Royal NZ Ballet opens in Edinburgh

Giselle
Festival Theatre, Edinburgh
October 28

The Royal New Zealand Ballet, on tour in the UK and Europe, opened its production of Giselle in Edinburgh to positive reviews

Writing in the Herald Scotland Mary Brennan gave its four stars saying that it was “a classic Giselle that shows off the company strengths at all levels, even as it streamlines aspects of the traditional narrative for distinctly dramatic impact.”

“Both Johan Kobborg and Ethan Stiefel frequently danced Albrecht – the philandering nobleman who breaks Giselle’s heart – before they took to choreography instead. In the version they have co-produced for RNZB, they book-end the piece by introducing Albrecht in the years following Giselle’s tragic death – no longer the confident cavalier (Kohei Iwamoto) who deceived a naive peasant girl and drove her insane.”

“In Lucy Green, RNZB has a Giselle any prince or peasant would find adorable: there’s a blithe, fresh energy to her in act one that is captivating, underpinned by an unwavering technique that really comes to the fore when, in act two, it is her spirit and her stamina that save Albrecht from the vengeful Wilis – forest-dwelling wraiths, unwedded in life and men-hating in death.

Their leader, Myrtha, is implacable – surely she’ll relent, impressed (as are we) by Giselle’s bravura protection of Albrecht? Mayu Tanigaito’s Myrtha sways not a jot in her attitude, her pointe-work incisive and her demeanour icily controlled.

The Wilis themselves are a superb ensemble, whisper soft as they emerge into the midnight glade where Hilarion (Jacob Chown) and Albrecht come to grieve at Giselle’s grave.

“What isn’t whisper soft, unfortunately, is the recording of Adam’s exquisite score. The recurring boom-y shrillness isn’t a problem in act one, where lively peasant revelries frame Albrecht’s woo-ing of Giselle but in the supernatural encounters of act two, the insistent volume jars. Even so, this is a good-looking production from a company crammed with talent”

Justine Blundell of the Edinburgh Guide says: “The storytelling, often so problematic in ballet, is beautifully clear in this production. The courtship of Giselle by Albrecht is touching, gentle and sincere.

The first act, in particular, has a clarity of purpose that is unafraid of quiet moments and is a lesson in the maxim ‘less is more’. The dance steps, when they come, are meaningful and exquisitely executed. Lucy Green as Giselle is achingly vulnerable and her grace and elegance has the lightest of touches.

In the second act, she and Mayu Tanigaito, who dances Myrtha, the Queen of the Wilis, move as though floating, with backwards pas de bourees so fast their feet appear blurred. And Kohei Iwamoto as Albrecht causes the audience to break into spontaneous applause more than once with his breathtaking, relentless elevation and lightning footwork.

This ballet, with its traditional set, costumes, music and choreography, is pure escapism and utterly bewitching.

Thom Dibdin writing in The Stage wrote: “The Royal New Zealand Ballet has brought an enchanting production of Giselle to the UK. Bookended by images of an older Albrecht haunted by his youth, it plays out across Howard C Jones' darkly brooding set, distorted at the edges, a lens into the past.”

“Updating Petipa, choreographers Johan Kobborg and Ethan Stiefel ensure that clarity in the storytelling is at the heart of the production and the performance.

"The elements of mime help in the specifics, but it is in the dancing and its characterisation throughout that it is at its most revelatory: highlighting the tension between gentry and peasants; between the entitled and those who serve.

“In a near perfect act one, Lucy Green is an utter delight as Giselle. She has a casually elegant charm about her, drifting into the moves and going through the transitions as if they weren't there. How could Kohei Iwamoto's fluidly danced Albrecht not fall for her? Their wooing is delicately done, with just a hint of forceful self-entitlement quickly forgotten as she falls for his grace and refined air.

“The contrast of their duets with those of Bronte Kelly and Joseph Skelton's bride and groom sets them in two worlds. Jacob Chown gives a strong and subtle telling of Hilarion with his growing realisation of the truth of Albrecht's identity.

“There is slightly less technical perfection to the second act. Mayu Tanigaito's portrayal of Myrtha suffers from its proximity to Green's supreme performance while the 12-strong corps of Wilis do not always have the well-drilled precision they might. Yet Green's delicacy and Iwamoto's herculean efforts ensure that this remains a haunting production that will linger long in the memory.”

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