Ballet San Jose: Review of "Giselle" by Gary R. Lemco

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Ballet San Jose: Review of "Giselle" by Gary R. Lemco

Post by Lance » Sun Oct 31, 2010 12:19 am

Ballet San Jose: Giselle

ADOLPH ADAM’s classic ballet of the French Romantic era, Giselle (1841), received brilliant realization by the Ballet San Jose, October 22-24, 2010 at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts, Dennis Nahat, Artistic Director. Whatever limitations exist in the musical score—it is less inspired than anything in Tchaikovsky—the sheer physical demands on its principals, Karen Gabay (Giselle), Maykel Solas (Albrecht), and Amy Marie Briones (Myrtha, Queen of the Wilis) compel our total admiration. With set designs by Gianni Quaranta and lighting by Kenneth Keith, the wooded valley of Germany and the later gloomy church graveyard generated a mood of frivolous independence and free-spirited nature that must atone for its excess of romantic ardor: Albrecht has courted two women, and his flippant betrothal to the staid Bathilde (Beth Ann Namey) ultimately destroys Giselle’s sanity. The subject of the ballet then becomes reflexive, since the Wilis exact revenge by compelling their quarry to dance themselves to death. Jeremy Kovitch portrayed the ill-fated gamekeeper Hilarion, whose unaffected love for the child of nature and dancing, Giselle, leads to his own destruction.

The eternal miracle of the evening, Karen Gabay, projected demure and ardent youth much in the manner of the aged Dame Margot Fonteyn, who for so many years instantiated Prokofiev’s Juliet. Gabay’s technical prowess—her pirouettes, jetes, and port de bras—culminated in her “mad scene,” when at the end of Act I she suffers mental collapse at having witnessed Albrecht’s ministrations to Bathilde. Gabay’s stunted movements captured a “broken bird” motif, as if Giselle’s love of the dance had made her Icarus, only to be brought down by the sun of inflamed passion. Giselle’s dancing prowess is in fact a deception, hiding the emotional frailty that takes its mortal toll. The mad scene, in fact, has its counterpart in another vulnerable heroine of the same period, Lucia di Lammermoor.

The very soul of athleticism, Maykel Solas—who at a distance resembles Tom Cruise—performed any number of unbroken brises, caprioles, and entrechats, especially under the dark enchantment of the Wilis. I must admit that the first entry of the Wilis’ Queen (Briones), moving laterally en point in a mist, a solemn wraith, quite convinced me of her supernatural and implacable power. Armed with the face of a marble statue, Briones’ Myrtha instantiated the spirit of fierce resolve, a Nemesis barely responsive to the impassioned pleas of Giselle to spare her rueful lover. The Nahat choreography for the Wilis had them en pointe perpetually, often balanced on one foot and moving in eerie, uniform, intersected lines, a ghostly corps of malevolent shades.

The marvelous color of the work—and perhaps its musical weakness—derives from the chains of peasant dances enacted by the spry villagers, the festive ensemble in the manner of Breughel but uninspired melodically. Their optimistic, even naïve, country dances provided a foil to the extended Stabat Mater series of dirges that constitute Act II. Of course, the fateful sunrise forces Myrtha to relent, and the scourged spirit of Albrecht--now a repentant rake--must face a life without Giselle, whom he assumes to be at peace. With musical direction from Dwight Oltman and some fine instrumentals from oboe, strings, and harp, the alchemical blend of symphony, dance, and theater proved an alluring, often sensational production that the rapturous audience of my matinee (Sunday, October 24) was loath to leave. •

Dr. Gary R. Lemco is a reviewer for
Classical Music Guide. He resides in California.

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Re: Ballet San Jose: Review of "Giselle" by Gary R. Lemco

Post by smitty1931 » Wed Aug 17, 2011 8:45 am

A marvelous review. I was fortunate enough to see Nureyev and Fonteyn dance Giselle when the Royal visited D.C. the first time. To say the audience went wild would be an understatement!

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