One of my rare outings before was to see Sylvie Guillem dance GISELLE at Covent Garden in 2001 so how odd to be seeing it again in the same venue, only now with more understanding of the art.
There was no star ballerina this time but as we saw the 571st performance of Peter Wright's production I guess this was the production I saw Guillem dance in.
GISELLE was an immediate success when it was first staged in 1841 and has been constantly staged ever since. First choreographed by Jean Corrali and Jules Perrot, the choreography seen today is largely based on the work of Marius Petipa - as it seems most of the classical repertoire is - who staged it for the Russian Imperial Ballet at the end of the 19th Century.
Giselle is a country girl in love with a man who is actually Count Albrecht in disguise, he ventures into the countryside to escape his life of privilege and also his fiancee Countess Bathilde. A jealous woodsman Hilarion discovers the Count's identity and when Albrecht's father, the Duke, and the Countess appear in the village during a hunting trip, he unmasks the pretense. Seeing Albrecht and the Countess together sends Giselle into a mad frenzy and she stabs herself, dying in her mother's arms. And that's just Act I!
In Act II the grieving Albrecht and Hilarion separately visit Giselle's woodland grave but her spirit has been claimed by the Wilis - stop sniggering at the back - who are the unquiet spirits of maidens who have died due to being jilted before their wedding day. The Wilis, led by their imperious Queen Myrtha, find Hilarion and drive him to suicide by drowning him in a lake but Giselle finds love transcends death and fights her ghostly sisters over Albrecht.
Peter Wright's production - here staged by Christopher Carr - has been running off and on since 1985 and one can see why as it was a visually stunning production with excellent choreography and, in particular, a fine showcase for the female corps with their appearance as the ghostly Wilis in the second act - a real endurance test that our ladies triumphed at.
All the performers gave good performances: Elizabeth McGorian as Giselle's mother Berthe, Christina Arestis as the regally cold Bathilde and Eric Underwood as the quicksilver master of the Duke's hunt were all eye-catching.
Marianela Nunez was a spirited - no pun intended - Giselle, full of youthful life alive and with a luminous stillness in death while Albrecht was well danced by Vadim Muntagirov. I also liked the icy and deadly Queen Myrtha as danced by Itziar Mendizabel whose sideways entrances and exits were all stupendous, hovering on point quickly with little discernible movement!
John Macfarlane's set design was very good especially the second act's ghostly forest which seemed to go on forever and Adolphe Adam's score sounded marvellously lush under the baton of Barry Wordsworth. The production will be screened on 6th April in cinemas and, believe me, you could do a lot worse than see this at your local fleapit.