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Alexei Ratmansky's Giselle


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4 hours ago, FauxPas said:

 to music either shortened or cut in the standard version.  The Pacific Northwest Ballet had a wise old man come on and tell the revelers to get home as it is Wili witching hour but oddly Ratmansky has Hans/Hilarion push them offstage.  He then ignores his own advice by praying over Giselle's grave.  This bit frankly can either be cut down or omitted as it is in the standard text. 

The final scene has Giselle not returning to her own grave but to a bower stage right.  She gestures to Albrecht to remain faithful to Bathilde and then she sinks into some enveloping greenery and disappears into the ground.  I think she needs to return to her own grave at that point.  Evidently, Gauthier and Perrot wanted the covered with grass effect and delayed the premiere back in 1841 Paris.  At that point Bathilde enters and Wilfred is supporting Albrecht who reaches towards her in distress and she gazes to him with forgiveness.  The final bars of music was originally major key and triumphant rather than those sad sweet minor key phrases we hear in the standard version with Albrecht alone and stumbling around clutching the lilies.

 

Your post is exactly what I hoped to fins about this production--thank you for such a detailed list of changes and of your opinion towards them.

Two things in it that I may question or personally disagree with.  I didn't "read" that scene, as performed today, with Hans as him pushing away the revelers but merely as the fact that he didn't see their eventual signs of grief over what had happened to Giselle, and wanting them to leave (despite the fact they eventually showed acknowledgement of his grief).  Which made his return later more palpable. 

I found the ending very moving.  But I guess my own modern superstition beliefs are that if she was returned to her own grave she would ahve to eternally be another Willi.  By returning her to the earth, she is freed of that. 

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4 minutes ago, EricMontreal said:

Your post is exactly what I hoped to fins about this production--thank you for such a detailed list of changes and of your opinion towards them.

Two things in it that I may question or personally disagree with.  I didn't "read" that scene, as performed today, with Hans as him pushing away the revelers but merely as the fact that he didn't see their eventual signs of grief over what had happened to Giselle, and wanting them to leave (despite the fact they eventually showed acknowledgement of his grief).  Which made his return later more palpable. 

I found the ending very moving.  But I guess my own modern superstition beliefs are that if she was returned to her own grave she would ahve to eternally be another Willi.  By returning her to the earth, she is freed of that. 

For me, the ending was very moving and in keeping with the idea of redemption--not just of Giselle no longer being a Wili. I agree that the back and forth between Giselle sinking down and Albrecht picking her up one more time was a bit prolonged, but I felt much more moved by her telling him to marry Bathilde than with the usual solitary and devastated Albrecht. 

For those who have seen both this version and the PNB version, how similar are the endings?

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1 hour ago, dirac said:

I still don't understand what Bathilde is doing in the woods at that time of night.

Wilfried tries to get Albrecht to leave the woods, and when Albrecht refuses, Wilfried goes rushing back to court to tell them what was going on, and he guides them back.  Giselle is much more clear in the PNB version that Albrecht should return to Bathilde, and that Bathilde accepts him back, the forgiveness sandwich.

From Marian Smith's synopsis of the original libretto on the PNB site:

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Suddenly, loud fanfares are heard; Wilfrid, the faithful squire, arrives on the scene with the Prince and Bathilde, whose efforts, he hopes, will be more effective than his own in persuading Albrecht to leave this place of sadness. Giselle points Albrecht toward Bathilde, as if to tell him it is her last wish that he marry the young noblewoman.  Albrecht is heartbroken, but the Wili’s command to him seems sacred. With sorrow, Albrecht gathers up the flowers on her grave and lovingly presses them to his lips and to his heart. As he falls into the arms of those who surround him, he reaches out his hand to Bathilde.

If I am remembering correctly, the old man who appears to warn off the group of men in the forest was added in the revival for dramatic clarity the second time the ballet was performed in Seattle, but he wasn't in the original.  Maybe they're removing him again.

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53 minutes ago, EricMontreal said:

  I didn't "read" that scene, as performed today, with Hans as him pushing away the revelers but merely as the fact that he didn't see their eventual signs of grief over what had happened to Giselle, and wanting them to leave (despite the fact they eventually showed acknowledgement of his grief).  Which made his return later more palpable. 

That's the way I saw it, too.

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The Ratmansky ending looked very rushed and slightly confused to me.  Ratmansky decided to have Giselle disappear into the ground before Bathilde returns.  Wilfred comes on first leading the rescue party and then Bathilde follows (as directed by Wilfred).  Wilfred seems perturbed to see Giselle's ghost.  The original notations have Bathilde returning with the courtiers and Wilfred and Albrecht is told by Giselle to marry Bathilde and then she sinks into the earth.  Also Bathilde actively consoles and forgives Albrecht.  So it is a more dramatic scene with Bathilde taking an active part with the women on each side (the Albrecht "sandwich" as Helene called it).  Ratmansky has Bathilde come on later after Giselle is gone and Wilfred seems to be holding up an exhausted, devastated Albrecht who seems to barely look at Bathilde who reaches out to him.  Albrecht weakly returns the extended arm.  He seems way too far gone to go back with her and is half slumped.  It looks as if though Bathilde is willing to take him back, Albrecht is spiritually still with Giselle and order is not restored, really.  Like Ratmansky wants it both ways - the double forgiveness and the devastated, alone Albrecht sorrowing at the end.

According to the reviews, the PNB version works well dramatically and is moving.

Edited by FauxPas
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5 hours ago, FauxPas said:

The Ratmansky ending looked very rushed and slightly confused to me.  Ratmansky decided to have Giselle disappear into the ground before Bathilde returns.  Wilfred comes on first leading the rescue party and then Bathilde follows (as directed by Wilfred).  Wilfred seems perturbed to see Giselle's ghost.  The original notations have Bathilde returning with the courtiers and Wilfred and Albrecht is told by Giselle to marry Bathilde and then she sinks into the earth....

According to the reviews, the PNB version works well dramatically and is moving.

Yes!  I thought the same about the ending!!!  First of all I did not understand what was happening to Giselle downstage left with her grave being on the other side.  The final ending was so abrupt.  The video EricMontreal posted has captions that explains it nicely -  Albrecht did not want her to be cursed in death and Giselle instead becomes part of nature (like composting!).   Thank you FauxPas I was wondering what the original notations say because I'm pretty sure the PNB version has Giselle returning to her grave.  That makes more sense to me.  How many ways does Albrecht get to have his cake and eat it too?

On the "live" question, I believe it is "filmed" live but not "broadcast" live.  That is, they actually film a live performance, there are no starts and stops.  Also it seems the movie start time is the same no matter the time zone.

The scooter might have been okay if it was not going 60 mph!  The grave elevator would have been better with some dry ice effect or something to soften it.

There was some spectacular dancing and it was fun to see and listen to the differences between this version and the PNB version but I was not wow-ed by this screening as with other Bolshoi presentations.  There are many similarities between the productions.  I really appreciate PNB's Wili costumes being different; they are actually quite sumptuous IMO.  

Edited by seattle_dancer
I confused Loys and Hans so just simplified to Albrecht. And I left out a lot of words!
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1 hour ago, Helene said:

Wilfried tries to get Albrecht to leave the woods, and when Albrecht refuses, Wilfried goes rushing back to court to tell them what was going on, and he guides them back.  Giselle is much more clear in the PNB version that Albrecht should return to Bathilde, and that Bathilde accepts him back, the forgiveness sandwich.

Thanks. I continue to think the ending is not improved by a crowd, but maybe the PNB version would change my mind.

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1 hour ago, Helene said:

I could watch that Peasant Pas about 1000x in a row on tape loop.  I'd be interested in seeing what Daria Khoklova would do with Giselle.

The friend I went with was a little disappointed when I explained that Khoklova wasn't Giselle (we came in late). I was interested to see Smirnova but I felt similarly.

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2 hours ago, seattle_dancer said:

 That makes more sense to me.  How many ways does Hans/Albrecht get to have his cake and eat it too?

 

 

Well, I agree with that.  I still think Albrecht got what he deserved, but I liked the way (and maybe I've grown up with too many vampire movies) that moving her to a different resting spot would give her solace.  She won't have to be a Willi.  (And I love that we are debating this!)

Edited by EricMontreal
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Would really like to have more of the pantomime explained... what was the thing where they strike 3 times on their arm as if hitting chimes... what was that broken cross sign made in Act II?  I missed the foreshadowing of Giselle's weak heart during the peasant dances.  Why did Loys send all the peasant girls away before the aristocrats arrived?  I appreciated what the camera was trying for in the arabesque voyagé crossing but wished they perhaps had more practice at it as perhaps with a little tweaking it would have succeeded better.  Was the lighting was adjusted for the video, was it brightened?  It seemed like it might have been.   Could Giselle not have have looked at Albrecht in the dancing before Myrtha arrives, it is as if she can't see him?  Surely Giselle can see Albrecht, it would be the mortal having difficulty seeing the spirit, not the other way around?  Giselle directing Albrecht to the cross was so beautifully and clearly done here, it would be hard to miss that plot point..  I am still waiting for a graceful femme fatale Myrtha... everyone in the role seems to show strain in their arms during the jumps and the lillies just make it more abrupt.  Certainly her line was beautiful, but does Myrtha's coldness always have to be so taut & stony, it always has been in the productions I've seen but it has not won me over.  Did the original Myrtha really have a great success with such an interpretation?  Does cruel always have to be harsh arm movement? I kept wondering if Smirnova would have evoked Spessitseva had anyone seen both perform live.  Her acting was beautiful, as was that of a great many in the cast.  I would see this again in a moment.  Especially if they could widen the the shots just a bit... the Willis looked so beautifully trained, particularly when they toss Hans to his death but the camera was almost too close for us to see the successional transition.

I want to watch again to see how Giselle was wingless and then after spinning at Myrtha's order, the wings were visible.   I guess I have always managed to miss that detail!

All that said, I could watch Artemy Belyakov all day long... and then some.

Edited by Amy Reusch
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11 hours ago, EricMontreal said:

Well, I agree with that.  I still think Albrecht got what he deserved, but I liked the way (and maybe I've grown up with too many vampire movies) that moving her to a different resting spot would give her solace.  She won't have to be a Willi.  (And I love that we are debating this!)

What we see is Giselle getting swallowed up in foliage. The effect is more Sam Raimi than redemptive, and it's puzzling because  we just saw her come from her grave.  Also, the timing here suggests that we need to get Giselle out of the way fast because here comes Bathilde and the gang.

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I kept wondering if Smirnova would have evoked Spessitseva had anyone seen both perform live.

There is a little bit of footage of Spessivtseva in Act 1. She looks heartier than Smirnova, a robust peasant girl. I seem to remember a pigtail.

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Here is Olga Spessivtseva - not pigtail but a kind of ponytail.

I see little or no resemblance to Smirnova, who I like very much but prefer as Raymonda or Odette to Giselle.  Great Giselles are kind of a ballerina breed apart.

I would be fascinated to hear from Seattle_Dancer or others who can compare the PNB new/old "Giselle" to the Bolshoi Ratmansky reconstruction.  Differences, weaknesses, strengths, etc.

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24 minutes ago, dirac said:

What we see is Giselle getting swallowed up in foliage. The effect is more Sam Raimi than redemptive, and it's puzzling because  we just saw her come from her grave.  

Another take on this that I've been thinking about: Albrecht wants her to stay around, even if only in spirit form. Putting her back in her grave ends that. Gently laying her down on the grass keeps open that possibility. To his dismay, the earth swallows her up anyway. But it is strange and the ending overall quite rushed to me. 

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I wonder what effect the ending would have had, had it not been such a close-up.  Similarly with Albrecht gesturing to be quiet, which I think he did twice. I think both needed more visual context.

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I enjoyed Smirnova's performance.  I thought her reading of the character of Giselle was intelligent, full of detail and touching, and she displayed spontaneity in her interaction with other characters on stage.  Her technique is precise and her petit allegro in general was excellent.  Also, she certainly gave the impression of an insubstantial wili in the second act.  I loved Belyakov - a true danseur and such a worthy principal finally!  He has an excellent presence and that jump... the height of his entrechats is amazing!  His acting is heartfelt and sincere and he looks the aristocrat.  I thought Khokhlova in the peasant pas was delightful - so fleet and light in her footwork - and  her partner Alexei Putintsev had great ballon.  I have been very critical of other Ratmansky productions, but I really enjoyed this one.  I thought the whole of the second act was  beautiful indeed, and the choreography for the wilis very effective in giving the impression of an army of man-killers - especially in the scenes where they capture and dispatch Hans (Hilarion).   Ratmansky increased the petit allegro element of the choreography and also the amount of mime, which I found to be totally in keeping with this 19th century ballet, and there were many new and beautiful poses - the kneeling pose that replaced the high lift in the act 2 pd2 for example.  I thought Nelli Kobakhidzhe gave an extremely sympathetic performance as Bathilde and also Lyudmila Semenyaka as Berthe was entirely convincing and how wonderful to see her back on stage!  We can all argue about various elements we didn't like (and I did find some of the changes of tempo a little sudden) but overall I thought this production is a success.  Loved it!

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I was in despair yesterday when I checked ALL the movie theaters in NYC and Brooklyn to find that they were all sold out. Happily, It is on the video link on the Bolshoi web site. I don’t know for how long. I watched it this morning; thought it was wonderful, and I could get used to the fugue.

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5 minutes ago, macnellie said:

I was in despair yesterday when I checked ALL the movie theaters in NYC and Brooklyn to find that they were all sold out. Happily, It is on the video link on the Bolshoi web site. I don’t know for how long. I watched it this morning; thought it was wonderful, and I could get used to the fugue.

Do you have a link for this? I'm not finding it anywhere.

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1 hour ago, California said:

Do you have a link for this? I'm not finding it anywhere.

Both Marina Hass and David Hallberg have sent out tweets with 2-minute clips from the Sunday broadcast. Where are they getting these? If anybody finds this on-line, please copy-paste the link here for us. I hope it hasn't been taken down already.

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3 hours ago, dirac said:

What we see is Giselle getting swallowed up in foliage. The effect is more Sam Raimi than redemptive, and it's puzzling because  we just saw her come from her grave.  Also, the timing here suggests that we need to get Giselle out of the way fast because here comes Bathilde and the gang.

I didn't see it that way *at all* (but I respect your take on it, and love the Sam Raimi reference--let's never see an Evil Dead ballet).  I found the whole concept and execution of it, terribly moving.

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The Wilis in this production particularly reminded me of those in the Cuban National Ballet's Giselle, which I saw a few years ago. I noticed yesterday that Viengsay Valdes was one of the people acknowledged by Ratmansky at the end.

 

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We have been talking about the mime that was added - what about the traditional mime that wasn't there?  The first is in the Giselle/Albrecht/Hilarion aka Hans confrontation in Act I:  When Hilarion/Hans takes out his knife to attack Albrecht, Belyakov did not do the traditional business of reaching for his sword (which he isn't wearing because he is disguised as the peasant Loys).  Belyakov just kind of waved Hans off while stopping Giselle from interposing herself between them.  This gesture of reaching for the sword hilt tips off Hilarion/Hans that Loys is not what he seems.  Of course, Hans/Hilarion has already overheard Albrecht's discussion with Wilfred at the beginning of the act, so he is already on to him, so in this staging that bit of reaching for the nonexistent sword is superfluous.  I guess that bit of business was not notated in the early French sources - the Antoine Titus and Justamant notations?  However after the village girls leave, Hilarion/Hans breaks into the hut to steal the sword to unmask Loys as Albrecht.  I think it could remain since it could give Hans the idea that the sword is probably there in the hut and could be useful.  Anyway, I miss it and it would still give Hilarion/Hans motivation to find the sword.  It should go back.

The second bit is Giselle's fainting spell during the village girl dance with Albrecht.  About half of the dance is there but the music that seems to suggest dizziness or sudden weakness is there but the fainting spell is not.  I think the music suggests it and it is excellent dramatic foreshadowing and should be retained.  That also isn't in the French sources?  It is there in the music.

Also the character usually known as the Duke of Courland (here Bathilde's father) bows to the dressed down Albrecht when he is exposed to everyone - the whole group of courtiers bow to him as if he is their sovereign lord.  Usually they seem to be equals or Albrecht is junior to the Duke.

Also in Act II, I noticed a change in Giselle's choreography as executed by Smirnova.  Usually in the Act II grand pas, the initial Giselle solo has Giselle executing a developpé with the right leg and shifting to a slow arabesque en tournant and after a little sauté then executing a developpé on the left leg and dropping into arabesque penchée.  It is very exposed and the ballerina has to be equally strong and flexible on both sides of the body.  Here is Makarova doing that combination in 1976: 

Smirnova only did what looked like one developpé very high on the right leg and then did only another very brief one on the same right leg.  Did the other Bolshoi ballerinas do that change in this production or is it exclusive to Smirnova?  Maybe a problem with her left hip?  Weird. 

Edited by FauxPas
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The PNB production includes two Act II entrances for groups: Hilarion is the captain of the hunters who are in the woods at the beginning of the act. The Justamant notation suggests this scene has both comedy and pathos. The hunters are a bit like Keystone Cops. Later in the act, after Giselle is initiated, peasants are returning home from a nearby village. They are nearly trapped by the Wilis, who at first appear seductive and then menacing. I believe this scene is the turning point in which we witness the duality of the Wilis (spirits of women communing with nature and spirits of women who kill men). An old man who is with the villagers (he was originally portrayed by a famous comedic actor in Paris) warns them to escape. This latter scene may have been omitted as early as 1848 per Ivor Guest. PNB has included both of the scenes both times the production has been performed (2011 and 2014).

I don't think there is any mention of Giselle having a heart condition or being weak in any of the performance source material I've worked with. Her mother worries she will exhaust herself, but there seems to be no compromised health. This change (and the overall weakness and timidity of Giselle) seems to have come around in the 1930s/40s. Still looking into this. The 19th-century Giselle appears to have been strong and possibly somewhat arrogant. She was definitely passionate and reacted very passionately to the realization of Albert's betrayal, so much so that she died.

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11 minutes ago, doug said:

An old man who is with the villagers (he was originally portrayed by a famous comedic actor in Paris) warns them to escape. This latter scene may have been omitted as early as 1848 per Ivor Guest. PNB has included both of the scenes both times the production has been performed (2011 and 2014).

Was there something different about the old man scene in 2014?  If not, I don't know what I'm remembering.  

I can't wait to see it again in April.

11 minutes ago, doug said:

Her mother worries she will exhaust herself, but there seems to be no compromised health.

Does she get out of working in the fields because Berthe is wealthier than the rest of the parents in the village?  

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