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ABT Giselle 4/13

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I do not post often about ABT because I am totally prejudiced when it comes to this company. Having said that, I will also say that there have been some times recently when I was less than thrilled with them. That was NOT the case last night! All I will say right now is that this was a Giselle not to be missed, and I was VERY VERY glad that I was there for this one!

I know there will be a lot written here today about this performance, and lots of full descriptions of the entire performance. While there were a couple of things I could pick on, they were minor, IMO, and overall it was a very special night. Julie Kent and José Manuel Carreno were magnificent, and for me they made Giselle what it should be and rarely achieves. And they made ABT look like the company it can be. The musical phrasing, especially in the second act, was sublime, and the coaching for this production was the best I have seen in a very long time. The audience was on it's feet for this one, and it was highly deserved!!!

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I was also very glad to have seen this performance. It's the most satisfying evening at ABT that I've seen in a long time, and if anyone was there who's come to ballet in the past decade and is impatient with constant complaints that "ballet isn't what it used to be," well, last night was.

The difference between this Giselle and the "is anyone minding the store?" performances of the first program are mindboggling. This was well staged, well directed, well coached. There were some mishaps (a shaky peasant pas de deux, quite possibly because of a last-minute replacement), a myrtle branch that wouldn't break (perhaps it, too, was in awe?), and there were times when I thought the corps was a bit rag-taggled, and certainly not the Kirov. But the outlines of the production are there and two very fine dancers got deluxe support from the whole company. (Meaning, it didn't look like stars had been parachuted in for the night.)

Kent's acting in the mad scene was the finest I've ever seen (I go back only to 1976 in this ballet). One could quibble that it was too realistic for a romantic ballet, but taken on its own terms, this was real acting. Her dancing in the second act was beautifully light and, more important for me, beautifully detailed. Carreno was as close to perfect as one can get, and his Cuban-Soviet schooling showed in every movement. Gillian Murphy was Myrthe -- still a fledgling, but the dancing was beautiful.

I do have one complaint. This is what ballet should look like, this is the level of professionalism ballet companies should be, in contemporary terms, "producing." Every night, not just on the odd Good Friday.

p.s. It occurred to me that these first two posts don't leave very much room for disagreement, but please don't feel constrained if you DO disagree. The two men behind me laughed all the way through -- they obviously thought it very old-fashioned. My main point is that U thought the level of the performance was what it should be. My instincts are that the other three performances this weekend--Tuttle and Corella this afternoon, Jaffe and Stiefel tonight, and McKerrow and Belosertkovsky tomorrow afternoon--will be different, of course, but meet the same standard :)

[ 04-14-2001: Message edited by: alexandra ]

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I don't mean to squelch disagreement, but I have to say I agree almost fully with Ms. Leigh and Alexandra. The evening was absolutely magical for me. Very glad to see Carreno was very "on" last night :). Just a few things, and these might have been just where I was sitting:

Didn't quite like Murphy as Myrtha. No presence. Also, not much of a jump.

I don't think some audience members realized that Giselle was supposed to be going insane, since a few people laughed during the mad scene.

The corps in Act II made a great deal of noise with its shoes. I know it's possible for the corps to be silent, because I've attended performances where the only sound the corps (not ABT, though) made was that of wind as it ran by.

Finally, I no longer think Julie Kent is bland. She has all my respect as a great, beautiful artist.

[ 04-14-2001: Message edited by: CygneDanois ]

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Thank you for these impressions.

With the recent Kirov "Giselles" in mind I would be interested to hear how the principals were dressed and everything. Was it traditional, with respect for period and style, or was it a 'modernized' looking Giselle?

As when it comes to laughing members of the audience, we had some here recently at a performance of the Royal Ballet of Flanders during Myrtha's entrance. A few people started laughing, saying: "Wow, a ghost!"

Good to hear that the Kirov corps is still considered as the reference point, Alexandra.

Oh well :)

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Shoe sound may depend on where one is sitting -- I wasn't aware of clattering from orchestra right front (but, then, it took me ten years to realize that the dancers in "Les Patineurs" "swished" over the "ice" because I always saw it from the Post's assigned seats, which are orchestra right front, so sometimes it does matter where you're sitting :) )

Marc, it's a very traditional production. Soft and pretty -- Giselle in pale blue, her "friends" (six of them) in raspberry-to-apricot. The peasant men are overdressed, IMO: they look like they all flunked out of Squire school or, as a friend of mine said, "this must be a very good harvest." Huge castle in the background (the sets are from the film "Dancers.") HUGE. Hard to imagine a Silesian Count living in it, but.... Giselle's Mother does the "you dance, you die" mime scene, the Albrechts, so far at least, have been of the sincerely in love variety. The hunting party is substantial -- and very well staged, I think. They mill around instead of standing and gawking, and there's the feel of a country fair. There are two hunting dogs, and two little boys on the wine keg (Lucia Chase would love it)

I missed several chains in the ABT-Giselle production story, so others may be able to fill in here far better than I, but this basically looks, dramatically and mostly choreographically, like the old David Blair production (which was based on the 1960s Royal Ballet production which is supposedly based on the Stepanov Notebooks). Some of the corps dances in the first act are different -- the boys don't throw baskets of grapes at each other; darn -- and the peasant pas de deux is an amalgam. I think the adagio and first woman's solo were changed, by Baryshnikov, to be what he had known from the Kirov; the rest is the older version. Nobody's quite made it through peasant pas yet, but there have been some nice moments and they've two more performances to go.

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Very envious of those who saw this performance -- just wanted to chirp in with a note re laughing at Giselle. I have sophisticated theater-going friends who attend a huge range of music performances and some modern dance as well but do NOT see much ballet: they attended an ABT Giselle about two years ago and when they told me about it, they couldn't hide how silly they found most of it, the pantomime in particular. (I am sure they were polite enough to keep quiet during the performance, but they admitted to doing imitations of the mime for weeks afterwards...for a laugh!)

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I think that all too often the way pantomime is performed it's quite understandable that people would laugh -- it's not believable. I think there's definitely a school of theatergoing that thinks it old-fashioned and silly, but I don't think that's a very sophisticated attitude (didn't mean to imply that you were implying you did, Drew :) To me, it's the flip side of those people who wander through the Hirschorn and say, loudly, to impress, "Looks like a monkey did that" or "Gosh! It's just like wallpaper," and then laugh, as though they've just invented something terribly clever.

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It sounds like a wonderful performance. I will be interested to see what people think of McKerrow, since I find her Giselle with Malakhov so full of wonderful details, and very believable. Did Carreno tone down his second act "I will get every ounce of applause I can get" bow-from-the-ground-moment after his dance? I hope so, because it looked so phony in the middle of the performance, and he is usually such an elegant dancer.

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We were among the fortunate to catch the Friday night show as well. Agree with all praise to Kent and Carreno but I back out on any kudos to Murphy and on the peasent pas. Murphy was lifeless when I saw her Wednesday in the rep program and Friday at Myrthe, when lifeless IS part of the point, she couldn't bring the commanding presence required. I'm sorry I won't see Wiles in this role-- she could order stones to dance and they would hop to it. But Murphy? My husband thought the corps could have ignored her like a union shop taking a long coffee break.I'm mystified by xiomara reyes sp?' wobbly peasent pas (her slip and fall seemed inevitable, not a surprise). Plus, she and Joauquin deLuz have been coached to present this endless pas to the audience (jump/smile/jump/smile...) like a vaudeville act, instead of making any pretense to be dancing for the visiting royalty. And still, the evening was wonderful for Kent's exquisite lightness and the beauty of Carreno's own performance and partnering. They made the whole into a bouyant evening andthe best ABT evening I've seen in many years.

[ 04-15-2001: Message edited by: samba38 ]

[ 04-15-2001: Message edited by: samba38 ]

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Four of my friends and I went to this performance and were sitting in the right orchestra. Overall the performance was very good. Julie Kent was much better than I expected, with an excellent mad scene, and Jose Carreno's Albrecht was very believable. His second act dancing was perfect (five(!) perfect attitude turns), and hers was mostly very beautiful technically as well. I thought Gillian Murphy was a suitable Myrtha; she always seems to have a deadpan expression on her face, and in this role it came across well as an icy coldness. I agree with samba about the pas de deux- from the first try at the turns it did seem inevitable Xiomara would fall (by the way where did she come from?), and I think if there had been more rehearsal time or something the two would have made a very cute peasant pas. The second act corps could have been better; IMO the lines were a bit sloppy. There were some funny parts to the performance ( some old ladies behind some of my friends chuckled or gasped or hmmmed at almost every move Kent or Carreno made; it seemed there was five minutes of darkness after the audience had ceased clapping; the perfectly suspended myrtle branch ) as well. My friends and I were very satisfied with the performance overall, and hopefully we will be able to see more of this kind of dancing in the future!

[ 04-15-2001: Message edited by: Nikiya ]

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I try to give a dancer who's a last-minute substitute -- as Reyes was on Friday night -- a bit of a break, especially as she performed the same role beautifully the next day. To my eyes, Reyes wasn't at fault here. She was paired with someone who is not a good partner in the best of circumstances.

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Nikiya - Xiomara Reyes is Cuban. I gather she is Cuban-trained, in any case he danced with the National Ballet of Cuba and was a soloist (eventually first soloist) with the Royal Ballet of Flanders in Belgium, from 1992 till last year.

I always liked her; in her last season here she was an excellent Florine. Dancers like her gave the company some profile (shame there aren't more like that). Anyway, good to hear she was able to join ABT. Give her some time; the jump between the RB of Flanders and ABT is rather wide as you will understand ... ;)

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