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Adolphe ADAM

Alessandra Ferri - Giselle * Massimo Murru - Albrecht * Maurizio Vanadia - Hilarion * Isabel Seabra - Myrtha * choreography - Patrice Bart * set and costume design by Alexandre Benois * conducted by Paul Connelly * directed for video by Alexandre Tarta1996 production with the Corps de Ballet and Orchestra of the Teatro Alla Scala * 16:9 anamorphically enhanced * PCM stereo * PAL * region encoding 2, 5, 6
Arthaus Musick KAT. - NR 100 060 [25 chapters - total 106:03 (the packaging incorrectly states the playing time as 116 minutes)]

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This is ballet like they don't make 'em anymore. Some might call it pastiche, and hold it up as an example of everything that is wrong with the form; elitist, out-of-touch with modern society, irrelevant, blah, blah blah. Alternatively, one might suggest this is a successful attempt to recreate Adam's Giselle as it's original creators would have understood and recognised it, freed from contemporary gimmicks and patronising attempts to make it 'relevant' for a modern audience. It is what it is and you take it on it's own terms. It either works for you or it doesn't.

Giselle dates from 1841, and Patrice Bart's choreography is based upon the original by Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot, while the stage sets used here are a recreation by Angelo Sala of those by Alexandre Benois for Diaghilev's "Ballets Russes" a century ago. This is therefore a very traditional production, with a magical rustic-come-magical ambience in the first act and a fairytale gothic atmosphere to the second. Everything is beautiful, from the music to the sets, to the dancers and the costumes they wear. A shame then that whilst colour and contrast are excellent, and the camerawork and framing classically elegant, that the image is slightly soft throughout, in some sections there even being a fine shimmering over parts of the picture. Equally a shame that the performance was only recorded in stereo, as Dolby Digital 5.1 would really have added to the 'live' ambience.

While there are no special features on the disc the booklet does provide an introduction to the composer, to the writing of Giselle, to this particular production, and to the performers, as well as providing a synopsis of the story. Which is a somewhat pagan melodrama of love, mistaken identity and death, the narrative somewhere between Romeo and Juliet and The Rite of Spring. Divided into two acts of roughly equal length, the first is all bright colours and flirtation, gradually darkening as it leads to the heroine Giselle's suicide. The second act is necessarily a darker affair, with Giselle resurrected as a ghost, a tragic supernatural drama played out as the Queen of the Wilis also seeks to destroy Giselle's lover, Albrecht. Here in the silhouetted dark blue of a the night-time graveyard, the white of the chorus of female ghosts inevitably recall Swan Lake.

The whole is thoroughly enjoyable, witty, charming, dramatic and completely absorbing. The dancing is marvellous and the characterisation strong too, with Alessandra Ferri making a wonderfully vibrant Giselle while still alive, and a touchingly haunting ghost Giselle once dead. The score, for those who have only heard suites from this music before, is a melodic joy from beginning to end. With fine musicianship, the sound is everything one can expect from a stereo live recording. It's just regrettable that no one looked to the near future and decided to employ surround sound.

Gary S. Dalkin

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features (for the booklet notes)

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