cubanmiamiboy

Your first live Giselle...

39 posts in this topic

Looking back, I think it was good that my first ever Giselle was Diana Vishneva. I had seen Giselles on video, and had seen excerpts performed live. I always thought of Giselle in Act 1 as a very sweet, innocent village girl, and in the second act as this gentle weightless spirit. I saw Vishneva and she completely erased all my previous conceptions of what Giselle "should" be. I had never thought that in Act 2 Giselle could be such a strong, even angry spirit. That during her initiation turns she was turning out of fury, and that the entire Act 2 could be played as a thrilling battle of wills between Giselle and Myrtha. I'll never remember how Vishneva, with just the right amount of dark eyeshadow, pitch dark hair, and the sternest expression in the world, made a Giselle that literally made my hair stand on end.

I also remember how beautifully Vishneva and Malakhov complemented each other. Both are what some people might call "over the top" performers, but they seemed to be dancing at times as one person. Both of them jumped at the same height, their body line was exactly matched, and it was just unforgettable how at the end of the ballet Malakhov seemed to be crawling after Giselle. Vishneva closed her hands together, as if to block Albrecht, as she returned to her grave. She gave Albrecht one last flower and was gone. This Giselle had exorcised her demons.

I might also add that I've seen DV now in a wide variety of roles. And that she's generally one of my favorite performers. But nothing she has ever done will in my mind ever match her Giselle.

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Canbelto's post about Vishneva makes me speculate on whether or not there is a generational divide in such matters.

Younger ballet goers are more likely to have seen videos of a large-scale before their first live performance. Those of us a little older didn't have that opportunity. I can't imagine any young ballet lover today being as unprepared as I was for their first Giselle (or any great classic). (I sort of knew the plot -- Act I, mostly -- but NOTHING about the impact of Act II. Talk about coup de foudre.)

Cristian raised the question of whether our "first" was also the most memorable. Yes and no, for me at least. I honestly don't remember much about Serrano's interpretation. Certainly not as much as those who come to a ballet "prepared" and are thus able to watch closely and dissect individual performances. I remember vividly the feel of that performance. And the look or ambience. (For some reason, I tend to hold onto images of the auditoriums in which performances take place, which is why I recall that Ballet Theater was not at the (old) Met for that particular performance.)

Memories like this make the "first" the "best" in some ways, if not in all. Like first love, I expect. The important thing for me, however, is NOT to use one performance as an absolute standard for all that follows. I don't like to set myself up for disappointment. There's always something wonderful to watch when talented dancers perform a work like Giselle, even if she/he is not the dancer of my dreams.

P.S. Recently I did some research on Serrano and discovered that she had been a high-praised Myrthe before dancing Giselle. I gather that her switch to Giselle was brought about in part by the departure of Alonso, who had for a while owned this role at Ballet Theater. Serrano danced Giselle for years and is said to have deepened in the role as time went by. Her most frequent partner was Royes Fernandez, so it's likely that he was the Albrecht I saw in the early 60s.

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Canbelto's post about Vishneva makes me speculate on whether or not there is a generational divide in such matters.

Younger ballet goers are more likely to have seen videos of a large-scale before their first live performance. Those of us a little older didn't have that opportunity. I can't imagine any young ballet lover today being as unprepared as I was for their first Giselle (or any great classic). (I sort of knew the plot -- Act I, mostly -- but NOTHING about the impact of Act II. Talk about coup de foudre.)

Cristian raised the question of whether our "first" was also the most memorable. Yes and no, for me at least. I honestly don't remember much about Serrano's interpretation. Certainly not as much as those who come to a ballet "prepared" and are thus able to watch closely and dissect individual performances. I remember vividly the feel of that performance. And the look or ambience. (For some reason, I tend to hold onto images of the auditoriums in which performances take place, which is why I recall that Ballet Theater was not at the (old) Met for that particular performance.)

Memories like this make the "first" the "best" in some ways, if not in all. Like first love, I expect. The important thing for me, however, is NOT to use one performance as an absolute standard for all that follows. I don't like to set myself up for disappointment. There's always something wonderful to watch when talented dancers perform a work like Giselle, even if she/he is not the dancer of my dreams.

P.S. Recently I did some research on Serrano and discovered that she had been a high-praised Myrthe before dancing Giselle. I gather that her switch to Giselle was brought about in part by the departure of Alonso, who had for a while owned this role at Ballet Theater. Serrano danced Giselle for years and is said to have deepened in the role as time went by. Her most frequent partner was Royes Fernandez, so it's likely that he was the Albrecht I saw in the early 60s.

I am so glad you mentioned Lupe Serrano. I never saw her in Giselle only in Swan Lake and a number of "fireworks" number and I was impressed. Royes Fernandez was the perfect gentlemanly Prince who convinced me he really belonged on the stage.

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I am so glad you mentioned Lupe Serrano. I never saw her in Giselle only in Swan Lake and a number of "fireworks" number and I was impressed. Royes Fernandez was the perfect gentlemanly Prince who convinced me he really belonged on the stage.

A litte off topic...

When I met Miss Serrano during the last Miami Ballet Festival, she stroke me as a very serious lady...rather severe, so maybe she was better suited for Myrtha than Giselle.

And to answer my own question of a probable identification between the first and the most most memorable Giselle, this was not my case. Just as bart, I remember mostly the ambiance and magic of the ballet on that first experience, but many years would pass between that Giselle and the very one that made me believe 100 % in the possibility of keeping the romantic style alive and updated. It was Miss Lorna Feijoo...and oh...was she DIVINE! :sweatingbullets:

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That is interesting; my memories of Serrano as a teacher are quite different--she was warm and humorous, but very direct. Of course she had high standards, but she was the sort of teacher one wants to please because one enjoys her classes, not because one is afraid of her. It is not uncommon, though, for there to be a difference between a public persona vs. teaching persona.

As I recall, my first live Giselle was Julie Kent, and while she was not an artist on the level of, say, Amanda McKerrow, she was a convincing actress and very beautiful technically. There are certain things she did in that performance that I have not seen anyone else do as well--especially in Act II she and Carreno worked together to achieve the most ethereal, subtle effects. For example, during a series of supported arabesques voyagés, Carreno simply carried her across the stage so that she appeared to magically float without ever coming down. And during her series of entrechat-quatre, relevé retiré, she substituted retiré sauté for the relevés, making the entire sequence airborne and using her épaulement to make it all look effortlessly angelic.

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I know it's been a while before this post had another reply but here is my first live Giselle...

I remember one day my aunt took me to a theatre, I was probably 4 or 5, and I remember the line-up before seated. I remember seeing a girl and a guy dancing together and was interrupted by another guy on stage, and was extremely confused about the story and bored, then I fell asleep. That is my first live Giselle.

Not until some year later, on June 5, 1988 to be exact, I went to see Giselle with one of my friends, and then right when Hilarion came out and questioned Giselle about her love to Albrecht in Act 1, I suddenly remembered that it was Giselle that my aunt took me to see.

By the way, my "second" live Giselle was with Hong Kong Ballet, a matinee, with Ayako Yoshikawa as Giselle and Mark Hawkins as Albrecht (not sure if anyone has heard of them, Hong Kong Ballet was a young and much smaller company back then). I have kept the program all these years and it's still like new.

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My first was Fonteyn/Nureyev, it was Fonteyn's last Giselle in NY ca 1969. Honestly, I only remember fragments of the performance; a little of Fonteyn's mad scene and how she used her hands and wrists in Act 2.

A month or two later I saw Fracci and Bruhn and that performance (at what was then called the Garden State Arts Center) I remember more clearly.

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Marianna Tcherkassky. I have never forgotten her amazing, liquid bourees.

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Thanks, little-junkie, for reviving this thread. You brought back a hazy childhood memory of a Giselle even earlier than the Lupe Serrano performance I posted earlier. I can distinctly remember the village scene, the look of costumes, ets, etc. I must have been quite young, possibly 8 or 9.

For some reason, it is the Hilarion who sticks in my memory, perhaps because he's treated rather badly in the story and doesn't get much respect. No one on stage seems to care about Hilarion. His "creeping-about" music is rather spooky, too.

I remember where we were sitting -- a stage-left box, still my favorite seat for ballet -- and the rather elegant but shabby theater. So why don't I remember Giselle herself? If I do, it's gotten mixed up with numerous other Giselles over the years since then.

The performance must have been Ballet Theater, or possibly one of the last seasons of the Ballet Russe. It wasn't the old Met. Could it have been in a Broadway theater taken over for the ballet season? I'm trying to recall something from Act II (other than poor, mistreated Hilarion). I suspect that all those white tutus have gotten mixed up in my memory with white tutus in other ballets, especially Swan Lake, which I know I saw several times before the age of 10.

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My first Giselle was Nadia Nerina with David Blair as Albrecht at the Royal. I was on a European trou with my ballet instructor and a group of girls. We sat in a box. Soemwhere I still have the program and the diary I kept of that trip. Later in the trip, we spent two weeks studying with Harold Kreutzberg in Berne, Switzerland.

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Great topic, Cristian.

I was a grad student living in England. My first Giselle was Antoinette Sibley, with Anthony Dowell; they were making a debut of some kind, I THINK as a pair, and sadly, I wasn't moved much by their performance itself -- I was really impressed by the hoopla, which involved daffodils being thrown down from the upper balconies onto the stage until the dancers were ankle deep in yellow flowers. It was almost on the scale of a political demonstration, and maybe for that reason I was struck by the staginess of it all and kinda repelled.

I loved Sibley and Dowell in Swan Lake, it was one of the great experiences of my life -- it was early in my career of going to the ballet and the first major disappointment, though I'd noticed already that sometimes things that were supposed to be great did not make me feel much of anything. When I first read King Lear, I didn't see what all the fuss was about, either.

I didn't feel the power till later -- Alicia Alonso's in Berkeley in the 70s, Makarova and Dowell in Berkeley, Lorna Feijoo's in Berkeley with your great Cuban ballet, and Sarah van Patten's this year in SF are the great performances I've seen live.

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