Boston Ballet opened new season with Giselle, one of the most romantic classical ballet of all times. This staging – first in 10 years – has been led by Larissa Ponomarenko, former Boston Ballet prima ballerina and current Ballet Master (and a favorite Boston Ballet’s Giselle).
I first saw Giselle in 1989 at Mariinsky Theater (then Kirov Ballet) in Saint Petersburg, Russia. It so happens that at that same time Larissa Ponomarenko was getting ready to perform her part in Giselle on the famous Mariinsky stage for her graduation performance from Vaganova Ballet Academy. She would go on to join Boston Ballet in 1993. It is a an exciting time for Larissa, as she has been adding her own touches for Boston Ballet’s Giselle 2019. I chatted with her briefly (in Russian) during the dress rehearsal last week about both the joys and the challenges she is facing in her new role:
– My own experience helps tremendously! I feel so happy that I am able to pass on the lessons I myself learnt from my legendary dance teachers. They taught us that everything made a difference – every move of the head or swing of the cape. As dancers [at the best ballet school in the world] we were brought up to trust our teachers and carry their corrections through the rest of our dance careers. It does not always happen with my students today who all come from different dance backgrounds and schools. Another challenge is a short time period we have for the staging so it is not possible to go into all the details […] Among the technical adaptions I needed to make was the reduced number of Willis [24 vs 18 in the original productions], and on a positive note – I added movements for our male dancers in the first act. But overall there is the same timeless spirit of Giselle that I hope the audiences would appreciate and respond to.
Set to Adolphe Adam’s memorable score and originally choreographed by Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot in Paris (1841) and then transformed twice by Marius Petipa in Russia (in the 1880s and in 1899) – Giselle is the story of a young peasant girl with a weak heart and a passion for dancing who dies of heartbreak after learning her love, Prince Albrecht, was engaged to another woman. It is incredibly romantic but also multi-faceted and aesthetically interesting as it is hard to imagine a more contrasting setting between the two acts.
There is folk dancing, romantic pas-de-deux, hunting parties (complete with two live dogs!) on stage in the first act. The second act is surreal, quite literally as it is post-mortal world of Willis (ghosts of women who died before their wedding day betrayed by their lovers) dancing in the graveyard. The powerful Willis vengefully force any man they encounter to dance to his death. They summon Giselle from her grave to join their sisterhood but she persuades them to spare Albrecht, whom she loves and… forgives.
You may want to read the full synopses here (my 10-year old daughter noted that some characters were not clear to her – for example, Giselle’s other suiter, the gamekeeper, or the peasant pas de deux. Nothing that reading the synopses together or talking about the experience won’t fix).
In one of his interviews, Boston Ballet’s artistic director Mikko Nissinen noted that in 2009, the last time Boston Ballet staged Giselle, he did not have such incredible depth of talent in the company. Indeed, there are 5 Giselle-Albrecht pairs on stage for this run. I saw Viktorina Kapitonova and Patrick Yocum on the Opening Night (and during the dress rehearsal). I was mesmerized with Viktorina’s Giselle- I felt that she delivered perfectly – both technically and dramatically, she was … Giselle – vulnerable and naïve in first act, and then stronger and determined as she protects Albrecht in act two. But I would also love to see how Lea Cirio, another Boston Ballet prima interprets the role (Lea’s Albrecht is Lasha Khozashvili, my favorite Boston Ballet’s male dancer). New Boston Ballet member (the soloist) Tigran Mkrtchyan is dancing Albrecht with See Hye Han next weekend. See this week’s full casting here.
Remaining performances of Giselle (Boston Opera House 539 Washington Street, Boston):
Thursday, September 26 at 7:30 pm
Friday, September 27 at 7:30 pm
Saturday, September 28 at 1:30 pm
Saturday, September 28 at 7:30 pm
Sunday, September 29 at 1:30 pm
Giselle is approximately two hours including one intermission.
I am happy to share a special 40% off Promo Code for my followers, CELEBRATE40. It is built into this link . Proceed to pick the date of performance and a discount will be automatically calculated for you at the checkout (you will see CELEBRATE40 in the url address). Let me know if it does not work.