Reviews, News and Commentary

The Royal New Zealand Ballet’s magnificent production of Giselle

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Laurynas Vejalis (Albrecht and Mayu Tanigaito (Giselle) Image – Stephen A’Court

The Royal New Zealand Ballet


Kiri Te Kanawa Theatre, Aotea Centre

May 26

Reviewed by  John  Daly-Peoples

The Royal New Zealand Ballet have again showed they are capable of  bringing us  magnificent productions of the great classical works with a Giselle full of splendid dancing.

Giselle is a tale of blighted love which begins with intense romantic love and ends in tragedy. In the first act we encounter exuberant  love while in the second act we see melancholic and heart-rending passion.

It is crucial for a great performance that these two contrasting and conflicting aspects need to be given emotional and physical authenticity through the dancing, the music, sets and costumes. With this production the creative team has ensured that these have all been brought together to create a remarkably powerful narrative which is both close to human experience and at the core of the romantic myth.

Ethan Steifel and Johan Kobborg who had originally developed this production have fine0-tuned the work and it feels to be a much tighter and compelling this time. As Steifel says in the programme notes they wanted to “inject some new pace into the story- telling and add further dimensions and meaning to all the characters”

Mayu Tanigaito was stunning as  Giselle, displaying all the emotions needed for the role  from  demure youthful love, the despair which comes with rejection, through to the regret and despair she displays beyond the grave.

Hers was a performance which displayed through acting and dance an understanding of the complex emotions of the character.

Her descent into madness at the end of Act I was a superb piece of tragic acting. In addition to her distraught appearance, she conveyed that distress in dance. She repeats the same dainty steps she used at the start of the act but they become sombre, slow movements at variance with the music, creating a disturbing discordance.

As Albrecht, Laurynas Vejalis  perfectly played a man madly in love but filled with conflicting duties and desires, throwing himself desperately at Giselle’s lifeless body at the end of Act 1 and wracked with remorse in Act 2.

Hilarion (Paul Mathews) the jilted suitor of Giselle is brilliant in his macho dance-off against Albrecht and electrifying in his dance to the death before the avenging Wilis.

The sets were cleverly juxtaposed. The first act set was bright and colourful, providing a cute little gingerbread house along with jolly peasants, and a romantic vista. The second act set was dark and mysterious, merging the bleak world of the graveyard and the mythical world of the Willis.

The Wilis Image – Stephen A’Court

The Wilis are female spiritual avengers – women who have died because they have been rejected and who now take their revenge on wayward males. This aspect of their supernatural power is a romantic concept of a parallel world reflecting the dual nature of the human condition. The tightly disciplined corps de ballet adorned in their wedding veils gave a chilling, visceral performance. As Moyna, Queen of the Wilis Ana Gallardo Lobaina was animated and imposing in her command of her realm.

As with many of the great classical  ballets there is wonderful music and the Auckland Philharmonia under the direction of Hamish McKeich ensured that the  glorious music of Adolphe Adam flowed through the whole production adding to the drama and emotion of the work.

By johndpart

Arts reviewer for thirty years with the National Business Review

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