Cherwell

First Night: Giselle

The Russian State Ballet of Siberia’s production of traditional favourite Giselle at Oxford’s New Theatre was beautifully executed.

The ballet is very much one of two halves. In the first, a disguised count woos the peasant girl, she finds he is already betrothed and drops dead, conveniently just before the interval. In the second, Giselle returns as a ghost to protect her lover from the vengeful Wilis (spirits of girls who have died before their wedding days).

The shift in tone between the two acts is a major one and, while both were engaging, the lighter mood of the opening was probably more successfully achieved. Anna Aulle (Giselle)’s dancing was extremely accomplished, yet it was her expressiveness facially and in mime movements which delighted — something that was more obvious in the animation of her  character in the first half. The initial courtship with Count Albrecht (Dmitry Sobolevsky) showcased both dancers’ technical and acting ability from the start.

The colourful spectacle of the large group scenes — complete with huntsmen, village girls and courtiers — was also a highlight. Costuming (by Elena Rodionova) was beautiful throughout but it was here that the production had the greatest visual impact. In the second half, a few shoddy props, including a cartoonish gravestone and dodgy bush, detracted from the effectiveness of the forest setting, but lighting helped create a suitably sinister atmosphere.

The dances of the Wilis were slower in pace than those of the girls in Act One but the synchronised movements and changes in stage position were visually arresting. Ekaterina Bulgatova, as Queen of the Wilis, deserves special mention for her incredible stage presence and poise, which drew audience attention even during periods of relative stillness. The production is worth attending for the music alone. Adolphe Adam’s score was performed well, and was a perfect counterpart to the dancers, with Alexander Yudasin conducting.

Overall, this Giselle is largely traditional, beautifully danced, accessible and engaging and will be enjoyed by ballet-buffs and newcomers alike.

4 stars

The Russian State Ballet of Siberia will be performing Giselle at New Theatre, Oxford on 17th Jan, and Sleeping Beauty on 18th Jan. The tour then moves to Darlington Civic Auditorium, where the company will be performing Swan Lake and The Nutcracker.