Helene

Giselle May 30-31; June 5-8

53 posts in this topic

Just a quick note -- I was there last night for Nakamura (it was truly lovely) and on a very pragmatic note -- they've started running both Mercer and Roy as two-way streets, but local drivers haven't really gotten the message yet. If you're driving, give yourself extra time and be wary when you're turning onto what used to be one-way streets. If you're on public transport and walking, be really wary!

And yes, the James Taylor concert tonight at the Key Arena, along with the film festival, will make the neighborhood really busy.

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Thank you for the ID: when I saw the name "Ungar" in the costume books, I thought someone in the company had gotten married.

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We stayed on in Seattle after a business trip to see Giselle on opening night, hoping to see something different from what ABT and other companies serve up, and we were not disappointed. While the production seems to contain elements that are way more modern than would have been in reflected in the 19th century materials relied on by Boal and co in putting this shindig together, it was obvious from early on--with the leg work and tempo, this was a different beast, from a different era, from what we normally see. The mime doesn't fully work on some, 1 or 2 of the corps were (kindly put) off, but on many occasions, one kinda felt transported. I've only seen PNB live 6 times or so, but they really seem to have unique energy and subtle velocity, and this production suits them well.

More generally, as a NYC guy with benefit of NYCB and ABT, I still wish I could see more of PNB, and NOT just because I get to take a monorail to the theatre from downtown ;)

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Lesley Rausch and Seth Orza in a short excerpt from Act II:

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We stayed on in Seattle after a business trip to see Giselle on opening night, hoping to see something different from what ABT and other companies serve up, and we were not disappointed. While the production seems to contain elements that are way more modern than would have been in reflected in the 19th century materials relied on by Boal and co in putting this shindig together, it was obvious from early on--with the leg work and tempo, this was a different beast, from a different era, from what we normally see. The mime doesn't fully work on some, 1 or 2 of the corps were (kindly put) off, but on many occasions, one kinda felt transported. I've only seen PNB live 6 times or so, but they really seem to have unique energy and subtle velocity, and this production suits them well.

More generally, as a NYC guy with benefit of NYCB and ABT, I still wish I could see more of PNB, and NOT just because I get to take a monorail to the theatre from downtown ;)

The monorail does make any day better!

I'm curious to know what elements of the production you felt weren't true to a 19th c aesthetic -- I agree that this version is very different that most of the Giselles around today, but I think that's more a function of how the ballet has changed over time.

Still, glad you got a chance to see it, and add it to your repertoire!

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I always think, when I see another performance of Giselle, that surely we’ve discussed everything there is to think of with this ballet, and I’m always wrong.

The new sets and costumes for this production are both lovely, but they do come from slightly different places, which makes for an interesting dichotomy. The sets are firmly sourced in the art and literature of the Romantic era – from the ruined church on a distant hill in the second act to the quaint cottage where Albrecht hides his cloak and sword, we are in Romantic Ballet Land. The costumes are a different matter, though. Giselle, her friends and the Wilis are all in fairly standard kit (bodice and skirt) but the men, especially the noblemen and the hunters, look like illustrations from a mid-19th century fashion plate. We just finished re-watching Ken Burns’ Civil War series at my house and the the village hunting party at the top of act 2 looks very much like Matthew Brady’s daugerrotypes.

If anything, I think the company is even more secure in the specifics of this production than they were at the premiere. The mime, in particular, seems very homey, and easy to follow. Albrecht and Wilfride have a detailed conversation about his status (“the lord with a sword”) where the vocabulary repeats clearly – which helps to imprint it for viewers that aren’t so familiar with the language. And we see Hilarion in the background repeating this, which comes back to bite Albrecht when his status is revealed. Hilarion actually tells quite a lot of the story, very deftly.

All three Giselles from the opening weekend came out of the house with zest – they may have a weak heart, but they don’t telegraph it from the beginning. Rausch is probably the most gentle of the three, Korbes and Nakamura are competing for the “sassy daughter” award here. They make mischief, they shirk their chores, they love their mother, but don’t want to obey her when it doesn’t suit them. They’re lively, which makes the death at the end of the act even more painful for us and for their community.

Tisserand is probably the most natural prince of the three Albrechts. You can see right off why Hilarion would be suspicious of him – he’s not a very convincing peasant. Bold and Orza would pass much more easily, but they each have moments where they ‘tell’ as a prince. For Bold, it’s when he tells Wilfride to leave him alone – he’s not incredibly insistent so much as he just expects to be obeyed. For Orza, it’s when he finally takes hold of the sword after Hilarion goads him with it – he’s relaxed and assertive, the weapon is a natural fit in his hand. (I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he’s done some swordplay or fencing – I think I remember a similar sense in Kylian’s Petit Mort in the opening sections with the foils.)

Bold’s Hilarion is confused – he can’t understand why Giselle doesn’t love him, can’t understand why Loys seems wrong, when he gets caught by the Wilis and condemned by Myrtha he understands too late. Lin-Yee play him like the older man – Giselle is a young girl who just doesn’t know what’s best. Moore’s Hilarion, though, really gave me pause. He loves someone, and has constructed a world in his head where she loves him. When that world cracks open, he’s the saddest person on stage.

Mullin does a lovely job of scaring the dickens out of us as Berthe – she seems to go into a trance as she tells about the curse of the Wilis. Giselle may pretend that she doesn’t believe, but we do -- it’s a truly disturbing moment in the narrative.

Biasucci and Porretta, and Neuville and Griffiths both gave very articulate readings of the peasant pas during the first weekend. There are sequences in there that are massive gut-busters, in the grand Petipa style, but they were quite lovely through it all. As Anna Waller pointed out in her review, they almost represent the impossible happy ending for Giselle and Albrecht – they are what the main characters can never be, something I really hadn’t considered up to now.

Opening weekend we had three Myrthas – all were very affective, but I think Imler really does come closest to the central core of the character. The costume has a tiered skirt, with lavender flower ‘buttons’ down the front – it has a really Victorian sense to it, and I did think of Miss Havisham and her thirst for revenge on all men right away. Imler has a great sense of dignity in roles like this (Lilac Fairy) it extends into her comedic work as well (her wife in The Concert) and even the more wallpapery parts, like the Queen Mother in Swan Lake. She was totally believable as the queen of a band of vengeful ghosts, and that takes some serious acting skills! Dec and Tisserand were also excellent, but didn’t have quite the same sense of doom, or at least not yet.

The second act is looking better and better – the contrast between the almost slapstick humor of the old man and the villagers (needing three hands to count the churchbells and quaking when they realize it’s midnight) and the actual terror when Hilarion realizes he’s caught and cannot escape is much more effective than an unbroken spooky, spooky, spooky vibe. I’m a sucker for old-fashioned stage effects, so the unveiling of the Wilis makes me catch my breath each time. The alternating turns for Giselle and Albrecht build really well – he fading while she goes from strength to strength. When she come rushing in through the corps to shield him from Myrtha after the Wilis drag him in I thought for sure she’d be wearing a superhero “G” on her costume. And her mime at the end of the ballet, turning his hand over and reminding him that he’s promised to someone else, and sending him to Bathilde, is really special. I have a feeling that people who grew up with the more contemporary version of the work might have trouble with this, but it creates a really clear dramatic moment at the end of the ballet for me.

Some miscellaneous thoughts:

I didn’t notice until this time around that the ballet begins and ends with dawn.

Giselle’s opening sequence in the second act, after she’s been summoned by Myrtha, made me think that for someone that’s so in love with dancing, being still in the grave would be the hardest thing ever – whatever the situation, she’s been freed from that prison.

I hadn’t realized how many references there were to hunting in the work – aside from the noble hunting party, and Hilarion’s friends at the beginning of the second act, Myrtha sends the Wilis out to hunt for hapless men.

And finally, if people just listened to Berthe and Wilfride, there wouldn’t be all this trouble.

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We stayed on in Seattle after a business trip to see Giselle on opening night, hoping to see something different from what ABT and other companies serve up, and we were not disappointed. While the production seems to contain elements that are way more modern than would have been in reflected in the 19th century materials relied on by Boal and co in putting this shindig together, it was obvious from early on--with the leg work and tempo, this was a different beast, from a different era, from what we normally see. The mime doesn't fully work on some, 1 or 2 of the corps were (kindly put) off, but on many occasions, one kinda felt transported. I've only seen PNB live 6 times or so, but they really seem to have unique energy and subtle velocity, and this production suits them well.

More generally, as a NYC guy with benefit of NYCB and ABT, I still wish I could see more of PNB, and NOT just because I get to take a monorail to the theatre from downtown ;)

The monorail does make any day better!

I'm curious to know what elements of the production you felt weren't true to a 19th c aesthetic -- I agree that this version is very different that most of the Giselles around today, but I think that's more a function of how the ballet has changed over time.

Still, glad you got a chance to see it, and add it to your repertoire!

I won't profess to be an expert or even knowledgeable, but on the plane to/from SEA, i read a book about La Syhphide to put my self in a dance-y type of mood so I had my (probably wrong) image of 19th century in mind. Much of the first act struck me as something one might see in the 19th century, with the moderate height of legs, the tempos, etc (and the tableau at the end), but a few times in the second act, with some entrances and lifts, it seemed more acrobatic (and soviet-styled) than what might have gotten from a romantic 19th century ballet. That's no fault to the company, or peformance, and the program notes even say Boal left in some more modern elements.

But I can say that the spring is ballet high season in NYC--we get ABT's met season, and NYCB--and aside from Balanchine's short Walpurhisnacht where Sara Mearns of NYCB killed it, the piece i'd most want to see again is PNB's Giselle. We thought of getting tix for Saturday night to see Korbes, but it was just so nice outside in Seattle for late spring. ;)

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I’m a sucker for old-fashioned stage effects, so the unveiling of the Wilis makes me catch my breath each time.

And finally, if people just listened to Berthe and Wilfride, there wouldn’t be all this trouble.

I love me some old time effects as well, but I'm not sure the laughs the unmasking got were the intended effect. It's just too antiquated of machinery for most, where the narrative/sets/dance can stand outside of time in a way. Perhaps if the veils were pulled down and off it might keep the effect but mask it a little?

And, like listening to basic motherly advivce, some one needs to create a compendium of things to do or not do as a ballet character..."So, if you meet a girl who looks the same as that swan girl you met, but is a lot more forward, just say no. And if you're one of a few princes to meet/court a 16 year old princess in a very small kingdom, you may at least want to bring an overnight bag...."

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......but I'm not sure the laughs the unmasking got were the intended effect.

I think you are just plain wrong about this. I have seen this production 7 times now (4 times in 2011 and 3 times this week); I have therefore seen/heard 7 different audiences react to this "quite in fashion in the 19th century" stagecraft when the Wilis have their veils "magically" swept away. You might have thought the audience laughed, and true the typical sound coming from audience members at that moment were technically "laugh" sounds, but the emotion most audience members were feeling (IMO) was awe and surprise......exactly the intended effect. Have you never made laughing sounds when suddenly presented by perhaps even a dangerous situation? There is probably a word for such a reaction, but I can't think of it. The point is: laughing sounds do not necessarily mean the audience thinks something somewhat silly (or over the top) just happened, such "laughter" can also signal, just as I say, awe and surprise.

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And, like listening to basic motherly advivce, some one needs to create a compendium of things to do or not do as a ballet character..."So, if you meet a girl who looks the same as that swan girl you met, but is a lot more forward, just say no. And if you're one of a few princes to meet/court a 16 year old princess in a very small kingdom, you may at least want to bring an overnight bag...."

Alas, I'm afraid that would be as successful as a check-list for characters in horror films: If you find an abandoned house with the front door blown off the hinges, do not enter. Do not follow that flickering light into the woods. Skinnydipping in a thunderstorm -- not a good idea.

And, like listening to basic motherly advivce, some one needs to create a compendium of things to do or not do as a ballet character..."So, if you meet a girl who looks the same as that swan girl you met, but is a lot more forward, just say no. And if you're one of a few princes to meet/court a 16 year old princess in a very small kingdom, you may at least want to bring an overnight bag...."

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The lifting of the veils is meant to elicit surprise and delight. I don't think there is a uniform audience reaction, though, because most people's other experience with "Giselle" is with Russian or Russian-based productions, where the Wilis are serious and ghost-like, and, in that context, it can feel like a silly joke at a funeral. Theater audiences expect a dichotomy: these are the serious characters and these are the funny characters, especially in a tragedy. Even for people unfamiliar with "Giselle" -- the last professional company to do it in Seattle was a short run by ABT in the '90's; the 2011 premiere of this production was the first PNB production -- if they read the program notes, they would expect a tragedy like "Swan Lake" and the device could be seen as out-of-place.

The Wilis in this production are not the soulless ghosts of the Russian productions. In the preceding scene, Myrtha wakes up, surveys her forest kingdom, and relishes in it, the power and sweep of her dancing not only representing her power and majesty, but also her innate love of dance. She does this alone; she's not doing it to impress anyone else. It's like she gets to the office early to be able to set up her day without interruptions, enjoying the peace and quiet, until it's time to summon the troops. She tells us who she is and what her relationship to this place is, but her long opening is full of life and lacking menace.

Once she does call the Wilis, and they are unveiled, it's their wake-up call. Although it's clear Berthe and Hilarion believe the story of the Wilis, when we first see them, they're benign, and they don't show their true colors immediately. Eventually, from the audience's point of view, rounding up and killing men all night out of anger and vengeance for eternity looks exhausting and like a tragic fate, but to them, it's not: they get to move. There's nothing tragic in their music, either, and it only gets dramatic when they start to capture two of the four lead characters. After they off Hilarion, there's a hoppy piece of music where they wipe off their hands and head off to find fresh meat, and there's a gleeful undertone to it. In almost every other production, Hilarion is dragged in half exhausted, with all of the dirty work done behind the scenes, but here, in the tradition of "La Sylphide," in a scene reinstated from the original sources, they are playful, seductive, and amoral as they try to lure a group of men into their trap, and we see how they, like most death figures, set the bait based on what will fly to the specific victim. The Wilis aren't Amazon-like avengers: their affect has a bigger range, and is often quite light, and it's all in the music. We're just not used to hearing it that way.

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...

More generally, as a NYC guy with benefit of NYCB and ABT, I still wish I could see more of PNB, and NOT just because I get to take a monorail to the theatre from downtown ;)

If you're Bored...

PNB will be on tour at the Joyce Theater this fall Oct 8 - 12: http://www.joyce.org/performance/pacific-northwest-ballet/#.U7XaH_ldV8E They will be showing a mixed bill, with commissions by PNB from Christopher Wheeldon, Justin Peck, and Alejandro Cerrudo.

The Cerrudo piece was partially funded with a grant from The Joyce Foundation, The Rudolf Nureyev Prize for New Dance. Press release here: http://www.pnb.org/Press/Releases/2012JoyceFoundation.pdf.

The Peck piece is due to premiere in Seattle in early Nov, so I'm not sure how far along it will be, but it sounds like there will be at least a "preview".

Hope you can make it and bring your friends!

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Having arranged a work trip to make Jewels' opening night, I'm really happy i get to come back to NYC to more PNB! That being said, while I get what Boal is trying to do, i would have thought that after the reception the Balanchine rep got last year, one would want to build on that.

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I've been thinking about this for quite awhile, and it seems to me that we're in the middle of a repertory transition -- the Balanchine work is shifting from being the active core of many reps to being a historical specialty. We know it in the same way we know Petipa.

I need to mull this over a bit longer before I write more, but I'm interested in seeing how companies around the US are positioning the Balanchine works in their repertories.

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Ahem, IMHO, they should have skipped the boring Wheeldon and Cerruto pieces and instead brought the new Tharp "At the Station" and NBoC / Pyte "Emergence".

Maybe the sets were too expensive to ship back and forth. But the Wheeldon and Cerruto pieces are middling - at best. Still, go for the Peck premier.

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The set for Station would be a challenge for the Joyce. And I'm not sure what their contract lets them do as far as repeat performances go.

The Cerrudo commission came from the Nureyev Foundation grant, and I think had a NY performance built into the agreement, if I remember correctly.

Also not sure what the contact stipulates for the Pite -- they kept the sets back so they could dance it on their season-ender, but I'm not sure what a NY performance would entail. NBC might want to keep that for themselves. There are always a billion elements that go into programming decisions.

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I don't know about Emergence fitting on the Joyce stage anyway, and it would mean a much greater expense shipping the entire company, when only about half will go for the NY performances at the Joyce.

I doubt the sets for the Tharp would fit, although I wish NYC could see it.

Since the Cerrudo was contractual because of the Nureyev prize, they needed pieces they could do with relatively small casts, since with seven performances in five days, anything without a second cast would be a risk, and 12 dancers likely would be the maximum per cast to be ideal.

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But the thrill of programming on BA is that you don't have to worry about those sorts of elements -- if you were going to make a program from the work that the company has in active rep right now (let's say it has to be from last year, or the first couple programs coming up) what would you include?

I'd want to include State of Darkness and Emergence, so that we'd have something about the individual and something about the group. Then maybe Sinatra, for the variety of duets, and the new Peck for a surprise.

Don't know about program order, except that either Emergence or Sinatra should be a closer.

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If this is a wish list for a monster tour budget -- full company and orchestra -- but that still had to follow the laws of physics, where rights issues were miraculously sorted, where there were no worries about the trombones being left out, and where they could rehearse all of this stuff like they did for mostly similarly sized rep in at City Center in 1996, ideally, they'd take three programs for seven performances, 7-8 works they could mix and match, similar to what they did in 1996, when the company brought a Balanchine program and two mixed choreographer reps, including a repeat of the one of the Balanchine ("Divertimento No. 15). I don't remember everything they brought, but among them were their one-act "Paquita," "Jardi Tancat," the then-new Ton Simons piece ("The Tenderness of Patient Minds"), and I'm sure there was a Stowell one act. (The boxing ring one?) "Agon" and "La Valse" were the other two Balanchines that had premiered on that stage.

If they were in Lincoln Center, they could bring the new Tharp. "Emergence," too, would work on those stages, but I wouldn't take the whole company to NYC and use a precious full slot on "State of Darkness" in any size theater. I'd bring "Square Dance" from the Balanchine, even if it hasn't been done for a while, the Dawson, "Sechs Tanze," "Variations Serieuses," -- although I really like the new Wheeldon -- and Concerto DSCH along with the Pite and Tharp. No one seems to like "Emeralds" as a stand-alone, but that's the one I'd bring, if I were adding a second Balanchine and wanted to add a little gloom.

The Joyce is another kettle of fish, and the rep is specifically new work choreographed on PNB. The Tharp sets wouldn't work financially or physically. I might prefer "Sum Stravinsky" or "Matrix Theory" or "Afternoon Ball" to the Cerrudo, but the Cerrudo is part of the Nureyev Prize and comes with the gig, and I also thought it looked more coherent in the one performance I saw second weekend, although I missed Leah Merchant from first weekend.

Since I'm spending other people's money, I'd love to see a Seattle Showcase joint venture at the Joyce with Whim W'him doing Wevers' new Poulenc, PNB dancers doing "State of Darkness," and maybe a Spectrum piece.

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Lots of scope for fun here!

We could do the tribute programming route, and take La Valse and Afternoon of a Faun to City Center, along with Emergence and the Cerrudo. Then swap out Emeralds for the Ravel (I love Emeralds best, and don't think it's the least bit gloomy) and Concerto DSCH for Faun for a run at the Koch/State Theater. (keep the Pite and the Cerrudo, or maybe substitute Variations Serieuse for one of them)

Or the Seattle Showcase -- Wever's new Poulenc work, State of Darkness, something from Spectrum's recent American Music festival, and perhaps Amy O'Neal's recent hip hop solo -- highly kinetic and exquisitely crafted. This is probably too long, but if we've got an infinite budget, don't we get lots of time as well?

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I've been thinking about this for quite awhile, and it seems to me that we're in the middle of a repertory transition -- the Balanchine work is shifting from being the active core of many reps to being a historical specialty.

Very provocative thought! Please post more once you get a handle on this. (Now, you got me thinking.....smile.png )

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What are the numbers to suggest that Balanchine is moving out of the core rep? At PNB, in the last 20 years it hasn't: there wasn't a huge amount of Balanchine in the last decade of Russell and Stowell's leadership. There are more companies doing Balanchine rep now than there were in Balanchine's time, but now with a formal process of "You must prove you can do a "starter" ballet, and if you can, this is the progressive menu," and, of course, there are the requirements for using the original sets and costumes unless there is a pre-approved new production (Mariinsky and POB "Jewels", PNB "Midsummer Night's Dream," PNB/SFO "Coppelia") that effectively prohibit companies from doing some ballets, like "Liebslieder Walzer," "Vienna Waltzes," and "Union Jack," even if they could field the right number of dancers.

My concern, voiced several times here, is that PNB has been more focused on the two full-lengths -- "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and "Coppelia" -- and will be focused next season (2015-16) on the newly designed "Nutcracker." I consider the upcoming "Jewels" a mixed-rep all-Balanchine bill despite the overarching theme, and at this point, I consider it a luxury because it's three short ballets, not because there was more Balanchine in 1995, and I fear that as a yearly production, "Nutcracker" will too often begin to "tick" the season's Balanchine box.

I just don't know what companies had a substantial amount of Balanchine ballets but are no longer doing them. NYCB is doing more non-Balanchine a little over 30 years after Balanchine's death, but it's not like they are doing a small number of his works. (They had been mixed the great works that most wanted to see with other things that many didn't want to bother to see more than once, and for the last few seasons have reversed.)

Did San Francisco Ballet used to do more Balanchine? Did Pennsylvania Ballet or Boston Ballet, companies that Balanchine himself gave rep to? Are we talking about Miami City Ballet?

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I have to do some homework -- right now I think it's less an issue of straight numbers than it is about the trajectory of company reps (not just PNB). As time passes more and more of the dance world knows Balanchine through his work rather than through a direct connection, so that it's like that joke about waterfront property -- God isn't making any more of it. At some point, we'll look at Balanchine like we look at Petipa -- it's an important part of our history, but not necessarily an indicator of where we're going.

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By definition the direct connections are getting older and the stagers are getting to be people who weren't coached by Balanchine. Peter Boal, fo example, who joined the company when Balanchine died.

I also think that Forsythe was considered the last choreographer to extend Balanchine's trajectory, but he jumped off that path a number of years ago.

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