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Alexei Ratmansky's Giselle


Roberta

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The only difference was new designs in 2014. No direct mention of Berthe’s status within the community. Giselle wants to dance and wants her friends to put off work to dance with her. Then Giselle goes into the house with Berthe, and we aren’t given a reason why she doesn’t go and work with the others. (The reason, of course, is that she needs to be around in order to meet Bathilde so the plot can continue.)

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On 1/26/2020 at 1:56 PM, FauxPas said:

There were minor technical problems with the transmission at Empire 25 Times Square.  Some regular audio dropouts in Act I, some pixelization in Act II and also red lights that randomly appeared that may have been on the Bolshoi technical crew's end.

Same difficulty in Seattle screening -- I think it must have been a glitch in the feed.

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On 1/26/2020 at 4:34 PM, nanushka said:

This rings very true to me. I've often seen/heard criticisms of certain Giselles as, in essence, not delicate or fragile enough for the role, but I've always thought that a dancer with the qualities you mention can fit it quite well.

I didn't see the performance, but I've been very interested to read all the reports on here. I hope it's released on DVD.

There have been sickly Giselles and robust Giselles, ones that hear the dead calling even at the top of the opening act, and ones that seem to have already died before the curtain goes up. 

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On 1/26/2020 at 8:48 PM, dirac said:

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

It is really quite moving (no pun intended) -- so much of this ballet is about the transformative power of love that this scene of renunciation at the end just fits right in.

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22 hours ago, Amy Reusch said:

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 don't know enough about the original Myrtha, but Carrie Imler's performances at PNB were quite regal -- she really was the queen of the forest.  More detached and eternal than taut and stony (what an evocative adjective for this performance, though!)

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13 hours ago, FauxPas said:

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 was thinking not of that film, but rather the photos...( I wouldn't have called a resemblance from the film either)...  more the small head and the neck line more in evidence here...

https://ballet.blogberth.com/2018/07/19/tsiskaridzeolga-spessivtseva-as-giselle/

 

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16 hours ago, California said:

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. [...]

This is more or less what I thought--that he was trying to keep her with him and that is why he carried her away from the grave, but she was returning to the earth in spite of all he could do...

Edited by Drew
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I think I found the Bolshoi Video channel -- too late for this Giselle, but useful for future broadcasts:

https://www.bolshoi.ru/en/about/press/articles/broadcast/bolshoi-video/?sphrase_id=96866

to set up a free account: http://media.bolshoi.ru/login

If I understand this, the broadcasts are available for 24 hours only, so Giselle is gone. But that seems to be where Hallberg and Harss got those clips.

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On 1/26/2020 at 5:47 PM, EricMontreal said:

I also wanted to naively ask a technical detail.  In the past, the Bolshoi cinema showings I have seen have been encore ones, where I know they were previously filmed.  How "live" was this?  Because, obviously it wasn't truly live due to the time differences (here in Victoria, BC, Canada it began at 1 pm).  Of course the cast is mostly the same, but not quite, from what we saw about the premiere.

 

California, Drew, for anyone is trying to understand this version's ending, I found this video really useful, starting at 2:18. 

Thank you again for posting the video EricMontreal!  After mulling over our "debate" I still feel she should have been returned to the grave.  It's just too nicey-nice to have the forgiveness sandwich as Helene calls it and Giselle is spared from being a Wili.  It doesn't feel right to have this ballet tied up with a pretty bow.  No, I'm sorry Giselle should be a Wili and Albrecht has to live with that the rest of his life and forever be tempted to go in the forest for a glimpse of see her.  His actions must have consequences, I don't see how he should be let off the hook entirely.

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13 minutes ago, seattle_dancer said:

His actions must have consequences, I don't see how he should be let off the hook entirely.

Well, it's the 19th century so...the redeeming power of a woman's love? (Even more powerful if it's a love sandwich!)

I can completely understand how that may no longer feel like a convincing explanation, though!

Edited by nanushka
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On 1/26/2020 at 5:22 PM, Helene said:

I am so glad PNB is bringing back their version in April.  The one thing I wish they'd change is the Act II lift.  PNB opted for the big high lifts that interrupt the musical flow; Peter Boal said he made this choice because people would miss the lifts.  I interpreted something different from the description of the original lifts.  What Ratmansky used wasn't what I expected, but it was so much more musical than the high ones.

I love the "tabletop" lifts in Lillies, but the alternative we saw Sunday is not that unusual. e.g., Bolle-Zakarova do this version. See 1:17:35 And he's strong enough to master the overhead if they wanted to do it. (I'm pretty sure I've also seen it elsewhere in contemporary productions.)

 

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On 1/28/2020 at 12:36 PM, seattle_dancer said:

California, Drew, for anyone is trying to understand this version's ending, I found this video really useful, starting at 2:18. 

Thank you again for posting the video EricMontreal!  After mulling over our "debate" I still feel she should have been returned to the grave.  It's just too nicey-nice to have the forgiveness sandwich as Helene calls it and Giselle is spared from being a Wili.  It doesn't feel right to have this ballet tied up with a pretty bow.  No, I'm sorry Giselle should be a Wili and Albrecht has to live with that the rest of his life and forever be tempted to go in the forest for a glimpse of see her.  His actions must have consequences, I don't see how he should be let off the hook entirely.

In every version I have seen, I have understood that Giselle is finally freed from being a wili...perhaps more because that is what I read than what a staging can make explicit unless one sees her ascend, like the sylph, to heaven. (And I may even have seen that,) But I have always understood that, whatever the production and wherever she is buried —hallowed or unhallowed ground—her powers of love and forgiveness free her....which, to me, is a compelling idea and true to the ballet I have been watching. For me, too, the traditional Albrecht alone in the forest was most powerful when one saw, as in Nureyev’s interpretation, that he had been through a transformative, spiritual ordeal. (Bruhn writes very interestingly about Albrecht’s growth over the course of the ballet in the versions he danced.) Ratmansky likes to humanize things and I found this ending very ‘’human’ so to speak though as performed by Belyakov more about the intensity of Albrecht’s love for Giselle than deepening self knowledge...And his performance didn’t suggest everything was tied up in a bow exactly—He was so anguished that the ‘return’ to Bathilde felt very incomplete and uncertain especially since it seems a bit rushed....Certainly one can’t imagine things will ever be for him (or her) as they were. I imagine different dancers can and will take different approaches in Ratmansky’s version too....allowing for different ways of reading the ending.

I think one case for returning Giselle to her grave in this version is that the staging does such a great job of clarifying its significance (the cross’s significance) earlier in the act. But for me the totality of the production/performance was so moving that I am more than willing to embrace Ratmansky’s vision as a whole. I hope the Bolshoi is able to sustain its attention to detail within the wonderful sweep of the whole as it performs the ballet without Ratmansky’s supervision in the coming years.

As a fan, I don’t need (or want) every version of Giselle to be identical. I am still grateful we have this one.

 

Edited by Drew
typo
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1 hour ago, Drew said:

In every version I have seen, I have understood that Giselle is finally freed freed from being a wili...

My understanding is that she never becomes a wili, despite their efforts to "induct" her into their group. She does sprout wings in this version, but she never wears the crown of white roses that the others do. She earns the right to rest in peace and not have to come out every night through her forgiveness and love of Albrecht.

Something that bothers me in some other productions: she appears with both wings and white crown right away, as if she's already a wili

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8 hours ago, seattle_dancer said:

 

Thank you again for posting the video EricMontreal!  After mulling over our "debate" I still feel she should have been returned to the grave.  It's just too nicey-nice to have the forgiveness sandwich as Helene calls it and Giselle is spared from being a Wili.  It doesn't feel right to have this ballet tied up with a pretty bow.  No, I'm sorry Giselle should be a Wili and Albrecht has to live with that the rest of his life and forever be tempted to go in the forest for a glimpse of see her.  His actions must have consequences, I don't see how he should be let off the hook entirely.

Your argument makes a lot of sense, and has made me realize your POV for the first time--thanks for explaining it so well.  I think I still prefer that she is "freed" from being a Wili, but I can see the pros and cons of both takes. 

Also, can I just say how great the discussion is on this forum--I was involved in a discussion about the Giselle screening on Facebook which quickly devolved into name calling (in a discussion about Giselle?!)

Edited by EricMontreal
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4 hours ago, Drew said:

He was so anguished that the ‘return’ to Bathilde felt very incomplete and uncertain especially since it seems a bit rushed....Certainly one can’t imagine things will ever be for him (or her) as they were. I imagine different dancers can and will take different approaches in Ratmansky’s version too....allowing for different ways of reading the ending.

 

 

Although, as you imply, Drew, that it can’t seem to work and perhaps makes no sense, it’s still the part of this production that probably touched me the most. Giselle is telling Albrecht that this is where love is now to be found, no matter what happened before. Quite generous and loving of her to say the least. Giselle is now a ‘spirit’ beyond worldly definitions and perhaps the ballet's world should end on this note as well.

Edited by Buddy
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In my view, the ending is about Giselle saving her soul from vengeance, bitterness, and bloodthirstiness  The worst case cost of that choice is that she is alone for eternity as a Wili, without being part of the sisterhood.

Being in a forgiveness sandwich is not a walk in the park.  Albrecht has to live with Bathilde's and Giselle's magnanimity hanging over his head.

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9 minutes ago, Helene said:

In my view, the ending is about Giselle saving her soul from vengeance, bitterness, and bloodthirstiness  The worst case cost of that choice is that she is alone for eternity as a Wili, without being part of the sisterhood.

Being in a forgiveness sandwich is not a walk in the park.  Albrecht has to live with Bathilde's and Giselle's magnanimity hanging over his head.

A perfectly valid interpretation, Helene. I still like the idea of Albrecht and Bathilde becoming part of Giselle’s goodness.

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This discussion is fascinating. I've always thought that at the end of Act 2 (in every production I've seen), when Giselle returns to the earth (either her grave or to a random pile of earth, as in this production) she would no longer be a Wili and would just "rest in peace"--she doesn't belong with them because rather than pursuing vengeance against men, she defied Myrthe and protected Albrecht. 

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3 hours ago, Buddy said:

Although, as you imply, Drew, that it can’t seem to work and perhaps makes no sense ...

Sort of puzzled by this. I definitely did not mean to imply that.

(The fact that I find the reconciliation with Bathilde “incomplete and uncertain” — the part you quoted from my earlier post — doesn’t mean it perhaps makes no sense or can’t work. To me, as I indicated in the post, it means things may never be the same between them or at any rate that the ballet's ending does not, as someone suggested, tie things up "in a bow." Something profound has happened and it does have consequences.)

Edited by Drew
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On 1/27/2020 at 7:59 PM, doug said:

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.

Doug, this is very interesting. I think that we’re all so used to the “1930s40s” image that it completely colors our reaction to this Giselle. This Giselle is not necessarily the total innocent that we are used to.

I would still maintain that her Act II ‘spirit' identity has established her total ‘goodness.’ She has now transcended. But as Helene has stated, her pointing Albrecht back to Bathilde, may involve her desire for her own final cleansing as well. Where will she go from here? Total conjecture perhaps. Helene has offered one possibility. Others have offered more ideas. I’ve never really thought about it before.

I guess I still like the idea that she’s retained an earthly connection in pointing Albrecht back to Bathilde.They are all now united perhaps in a continuation of love. Perhaps she lives on in some ideal state. It’s all open to interpretation, but this is one that I could embrace.

I do think that the inclusion of Bathilde at the end adds a very poetic and possibly uplifting conclusion to the story that we’re used to.

 

Added: Drew, thanks for your ongoing thoughts and clarification.

Edited by Buddy
word omission corrected
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If, as we see in this production, Giselle's death is not by suicide, why would she be buried in the woods, rather than the churchyard?

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3 hours ago, FPF said:

If, as we see in this production, Giselle's death is not by suicide, why would she be buried in the woods, rather than the churchyard?

The Church is in clear view, so I sort of wondered if her grave wasn't simply at the far edge of the Churchyard, but perhaps there is another explanation...

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The more we dig into the original sources, and the more we uncover about the chain of restagings that have led us to most of the productions we all cut our teeth on, the more we start to question what we were told were fundamental truths about the ballet.  "Giselle is a tragedy from the moment the curtain goes up" -- well, there are plenty of absolute dancing and comic moments involved.  "Giselle as a character is doomed because of her weak heart" -- again, not always the case.  "Albrecht is the quintessential tragic hero, doomed to be alone after Giselle dies" -- well, sometimes.  "Giselle kills herself, so cannot be buried in sacred ground" v "Giselle kills her unborn child, and so cannot..." v "Giselle dies of a broken heart" -- so many options!

Having such a good time with all of this!!!

 

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