Eternally beautiful “Giselle”: Birmingham Royal Ballet
If you prefer your Giselle with original spirit intact, then Birmingham Royal Ballet is the one for you. David Bintley and Galina Samsova’s 1999 restaging purposely looked back to early sources to tell its story of innocence, betrayal and supernatural spirits.
The company brings a gentle touch to the ballet’s stylings. César Morales’s Count Albrecht embodies aristo elegance, even as naive Giselle believes he’s a peasant like her. He’s an entitled, rules-don’t-apply charmer, trying to pretend he’s a man of the people. (Perhaps there are some modern political parallels after all.) Momoko Hirata, meanwhile, is a sweet, pure and guileless Giselle, her softness rubbing off on Albrecht.
The supporting cast are impressive. Kit Holder manages to make his Hilarion seem like a real person, and his sympathetic presence provides an effective foil to the Count. And, as Giselle’s mother, Marion Tait gives a masterclass in making small parts matter, nailing Albrecht with a stare that could stop time.
Leading the vengeful wills, Samara Downs is an imperious queen, channelling Claire Foy in The Crown: pursed, unimpressed, weighted with responsibility. There’s no wafting around for this ghostly spirit. Her clan of wronged women follow suit, and, especially when the music is taken at businesslike pace, their implacability is pleasingly sinister.
Act one has its lulls, but this is a production with some beautiful dancing: Hirata springing from the floor like a puppet on wires, hard to believe she’s propelling herself; the poignantly slow pas de deux with repentant Albrecht.
The mad scene pushes the right buttons, even if having Giselle stab herself does not seem as powerful as dying of a broken heart.
This Giselle is not flashy, not trying to be relevant or shake things up. And it doesn’t have the emotional transcendence of the great Giselles. But it is danced with diligence, attention and sensitivity. It brings history alive in the present.
At Theatre Royal Plymouth, 23-25 October, and Sadler’s Wells, London, 1-2 November.