Terrific dancing helps `Giselle' soar at Hanover.
COLUMN: BALLET REVIEW
WORCESTER - The Russian National Ballet Theatre staged a faithful production of "Giselle" at The Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts Monday night that gradually gathered strength to capture some of the emotion and beauty of this most romantic of works.
This was the third visit here in three years of either the company or its sister troupe, The National Ballet Theatre of Moscow, all presented under the auspices of Music Worcester Inc. They have proved to be hardworking and talented (the current U.S. tour has more than 80 performances) with well-thought-out staging that can contain flashes of brilliance.
It's been a while since "Giselle" was performed anywhere around here, and the Russian National Ballet Theatre rendering brought out the haunting nature of the piece, especially in the second act. The first act, in contrast, can come across as melodramatic if the production isn't on the lookout for that kind of pitfall. And yet even though the Monday performance did partially succumb, there was something so appealing about the performers and the Corps de Ballet that you could willingly suspend disbelief.
Giselle is a beautiful and precious peasant girl in a Rhineland village who would be faithful to the man she has fallen in love with, but he is a count in disguise as a villager, faithlessly playing with emotions while awaiting his marriage to a woman of nobility. He will regret his course of actions when the consequences turn tragic - and grieving at Giselle's grave he meets female spirits seeking revenge on him.
The ballet with music by Adolphe Adam and original choreography Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot was first performed at the Paris Opera in France in 1841, but comes across distinctly as "Russian" (the ballet was performed in Moscow in 1843 and has stayed in the repertoire). The music has a folkloric and dramatic Russian feel to it, as does the choreography staged by Marius Petipa for the Imperial Ballet in 1884 and used by the Russian National Ballet Theatre for its production.
The role of Giselle is one that dancers have been said to die for, so to speak, almost on a par with god/bad Odette/Odile in "Swan Lake."
Speaking of which, the movie "Black Swan," while marvelous, has a lot to answer for in that now we're going to expect dancers to act like Natalie Portman. Marianna Chemalina didn't do that Monday, but her dancing and gestures did impart the initial joy of Giselle and her hesitation and latent fragility in courtship. Ruslan Mukhambetkaliev as the disguised count had a pleasant countenance and some good leaps, but suggested neither that he is a bit of a cad or a romantic spark plug. However, he would come into his own in the second act with some terrific dancing and a grief that seemed genuine.
One might think in reading the tale of Giselle and seeing other productions that the character Hilarion the Forrester, who really does love the peasant girl, gets the rawest of deals. But as aggressively and somewhat darkly played by Evgeny Rudakov, you could understand his fate much better.
Bad things are going to happen to people, and the dramatic rendering of key moments could have come across a little sharper in the production. For example, Hilarion seemed to be merely nudged into the backdrop scenery by vengeful spirits, whereas in fact he is being forced to leap into a lake where he will drown.
That said, the scenery and set was simple but attractive to look at, and so were the dancers in their bright folk-inspired costumes.
The arrival of the spirits in the second act was the artistic highlight of the performance in many respects, not least because of the impeccable performance of Maria Klueva as Mirtha, the spirit queen and the sweeping, swirling appearance of her dancers.
In these sequences "Giselle" was transformed into something truly hypnotic and compelling, and it gave strength to the subsequent duet between the spirit of Giselle and the count. You knew it was going to be a good evening. But for the third year in a row (after the third annual standing ovation) one ultimately walked away saying "bravo."
CUTLINE: Marianna Chemalina and Ruslan Mukhambetkaliev, performing in "Giselle" Monday at the Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts.
PHOTOG: T&G Staff/STEVE LANAVA