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I went to see the Saturday matinee of "Giselle" with mother. (I would have liked to see that evening's performance with Erica Cornejo (for obvious reasons), but mother prefers matinees--especially when driving 2+hrs into the city)

Having only seen BB and ABT live recently these last few years, and the recent Cojacaru/Kobberg RB dvd this year, there was still much to compare favorably (or not) about this performance:

SAT. 10/10 matinee at Boston Opera House - Misa Kuranaga, James Whiteside, Lia Cirio, Lorin Mathis

First: THE STAGING (Maina Gielgud)


I actually prefer much of BB's to both ABT's and RB's. The first act's scenery and lighting is much warmer, richer and denser. The cottages of both Giselle and Lors/Albrecht are much more substantial and detailed--they look aged wood with shingle roofs (not plaster/cardboard). The wings/grid flys/drops are also denser and make it look more like a forest village. But the second act's was really amazing. I've always LOVED ABT's set/lighting visible in the film "Dancers" and to slightly lesser affect live (lighting isn't as good), but BB's set/lighting is much spookier--esp. in combo with the dancing (see below)--it has some lightning flickers and, like act1, much denser wings/overhead flys/drops so this glade lies truly DEEP WITHIN a forest. They don't fog the stage at the beginning of Act2 like ABT, but rather when Myrta "raises the dead"; again, this has to do with BB's choreographic staging (see below).


Yes, most of the steps are extremely familiar, but the generic actions in between make more sense in BB's version. For example: Hilarion leaves the stage soon after his entrance (and meeting G's mom etc.) because he kindly offers to take the bucket from mother to fetch her water. So he then has an excuse to come back (with the bucket) and inadvertantly see G&A's little tete-a-tete (sorry can't do accents on this computer.) And then later, he actually pauses to think what to do before deciding to investigate that empty cottage--which he uses his knife to break into. Interesting also, that Giselle's costume was pale yellow instead of the traditional blue. It blended better with the other peasants in shades of pumpkin. Only thing I didn't like was the major lack of harvest/grape baskets carried in by the peasants (none that I saw) or in the wagon G gets propped up on. Why have her crowned 'queen' if there is no harvest to be seen?

Act2: Wow!

First, Hilarion didn't make a cross, just came in with a lantern and peered around, discovered the grave, cried a bit and then got scared off.

BB's best: The Wilis wear LONG veils--waist-length or more--throughout the entire first ensemble dance! So all thru those fwd/backward cambrai's and travelling arabesques. And when they first appear, behind the back scrim, very dim except for the occasional flicker of lightning, clumped together and slowly rising up thru the mist--well it made me glad they weren't 'real' ghosts.

They were also both THE most precise and SILENT Wilis I have seen in 20 years. Either they have a great stage, or someone really pounded those pointe shoes to mush! I was in sitting row M Orchestra and I didn't hear a thing! Not once, glissades/assembles/jetes/sautes nothing. Their lines were straight vertically/horizontally/diagonally, and as tight & precise as a drill team. AND someone coached them in correct 19th c. Romantic technique (unlike the principals-G/A/M-who tended to forget.) Most of the time, their heads were tilted down. When those Wilis did their travelling arabesque hops across the stage, their heads were DOWN and arms slightly rounded. (Anyone remember my old post about Romantic = circular/round, in, down; Classical = straighter, up, out?) That was amazing to see. Hooray!


(Remember, this was a matinee cast.) The dancing was rather bland. Giselle was very sweet and shy in action, but facially was very blank--especially when required to emote. Ditto Albrecht who was rather stiff and even more opaque in acting. All the steps were there and cleanly performed but I felt like I was watching a rehearsal, ie. people just going through the motions. There was not much interaction/'chemistry' between the two. A lot of the time, they forgot to look at each other. Or one would be emoting playful joy and the other trying instead to remember the steps in the correct order. A disconnect, that only slightly improved in the second act. The peasant pdd had a height differential that was v.noticeable, but luckily didn't affect the partnering too much. Again, it was cleanly performed but bland.

I already wrote about the Wilis above, but Myrta was something I've never seen before: robotic. It was SO sharp, stiff, mechanical, punched--I felt one of the Act1 dolls from Nutcracker, or a Star Wars Stormtrooper (white armor I guess) had excaped to this performance. She was powerful--like an advancing tank or artillary piece is--but Romantic technique got thrown not only 'out the window' but out of the theater! An interpretation/technique I've never seen before; am not sure how it survived to be performed this way (when the corps were SO correct); and hopefully won't see again. Her make-up was a true pancaked whiteface with deep dark circles around her eyes and black hollows down her cheeks--a skull-like look which, from the balcony, probably looked similar to The Green Table's Death.

All in all, a VERY interesting performance which, in many ways, is much better than "the big 5's" versions. Though I sorely missed the "presence" and acting abilities of ABT etc. (Wish I could have seen the evening's cast too, esp. Erica C.)

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It's great to read this report, 4mrdncr. Sounds like someone in Boston really cares about the corps. I wish Miami's version paid so much attention to the Romantic style.

As to sets:

The cottages of both Giselle and Lors/Albrecht are much more substantial and detailed--they look aged wood with shingle roofs (not plaster/cardboard).
I wish someone from MCB -- whose Act I secenery is heavy on the"plaster/cardboard" aesthetic -- would pay a visit to Boston.
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