The Mikhailovsky Ballet gained notoriety when international stars, Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev, joined the company after leaving the more famous Bolshoi Ballet. And it is these two who sparkle irrepressibly in this production of Giselle.
The ballet is all about social standing; can love triumph when it's between a nobleman and a peasant girl? The unfortunate answer is no and Giselle dies of a broken heart. But in true ballet style, she returns from the grave in Act II to protect her lover from the Wilis, the spirits of girls who have died before their wedding day and are determined to seek revenge on the men they encounter.
Osipova, probably the best ballerina in the world today, is a delightful Giselle. As she first comes on, she is wide-eyed and radiant, with all the hope and expectation of a naïve young girl. Her solo is sublime – performed effortlessly with the tricky hops en pointe travelling hugely without appearing remotely laboured. In the second act, she is the epitome of etherealness, balancing endlessly en pointe and seeming to float across the stage.
The thing that is most impressive about Osipova is not her technical faculty, which is truly remarkable, but the way that she employs said technique. Unlike many dancers, she chooses not always to show the largest jumps and the highest legs, giving her performance a wonderful variety of light and shade.
Vasiliev doesn’t quite match Osipova’s brilliance but is a pleasing Albrecht with explosive leaps and turns and some excellent dramatic acting.
The lead couple aside, there are plenty of other things to like. The set and costumes by Vyacheslav Okunev are stunning; overhanging leafy curtains give a charming woodland feel and even Giselle’s gravestone is attractively overgrown with ivy. Adolphe Adam’s score is also played wonderfully under Valery Ovsyanikov’s baton.
The corps de ballet provide an agreeable backdrop and there are some sterling solos from other cast members, particularly Queen of the Wilis Ekaterina Borchenko. But the success of this Giselle undoubtedly belongs to one woman – Osipova.
Giselle is at the London Coliseum until 29 March. The Mikhailovsky Ballet then perform Don Quixote, Laurencia (which Londonist will review next week) and two triple bills. Osipova and Vasiliev perform on 30/31 March and 2/3 April. All tickets are available from the Coliseum website. Londonist received a complimentary ticket to review this performance.
Pictured: Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev. Photo © The Mikhailovsky Theatre