Notes and Editorial Reviews
Giselle – Ana Laguna
Albrecht – Luc Bouy
Hilarion – Yvan Auzely
Bathilde – Vanessa McIntosh
Myrtha – Lena Wennergren
soundtrack performed by Monte-Carlo National Opera Orchestra
Richard Bonynge, conductor
(recorded in 1969)
Mats Ek, choreographer
Marie-Louise de Geer Bergenstråhle, stage design
Studio recording, 1987
Picture format: NTSC 4:3
Sound format: PCM Stereo
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Running time: 89 mins
No. of DVDs: 1 (DVD 9)
Total Playing Time: 01:29:00
R E V I E W:
Richard Bonynge, cond; Monte Carlo Natl Op O
ARTHAUS 101 380 (DVD: 89:00)
33:2, Arthur Lintgen reviews a Blu-ray production of
as presented by The Royal Ballet at Covent Garden (BBC/Opus Arte 7030). He concludes that it is the finest available, surpassing even versions featuring Carla Fracci (Deutsche Grammophon) and Svetlana Zakharova (TDK) in the title role.
The present DVD was not available at the time of Lintgen’s review, although Lintgen might have seen the material it contains, because it was presented on Swedish television (and elsewhere, I imagine) as far back as 1987. I don’t know if it would have changed his mind, though. This is a non-traditional version of
, in contrast to every other version on DVD of which I am aware. Swedish choreographer Mats Ek has “de-etherealized” the ballet, one might say. The titular heroine is less fragile, and the “white” second act has been moved from a cemetery to the inside of an asylum for insane women. (Myrtha, erstwhile Queen of the Wilis, has become the asylum’s stern but caring nurse.) From the very beginning of the ballet, Ek makes it clear that Giselle is a little “off,” but not in a delicate way, and the villagers seem all too eager to get rid of her when she cracks up at the end of the first act. Those who are familiar with Ek—
and his version of
are on DVD and are worth watching—will not be surprised to learn that the style of classical ballet one expects to see in
has been set aside in favor of Ek’s more expressionistic choreography. Ek’s dancers frequently perform exaggerated or eccentric movements, although they do so from a classical grounding, so ballet traditionalists won’t be entirely lost, just a little confused or annoyed.
I admit that
can be a little too formal for my tastes, and I rather enjoyed what Ek has done to and with it here. The story remains intact, and in Ek’s words,
is about love, whether in his version or in the traditional version. The blurb on the DVD’s back calls Ek’s reinterpretation “compelling” and “bizarrely unromantic.” I agree with the first adjective, but not with the second. Ek’s
is unromantic only if one correlates romanticism with white tutus and classicism. (In the first act, Ek’s Giselle is attired in a cardigan and a beret.) This production will make your temperature go up, though, which is as it should be. Having Prince Albrecht end up completely nude at the end of the ballet doesn’t hurt!
This is Ana Laguna’s show. Her riveting assumption of the title role suggests Giulietta Masina in
—if Gelsomina danced—and is fearsomely athletic and expressive. (Laguna is Ek’s wife.) Luc Bouy’s Albrecht and Yvan Auzely’s Hilarion have their moments, and provide good support for Laguna, although they are insufficiently contrasted and not nearly as interesting. Lena Wennergren packs quite a stage presence into her portrayal of Nurse Myrtha, and Vanessa McIntosh makes a good impression in the brief role of Bathilde, Albrecht’s fiancée. The members of the Cullberg Ballet, founded by Ek’s mother Birgit Cullberg in 1967, are in tune with Ek’s style and dance impressively throughout.
Richard Bonynge’s outstanding 1969 recording of the score, LP artifacts and all, has been used here, and comes across brightly and with impact on the DVD. This is a studio production, so there is no audience, and the cameras get right into the middle of things. No doubt there are those who will complain that the cutting between cameras and the close camera placements interfere with the viewers’ ability to take in the entire stage picture. This didn’t bother me, though. The 4:3 visuals still look good, even with minor “ghosting” following the dancers when the stage lights go down.
It would be dangerous to recommend this as someone’s only
. As a supplementary version, though, it is well worth having.
FANFARE: Raymond Tuttle
Works on This Recording
Giselle by Adolphe Adam
Monte Carlo National Opera Orchestra
Written: 1841; France
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