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Adolphe ADAM (1803-1856)
Giselle (1841)
Giselle – Alina Cojocaru
Count Albrecht – Johan Kobborg
Myrtha – Marianela Nuñez
Hilarion – Martin Harvey
Choreography by Marius Petipa after Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot
Production design and additional choreography by Peter Wright
Scenario by Théophile Gautier after Heinrich Heine
Designs by John Macfarlane
Original lighting by Jennifer Tipton recreated by Clare O’Donaghue
Staging by Christopher Carr
The Royal Ballet
Orchestra of the Royal Opera House/Boris Gruzin
A BBC production in association with The Royal Opera House Covent Garden, directed for television by Ross MacGibbon
Recorded live at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, London, January 2006
Picture format: NTSC/Colour/16:9
Sound format: LPCM Stereo/DTS Surround
Menu language: English; Subtitles in French, German, Spanish and Italian
Booklet Notes in English, French and German


Experience Classicsonline

Adam’s Giselle is possibly, alongside Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake and The Nutcracker, the best known ballet in the world; one that many people will be able to name even if they are not interested in ballet at all. However, where Tchaikovsky’s ballets are celebrated not only for the dance but also for the wonderful scores, Giselle is more famous for arguably inventing Romantic ballet, as it is known today. Though Adam composed the music, the ballet itself was a creation of the French poet and novelist Théophile Gautier (1811-1870) who, in turn, was inspired by a poem by German poet Heinrich Heine (1797-1856). The poem tells of a legend from Eastern Europe related to a spirit called the “Wili”. The “Wili”, also known as “Wally” is the soul of an unmarried girl who died before her wedding and who dances in the forest for all eternity, dragging to their death the unfortunate men that might cross her path. The special thing about the story of Giselle is that her love is selfless and eternal. Even though Count Albrecht lied to her, betrayed her with another and is the cause of her madness and untimely death, when she returns as a “Wili” and has her chance for revenge, she protects and saves him instead. To me, this is the real, ever-enduring appeal of the ballet. The other attraction is the ethereal, ghostly “Wilis” in the forest; the supernatural beings who died innocent and were wronged while alive. This illusion of lightness, almost of being suspended and floating through the air was technically created by the great Italian ballerina Marie Taglioni who achieved it through long hours of harsh, almost gruesome practice under the direction of her father Filippo Taglioni. Marie caused a sensation when she first appeared in 1827 in France and forever shaped ballet and our general idea of the ballerina. Her style was perfect for the kind of story told in Giselle, particularly for the ghostly “Wilis”. It was originally choreographed by Jules Perrot and later revised by Marius Petipa who created the version that is mostly performed and best known today. Perrot commissioned Adolphe Adam to write the music and the composer created one of his most recognisable scores. Adam’s music to Giselle is sometimes dismissed as inferior mainly because it was written for a ballet and dance took centre-stage, not the music; serious composers were not always keen to write for the ballet. However, Adam’s score though perhaps not memorable is truly melodic, lyrical, harmonious and serious. Nothing about it is frivolous or monotonous; it is equally touching and beautiful when one listens to it on its own as it is when accompanying the dancers on stage.
This Opus Arte DVD of Giselle is a BBC production in association with the Royal Opera House Covent Garden. It was recorded live at the Royal Opera House in January 2006, featuring principals and artists from the Royal Ballet. It is a traditional production that beautifully recreates Petipa’s choreography and the original scenario by Théophile Gautier, directly based on Heine’s poem. In this format, it was first performed by the Royal Ballet in 1985. Its popularity continues to grow and its appeal does not seem to falter; it fills the House and is invariably sold out in advance.
Alina Cojocaru, the wonderful Romanian dancer, a principal with the Royal Ballet, follows in the footsteps of many illustrious ballerinas before her who danced the title role. The first Giselle was the great Italian Carlotta Grisi at the Paris Opéra in June 1841. Since then, the role has been and continues to be a testing ground for all the leading ballerinas: from Fanny Elssler, who danced it in London after Grisi originated it in Paris, to more recent dancers such as Alicia Markova, Carla Fracci, Natalia Makarova and Galina Ulanova, to name but a few. Young Cojocaru’s performance does justice to her illustrious predecessors. From a mere physical perspective, Cojocaru is the perfect Giselle. Her slender, tiny, fragile figure complemented by an innocent, expressive face brings the character to life in a very believable manner. She is endearing and enchanting in her innocent love for Albrecht, poignant and moving in the famous mad scene and suitably ethereal and unreal in the second act as the “Wili”. Her physical attributes are matched by an impeccable technique which makes every step, gesture or jump she executes look incredibly easy, graceful and ghostly elegant. Brilliant from beginning to end, she is a true joy to watch. Denmark’s Johan Kobborg makes a great count Albrecht to Cojocaru’s Giselle and the chemistry between them is undeniable. Kobborg is brilliant when partnering her and breathtaking in his solos, especially when he flawlessly leaps across the stage, effectively defying gravity. As Myrtha, the Queen of the “Wilis”, Argentina’s Marianela Nuñez has a chance to display her virtuosity and powerful dramatic skills. She is as ephemeral and unreal when she makes her appearance in Act II as she is scary when passing judgement on the unfortunate Hilarion, who does not have the undying love of a Giselle to save him from his fatal end. Martin Harvey dances the peasant Hilarion convincingly, with great attention to detail and good dramatic expression. The rest of the cast as well as the corps de ballet from the Royal Ballet are excellent throughout, in particular its female members during the difficult, trying and beautiful second act. The production is wonderfully and expertly accompanied by the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House. Under the baton of distinguished Russian conductor, Boris Gruzin, they give a sensitive, tender and intensely lyrical interpretation of Adam’s score.
There is nothing new or revolutionary about this Giselle from the Royal Opera House but it is a beautiful production, superbly danced by a young, fresh-faced cast that dedicate themselves with heart and soul to the performance. It is expertly filmed and edited. The picture is liquid and clear, with contrasting colours, capturing the moonlit forest of Act II perfectly, wonderfully enhancing the ghostly atmosphere. There are excellent close-ups of the soloists, showing the detail of the steps, gestures and facial expressions, and wonderful wide shots of the corps de ballet that perfectly capture the impact of the technically brilliant ensemble scenes. The sound is crystalline and distinct, suitably cushioning the dancers and effectively showing the quality of the orchestra’s interpretation of Adam’s poetic, evocative score. To summarise, I truly enjoyed this production of Giselle. It is not innovative nor does it attempt to be but it certainly is a delightful example of how to stage a romantic ballet and a genuine feast for the eyes.
Margarida Mota-Bull


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