On 26 February a run of Adolphe Adam’s Giselle begins at the Royal Opera House in Peter Wright’s iconic version of 1985. It is one of only a handful of ballets from the first half of the nineteenth century that is still performed, and tells the story of a peasant girl who falls in love with Albrecht, a Count who has wooed her disguised as a villager. When she discovers who he really is and that their love can never be, she stabs herself, but that is only the first half of the story.
This time around there is a further way to experience the ballet because on 6 April it is being broadcast live to selected cinemas across the UK and worldwide. At Londonist we do not see cinema screenings as a substitute for live performance, but neither do we view them as a second best option. Rather we believe they are a genuine alternative that can offer very different things. Below are just a few of the things to look out for that should come across very well on the big screen.
- Giselle is often described as the greatest Romantic Ballet. This means that, unlike Classical Ballet where the dancers’ bearing tends to be proud and regal, the ballerinas’ movements need to be soft and otherworldly. The close-ups afforded in the cinema should make it easy to appreciate the fragility of Giselle’s arms ‘as if morning dew is dripping from the fingertips’.
- Act Two introduces us to the Wilis, headed by their Queen, Myrtha. These are the ghosts of women who died before their wedding day after being jilted, and who seek vengeance from beyond the grave. While, however, they were undoubtedly wronged, ask how sympathetic you feel towards them. Do they always take their revenge out on the right people?
- Another character who loves Giselle is the humble forester Hilarion. He is ultimately a kind and decent man, but watch how the ballet and choreography are set up to give him the thin end of the wedge at every turn. He loses out in love to Albrecht, is blamed for brandishing the sword by which Giselle dies and then brushed aside by Giselle’s mother when he wants to grieve for his loved one. It is also he who suffers the most cruelly at the hands of the Wilis (see our point above).
- Finally, enjoy the actual experience of a cinema screening. The act of filming a ballet to ensure it has maximum impact can be appreciated as an art in its own right. Certainly, when we saw the Royal Ballet’s Swan Lake last year in the cinema we found that the camera panning across the stage as it followed various soloists introduced another layer of dynamism.
Giselle appears from 26 February to 15 April (sixteen performances) at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London WC2E 9DD. Casts vary over the run. For further details and tickets visit the Royal Opera House website.
The cinema relay of Giselle takes place on 6 April when it will be broadcast live to selected cinemas in the UK and worldwide. Some cinemas will also show encore screenings over subsequent days. For details of participating venues, visit the Royal Opera House Live Cinema Season page.