Royal NZ Ballet launches a slick new Giselle

Gillian Murphy as Giselle (Photo: Ross Brown)

TelstraClear Season of Giselle
Royal New Zealand Ballet


Wellington: November 7-11, St James Theatre                        

Christchurch: November 15-17, CBS Arena

Invercargill: November 20-21, Civic Theatre

Dunedin: November 24-25, Regent Theatre

Auckland: November 29 – December 2, ASB Theatre

Rotorua:  December 5, Civic Theatre

Napier: December 8-9, Municipal Theatre

Palmerston North: December 12, Regent on Broadway


An eagerly awaited new staging of Giselle, performed by the Royal New Zealand Ballet, begins an eight-centre tour in Wellington next month.

It will be the first ballet new artistic director Ethan Stiefel will have produced for the company and the first for him to display his ability as a choreographer.

He is creating the work with Johan Kobborg, the internationally acclaimed principal dancer of London’s Royal Ballet.

“Johan is an exceptional dancer and actor," Mr Stiefel says. “He is a gifted choreographer who has created productions for the Royal Ballet and the Bolshoi, among other renowned companies. He and I have also danced in many performances of the work.

“Giselle is one of the great romantic ballets and it’s truly inspiring to collaborate with my good friend. We are delighted to have the chance to present our version of a ballet we both know very well. We have taken all that personallly – the history of performing and seeing the work to build this present Giselle.

“At the same time, except for the iconic passages, I think we are looking to see something new in it. But that also has to have meaning for the dancers as well,” he says.

"I believe we need to maintain the integrity of a beloved ballet in the classicla tradition and we want to keep the iconic duets and set pieces. Outside of that, we are looking to see something new in it, but that also has meaning for the dancers as well.

“There are opportunities with some of the dramatic and narrative qualities as well as small subtle things that can make the work special so that the company has a unique production – not just to be different but to show that it is being progressive within the art form while still retaining history,” Mr Stiefel says.

“The acts will have very clear environments. The atmosphere will not be one which bangs you over the head with literalness a lot will be inferred. It will have its own expansiveness and will have a contemporary flavour.”

The ballet tells the story of Giselle, a naive peasant girl who dies after she finds that her lover Albrecht, a prince in disguise, has deceived her. She re-emerges as a ghost among the Wilis, a group of rejected women who prey on lovers that have let them down.

Yet when Albrecht visits her grave to express his grief, Giselle saves his life by protecting him from the Wilis, who intend to make him perform his personal dance to the death.

It is a passionate story of how the power of forgiveness and redemption can overcome the anguish of love and betrayal. The story unfolds against the ghostly backdrop of a forest haunted by Wilis: vengeful spirits of abandoned brides.

Gillian Murphy, RNZB principal guest artist and star of American Ballet Theatre – will dance the role of Giselle. In her extensive career, she has never before danced this role, one of the most demanding and dramatic in the classical ballet repertoire.

First staged in Paris in 1841, Giselle is one of the oldest surviving ballets still in the international repertory.  The music by Adolphe Adam (1803-56) is one of the first full-length ballet scores ever to be composed. 

It will be performed live by the Vector Wellington Orchestra in Wellington and the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra in Auckland and led by leading British conductor Michael Lloyd. 

Russian ballet dancer turned costume designer Natalia Stewart has designed the costumes. She trained at the London College of Fashion and has collaborated with Johan Kobborg on several of his productions. 

American scenic designer Howard C Jones has created a picturesque village and eerie graveyard settings, while New York lighting designer Kendall Jones will light the production.

John Daly-Peoples has a relative on the board of the RNZB

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I can't wait to see this!

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