Saturday, May 28, 2011

American Ballet Theater – Adolphe Adam’s Giselle. May 27, 2011.

Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center – Dress Circle (Seat E14, $75).

Conductor – Charles Barker; Giselle – Diana Vishneva, Count Albrecht – Marcelo Gomes, Hilarian – Gennadi Saveliev, Berthe – Susan Jones, Peasants (pas de Deux) – Maria Riccetto & Jared Matthews, Myrta – Veronika Part, Moyna – Isabella Boylston, Zulma – Yuriko Kajiya.

Story. Giselle falls in love with Count Albrecht, who disguises himself as the peasant Loys. Hilarion the huntsman is also in love with Giselle, and finds out the true identity of Loys. When Giselle finds out, and that Albrecht is also engaged to be married to someone else, she dies of a broken heart. She becomes a wili, a restless spirit who has died with her love unrequited, and is initiated into the wili sisterhood by the queen Myrta. These wilis roam the earth at night and kill any males they trap by forcing them to dance to their deaths. Hilarion is killed this way. When the wilis trap Albrecht, Giselle protects him by staying with him until the clock strikes four, at which point the wilis lose their power. Albrecht is thus rescued.

Today is the day before the Memorial Day Weekend, and all the traffic reports were indicating tie-ups at the various Hudson Crossings and in New York City. We decided to try to drive in and left a bit before 5 pm (the performance was to start at 7:30 pm), and got to the parking garage at around 6 pm, the traffic tie-ups we encountered were minimal to non-existent. We ate at Sushi A-Go-Go. We hadn’t been there for a while, the prices didn’t seem to be much higher than we remembered them.

The ballet certainly is very well-known, and Anne claims many tunes should be quite familiar. That turns out not be the case. However, some tunes were used so many times that by the end of the ballet I wasn’t so sure anymore. Overall the music is disappointing; it has a very saccharine feel to it, sounding like what you would expect in a ballroom with light waltzes playing in the background. The orchestra’s lack of dynamic range also contributed to this assessment.

Those were a couple of the disappointments I felt after the first Act. The actual story contains more detail that the synopsis I wrote above, and the artists did more acting out the storyline than dancing a ballet performance. Yet things were confusing for me at many places. It is never made clear whether Giselle was engaged to Hilarion – which would raise a whole different set of issues. There were a couple of dances performed by Giselle that seemed quite difficult, and she did them well. The costume designer did a great job, the colors just looked great and well balanced. Giselle’s death scene somehow reminds me of Lucia’s mad scene in Lucia de Lammermoor. She dropped to the ground at least four times before she died; even though I didn’t want her to die, I still couldn’t but wish “die already.”

I was ready to conclude that what we have is a light-weight ballet, light-weight music, light-weight orchestra, and a light-weight cast, which probably is a good combination for a light-weight viewer (like myself.) And as such it was an enjoyable Act I.

The second Act, however, saw a lot more serious ballet. We saw Veronika Part as Odette/Odile in Swan Lake a few years ago, and she was the headliner for this performance. She played the role of Myrta in this ballet and had a relatively limited role. In any case, there were a few more virtuoso performances by the principals, and the choreography was more traditional.

Overall, the ballet is okay, but didn’t quite live up to my perception of its reputation. It is, afterall, the “oldest continually-performed ballet,” premiering in Paris in June, 1841.

One other note, I called this piece “Adam’s Giselle,” as in “music by Adophe Adam.” I am not sure this is the proper attribution as one can argue many others played important roles in bringing the work together.

No comments: