Review: Giselle by Teatro Di San Carlo

Hailing from Naples in the south of Italy, the world’s oldest opera house Teatro Di San Carlo presented a brilliant performance of Giselle at Mastercard Theatres this weekend.

Often considered one of the great classical ballets, Giselle is a technically demanding piece, and dancers who have mastered the role hailed as brilliant in the annals of history. With such prestige to their name, Teatro Di San Carlo did not disappoint, and the dancers handled the material with grace, landing lightly on their jumps and doing justice to the difficult choreography.

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Principal dancer Giuseppe Picone played Albrecht, the nobleman who Giselle falls in love with, and ends up at the mercy of the vengeful Willis. Even as he lay dying, his lightfooted jumps continued to appear effortless. But beyond his technical prowess, Picone managed to bring out Albrecht’s charisma, making it easy to understand why Giselle falls in love with him, despite the character’s inherent flaws. Easily emoting his love but not appearing overly dramatic, Picone’s expression of grief at the loss of Giselle and regretful mourning at her grave elevated the role of Albretch beyond that of a callous nobleman toying with the feelings of an innocent villager to a legendary lover worthy of our heart. Gianluca Nunziata’s Hilarion on the other hand, was a bit of a non-entity. Despite being a good dancer with impressive solos, Nunziata never quite musters enough charisma to become a worthy rival of Albrecht.

As for Giselle, Anna Chiara Amirante easily brought out the character’s sweetness and innocence of a village girl, with a slight hint of flirtatious knowledge beyond her years in the first act. Maintaining a soft and graceful poise, the audience could see why both Albretch and Hilarion fall for her. Her performance is not without some dips – we were slightly disappointed by her descent into insanity in Act 1- a slow build where she started to look disbelieving and sad but never really escalating to the point of having the kind of frenetic energy and madness to make it truly believable that she would have died from grief. But Amirante really comes into her own in the second half as she returns from the dead as one of the Willis. The lightness and grace portrayed in the first act take on a new dimension in act 2 when she takes on an ethereal ghostly quality, flitting through the technically challenging solos and duets. The partner work in the first act was just a taster for a gorgeous pas de deux in the second act, comprising multiple lifts that felt so light that they really reinforced the idea that she was some ghostly otherworldly being.

For the second act, the joy and levity of the village celebration (or however long it lasts before Hilarion ruins everything) is replaced by a cold misty forest of Giselle’s graveyard and most excitingly, the arrival of the Willis. The Willis are such an iconic part of Giselle and few things can beat the eerie sight as the introduction of the first Willis, shrouded in a veil, gliding across the stage en pointe. The single Willis is soon joined by the merciless Myrtha, Queen of Willis and an entire troupe of Willis. The corps are on particularly fine display as the Willis, each beautifully ghostly and ethereal but also malevolent and threatening. Their coordination during the group sequences were also very impressive.

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The costume and set design did not stray far from the classic traditional design and were very beautiful, comprising classic, epic painted backdrops and gorgeous costumes, from the heavy rich gowns of the nobles to the soft white dresses of the Willis. Overall, Giselle is an impressive show of talent and a spectacular performance, never feeling overly indulgent or a showcase of dancing for dance’s sake, but with a real focus on telling a story well.

Performance attended 28/4/17. 

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