Giselle - revisited: Vienna State Ballet, September 24th, 2018
Having written about Giselle last June 6th, with nearly the same cast, I do not feel like repeating all that I have meant because I still mean it that same way – read my last critic about this, my all-time favourite, ballet: https://www.attitude-devant.com/blog/2018/6/7/giselle
I shall be an admirer of Olga Smirnova’s Giselle and Semyon Chudin’s Albrecht because of their low-profile interpretations, the low-key in which they play these roles.
But to quote Emma Jacklyn (Anne Bancroft’s character in “The turning point”): “Some cities are better than others… so are some nights”.
We, as an audience, do not have the right to claim for performances that “are the same” every evening, there is no right to stipulate that in words like “I want a good, perfect performance”. Dancers , artists are not robots!
Perhaps we are all a bit spoiled because of the high-level of the performances we have been getting during the last years, because of the way how Manuel Legris has changed this company. But Artists are made of flesh and blood – Thank God! – and, do not forget: that there are better but also not so good days…
To start with I will repeat that I am not fond of the girl’s costumes in the second act – I consider them extremely unbecoming because of the horizontal pleats but I have to mention something I have never said before about this version, something positive: this is the only version I know in which the (nearly 20) dancers that are representing the “Nobility” do not go into the house… Has anyone ever thought that there is not really space for 20 people in a two-room farmer’s cottage?
One thing that bothered me again is the fact that the romantic Arabesques - while Giselle is being held by Albrecht , in the second Act - are not really what I understand as romantic Arabesques… just the upperbody moved forward, not the hips, which give alltogether with the inclination of the stand leg the effect of a fairy, flying… So necessary for “Giselle”…
Natascha Mair and Scott McKenzie excelled in the “Peasant’s pas de deux”, sharing center stage with Miss Smirnova and Mr. Chudin – not an easy task! In fact they were eve more “at ease” than last June. Special notice to Miss Mair’s jumps combined to her delicacy as a performer! Mr. McKenzie jumps beautifully - but Miss Mayr’s jumps were as high as his! Amazing!
One could feel that at the beginning of the second act – Myrtha’s entrance, even if so much more simplified in the Tschernischiva’s version – that Oxana Kiyanenko – a beautiful dancer with great poise – was immensely nervous. Her arabesques (which should tend to be more of penchés) were insecure and her hands were trembling – a fact that is terribly underlined because she is carrying spring flowers on both hands – and those were shaking (And why I have seen “Giselle” hundreds of times, I have to say this… I never understood why Myrtha carries lilies instead of myrrhs – the symbol of purity… Think of her name: It is Myrtha! A virgin!). But as soon as she made her second entrance in a more “moving” variation she had got complete hold of herself. Strong, commanding, defying… I appreciate very much the way in which she created “her” Myrtha. Miss Kiyanenko was in fact the reason why I came to this certain performance - I wanted to see her “reading” of Myrtha and I could have been more delighted… It has been long since I saw…
This Myrtha is not only a person who wants only to destroy, not an evil creature but one that is immensely hurt by the fact that she has died (not such) a young virgin. I liked Miss Kiyanenko’s performance because she showed – especially because of her Renaissance features, while simply standing – that certain “frustration” from which a strong part of Myrtha’s character is made of. Bravo.
Mr. Peci – for me the perfect Hilarion. Sometimes I fear him while on stage and then I feel sorry for him when the Willies take him “away”. What else can I say? There’s nothing to add to my descriptions of this most-gifted of dancers who dominates with poise, technique and “soul” the classic, the contemporary and the modern vocabulary…
Mr. Schudin, a dancer I most admire, gave a strong performance of Albrecht – I wonder how his Albert will change within the next ten years… Think of Baryshnikov: in his youth, his Albrecht was a young, romantic boy… with the passing of the years he turned him into an egoist, cynical man!
Needless to say that he brought the house down with his entrechats during the second act… Audiences really do love a circus!
Let us face a fact and be honest, Miss Smirnova did not have one of her best days, technically speaking – but that just makes her more endearing to me. Because that not matters at all! She IS human! During the first act she was weak and had big trouble on (to my way of thinking) Giselle’s most beloved variation that includes the diagonal in which she just hops en pointe on one leg… But that made her perhaps even more emotional on her mad scene – it made me really shiver this time. It was dark. Very dark. Poor mother played by Franziska Wallner-Hollinek. Both made us cry… So emotional!
She recovered – and how - during the second act, even though she left the end of pas des deux out – the one in which she just leans on Albrecht, facing her grave, while in Arabesque, not touching him!
But here I am talking about technicalities – yes, some days are better, others are not… What matters is the magic of her dance, the way in which she hypnotizes you with her Art and the way in which she, most puristically MOVES. Her soul onstage. Open. Looking all the time into the eyes of her partner. A true Artist! And she and Mr. Chudin brought the house down! Thunders of applause…
Writing this, I think that I realize how apparently inexhaustible the resources of ballet are. Of course it all depends on the point of view in which you are witnessing a performance. Are you willing to experience Art or just enjoy a kind of “circus”? Let us think about that.