of course we do!), one in which the dancer is completely “exposed”, technically "naked" to the audiences: the endless pas de bourrées, the delicate arabesques penché and all in a very, very slow tempo! But this is rapidly done with in Miss Tschernikova’s version. The effect disappeared completely. I will always call it “Myrtha light”. And this is a shame. A real disappointment to serious ballet-goers.
Sveva Gargulio and Anita Manolova were very effective as the “two” Willis.
Last but not least: the “farmer couple” was danced beautifully by lovely Natascha Mair; exquisite, musical and pin-pointed to the last details like always. Scott McKenzie, giving his début, also nearly stole the show. Precision, joy, stage presence. As I have said, many, many years ago about Davide Dato... I have to make this prediction again: we shall be hearing a lot of Mr. Mckenzie within the next years!
Congratulations to the Corps-de-Ballet and all those dancers on which you can always rely on. Talents like Katharina Miffek, Suzan Opperman, Alaia Rogers-Maman, Gabor Oberegger, Leonardo Basilio, Marcin Dempc, Igor Milos, Jaimy van Overeem, Marian Furnica, Franziska Wallner-Hollinek and Céline Janou Weder, just to name a few. Talents which have been around for quite a while and command every single performance with an exactitude and integrity that is more than admirable: That is what I call “attitude”! That is what the world of ballet should consist of.
A wonderful evening!