Oh, „Giselle“! She is such a lovely girl but such a sad woman figure. Her passionate love, together with her fateful calamity, drives her mad! But she keeps her good character still in another world – and of course she preserves her loves. And: her great talent for dancing, too! „Giselle“ has been danced since 2000 with a break of several years in Berlin, in the version of Rudolf Nureyev’s assistent Patrice Bart who completed and improved the original choreography by Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot. Yesterday, the title role was embodied by brilliant First Soloist Ksenia Ovsyanick with Staatsballett Berlin. This Principal dancer came from English National Ballet to Germany, and her style is as unique as highly graceful. Her partner was Denis Vieira from SBB who has good experience with „Giselle“ and who could show how love is able to change a personality. The corps and the dancers in smaller roles were also fascinating by creating a joyful village atmosphere and then the miracle of a ghostly night. All in all, we saw an amazing and touching, stirring and poetic performance in Staatsoper Unter den Linden in Berlin. But unfortunately it is not possible to see this cast nor even this piece in Berlin again for the next two years. So it was the so called very last performance of Bart’s „Giselle“ with SBB, and it was without any doubt marvellous, oh yeah!
In act one Giselle appears as the happiest lover under the sun.
Ksenia Ovsyanick shows all the loveliness and kindness of this cute person Giselle, and she also demonstrates all the preciseness and clearness Giselle’s dancing art must include. Wonderful!
Giselle loves dancing although she has a weak heart. So the girl is also in love – and the guy she loves is not honest to her. Before she finds out she is the tenderness in person.
Ovsyanick is not too sweet and not too sporty to be completely believable. Her Ballonés in the circle are an edification, and her Port de bras is so sensitive and expressive that it seems she is just inventing them while dancing. That’s real greatness!
Albrecht is the man who stole her heart. But he is so charming and so ambiguous in his attitudes – of course this curious girl cannot resist. Denis Vieira jumps with aplomb, he is very secure, and he has a rich facial expression. Good job!
As a couple they are nearly over the top. But that’s no harm. It fits to the situation full of pleasure and expectations.
A slight exaggeration is necessary to convince when the emotions are so strong like here. And: Albrecht is not a villain, but he tries to gain the woman with wrong promises. So he lies and says he is just another guy from the next village. Indeed, he is a duke, and he has promised to mary a rich noble girl named Bathilde.
Bathilde – played with proud and beauty by Sarah Mestrovic – appears with her staff. In salmon and redish colours with blinking gold this group is a contrast to the simpleness of the wine village.
Giselle with her typical costume in blue and her friends in yellow and brown seem to live in another world than Bathilde.
And Giselle has another admirer: Hilarion, properly and with pepper danced by Nikolay Korypaev. He reveals that Albrecht is a noble man who is not true to Giselle.
When she finds out that Albrecht lives a double existence, all her hopes break together, her whole universe is torn. She has been so much in love!
Giselle goes mad, she nearly wants to kill herself – but her heart is too weak anyway for all this pain.
She dies in the arms of Albrecht.
Here the first act ends, with dramatic music that is conducted by Paul Connelly in best old style, with a lot of contrasts and deep darkness beyond the waltzing melodies composed by Adolphe Adam.
But this is not only the personal tragedy of a young girl.
This story contains also criticism of a society that divides people up into rich and poor.
So this ballet cannot be forgotten when talking about art and it’s relationship to reality. One should never undervalue ballet – it is indeed a tricky and intensive art and, as we see, has also very thoughtful plays.
But before Giselle dies, in between the dramatic love action, we also see the peasantry that represents the normal life of people here.
When the red curtains gives the stage free we see jumping boys as the first dancers here. They come in with a very good mood: it is the best time oft he year, it’s late summer, and they come to celebrate the wine thanksgiving.
The girls that follow the boys are also in a happy temper.
The spirit of lightness fills the air.
And the main couple of the peasants dances a nice pas de deux.
Although this is the last „Giselle“ in Berlin, graceful Luciana Voltolini gives her splendid debut being partnered by nice Alexander Shpak in this couple dance.
But also the village dancers are rousing in their costumes in the colours of summer and automn (they are created by Peter Farmer who brings a lot of good flair into the scenary). And the friends Maria Boumpouli, Anastasia Kurkova, Danielle Muir, Tabatha Rumeur, Alizée Sicre and Aoi Suyama have a very nice waltz rhythms to show.
Giselle then will be the wine queen here, because she ist he most beautiful and most important dancer in the village.
But it seems that everybody knows that her heart is too weak, and when she is dancing too wild with Albrecht he has to hold her. Oh, Giselle!
Berthe, Giselle’s mother (Xenia Wiest is a strong soul in a fragile body) does see more. She suspects that Giselle will suffer and she warns her that in the woods the wilis are waiting for new victims.
The wilis are the elegant ghosts of young women who died without being married. Heinrich Heine names them in his famous essay about „Elementargeister“ (elementary ghosts).
These wilis suffered when alive because they were in love and seduced, but not married. We can imagine that younger girls in former times quite often were victims like Giselle. Some of them were pregnant without a husband. And quite often they killed themselves because they had no chance to belong to society any more.
These women are the white miracle in act two of „Giselle“. When the ballet was staged first in 1841 this fantasy about girls was the main attraction – and it is still a sensation to see the crowd of dozens of white ladies in long tutus with flowers in the hair.
The leading queen of the wilis – her name is Myrtha and she is danced with cold stylishness by Elena Pris – starts with a solo at night in the freee landscape between the trees. The moon is shining, of course – it is a total romantic scenary.
With Myrtha we see a lonely soul empowered to be a kind of witch, and her intention is not to be lovely but to show strength and a deathly heartlessness. Oh, and Myrtha is cool!
Her girls dance in rows and bows, like an army of white women. A spooky but also beautiful crowd!
And: Their will is not to help but to kill.
All men that come to them at night will be enchanted by Myrtha to dance until they fall into death.
This is the revenge of the female sex for all the pain and injustice.
Isn’t this a feminist’s way of a romantic ballet?
Also the lines and posures here are romantic, but they show very strong women, not little harmless girlies.
Then Giselle appears. Oh, Giselle! Oh, Ksenia! Ksenia Ovsyanick dances this coming out of a ghost girl with a dynamic energy that comes directly from the heart.
I have never seen the first solo of Giselle in the second act so brilliant and lively, so zappy and witty like with her. Thank you! She turns around on the place, she jumps over the stage, she takes steps from foot to foot, she holds her balance so fine but also in a tangy way – this is really something special.
And then Albrecht enters the stage. Denis Vieira demonstrates his love with enormous passion. But now it is too late to keep Giselle alive.
Slowly he walks with flowers in his arms towards her grave, slowly he goes down on his knees to grab his face in his hand.
But Giselle is there! First he can’t see her, and he tries to catch her in the air, feeling her presence.
Then he finds the right way of looking. By the heart, of course. And his hands and eyes find Giselle, they dance one of the most beautiful pas de deux in ballet history.
Ksenia Ovsyanick seems to melt in Vieiras hands, and his strongness and beauty help her to fly while dancing. Oh, Giselle! She is such a strongly loving woman!
Nothing can be compared with this relationship. Albrecht is the man who repents.
He once was the sinner, now he is nearly getting holy.
He decided that he was in love with Giselle and that this love was not just an affair. Oh, he wants her so much! And he feels guilty about her death.
And Giselle? She does not suffer any more. She has found her freedom and she is able to love with peace in her mind, even as a spirit.
When Myrtha comes up of course she wants Albrecht to die.
Just like Hilarion who was danced to death by the wilis in front of our eyes.
But Giselle begs for Albrecht. She wants him to stay alive. And Myrtha must admit that this love is extraordinary.
So Giselle has the chance to dance with Albrecht until the bell rings. Then he will be free.
And they dance… and dance and dance. And dance. And he sometimes breaks down and is totally exhausted. But Giselle helps him up.
It is pure poetry when Ksenia Ovsyanick dances her kind of „Giselle“ who has a heart of gold and a dance style that puts together all the best from Bournonville school, Paris school, Russian school and English style.
It is indeed the special style of Ovsyanick to present a true international flair, and she does it with a unique tone of freshness.
When she runs onto the center of the stage to save spent Albrecht, she is quick like an arrow. And when she is lifted up by him she is delightful and slight like a feather.
Her moving arms are a highness of beauty and passion, and her feet are talking of her love, with every step she takes.
Although Ksenia Ovsyanick is not yet famous in the way like Iana Salenko, Polina Semionova or Maria Eichwald who also danced in the last years this „Giselle“ in Berlin, Ksenia delivers one of the very best interpretations of this important romantic role I have ever seen.
When she leaves the stage one hopes so much she would come back soon!
And also Albrecht hopes to have her back in his arms one day, when he comes up alone at Giselle’s grave in the wood, picking up the flowers he brought with him. Like in a dream, he walks along, thinking of this special night…
Thank you for all, Giselle!