Standing the test of time with ballet audiences across the world, the romantic and ethereal ballet classic Giselle returns exclusively to the State Theatre – Arts Centre Melbourne from 30 August 2018.
This quintessentially classical, romantic ballet, created in 1986 by Maina Gielgud former Artistic Director of The Australian Ballet, will haunt the hearts of audiences long after the curtain falls. With its universal tale of passion and betrayal, Giselle has captured the imagination of audiences since it first premiered in Paris in 1841.
Combining pure romantic ballet technique with atmospheric designs by Peter Farmer, Gielgud’s production will tear at the heart strings with its famous mad scene, which portrays the otherworldly gathering of the Wilis in the midnight forest. Sorrowful in their long white tutus and veils, the Wilis frame a heart-rending pas de deux performed by the spirit of Giselle and her remorseful suitor.
For ballerinas around the world, Giselle offers two sought-after and career-making roles, demanding pristine technique and profound acting talent. Giselle is a kind-natured girl, loved by all the villagers, who goes mad in one of ballet’s most dramatic scenes, and finds maturity, strength and forgiveness in the afterlife.
Myrtha, the Queen of the Wilis, is terrifyingly vengeful and maintains a regal command over the audience as well as the maidens she summons from their graves. Transformed into a spirit, Giselle is reunited with her lover in a forest haunted by the Wilis – ghosts of jilted women – and must dance with him until dawn to save his life.
The Australian Ballet’s Artistic Director, David McAllister, is always happy to see the return of Giselle and the progression and journey of the dancers throughout the preparation of such a highly technical ballet.
“Giselle has toured the globe and is recognised as one of the greatest stagings of this romantic classic,” says McAllister. “Our dancers are all looking forward to taking on the purity of this ballet and we will see a new generation of Giselles and Myrthas draw out the emotional nuances of this poignant story.”
The original score by French composer Adolphe Adam is as charming and innocent as the main protagonist. “Giselle is one of the earliest examples of a narrative ballet with purpose written music (as opposed to music pieced together from other existing works),” says The Australian Ballet’s Music Director & Chief Conductor, Nicolette Fraillon.
“To a very limited extent it does use musical themes to represent characters and dramatic development, but primarily the music ‘underscores’ the action, creating happy dance scenes and poignant, reflective ones, with the occasional moment of brass-and-timpani doomsday darkness.”
Evocative set and costume designs by Peter Farmer illuminate and materialise Giselle’s world, from the sunny village scenes to the haunting moonlit forest populated by the ghostly Wilis.
Flying in from London to coach a new generation of artists in her Giselle, Maina Gielgud says she’s eagerly looking forward to spending time in the rehearsal room with the beautiful dancers of The Australian Ballet.
“It is always special to restage this production of Giselle, this time perhaps with even more emotion than usual, since it will be the first time since the death of the exquisite designer and greatest of friends, Peter Farmer, known throughout the world but particularly for his Giselle,” says Gielgud.
“We will be working with dancers in the company who have performed in Giselle before, and those who will be new to their various roles. Integrating all the characters is always vital for this ballet, so that it wrings the heart strings – the very reason for its longevity.”
“No call for multiple pirouettes or an over perfectionist approach – but all important to enable each individual artist to bring the characters to life and tell the story in such a way that the audience not only understands, but cares about.”
State Theatre – Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St Kilda Road, Melbourne
Season: 30 August – 8 September 2018
Information and Bookings: www.australianballet.com.au
Image: Dimity Azoury – photo by Justin Ridler