Kirov Ballet - 'Giselle'
by Catherine Pawlick
April 22 , 2005 -- Mariinksy Theatre, St. Petersburg
Balletomanes take note. If one were to judge merely by the overwhelming number of blinding flash bulbs following "Giselle" Friday night, it could be surmised that the unofficial start of the tourist season at the Mariinsky Theatre has begun. The number of English, Italian and German speakers has not been so high in the theatre corridors since last August. Spring has clearly arrived.
Unfortunately, spring's arrival has simultaneously witnessed the departure of the mannered appreciation, habitual for at least nine months out of the year as demonstrated by local balletgoers. Due to the non-native invasion, cell phones sounded (one specific ring three times during Act One; a second ring during the adagio of Act Two from an adjacent Benoir), as bored Italian boyfriends uttered overly audible sighs of ennui throughout. Numerous tourists blocked the aisles to photograph the theatre walls or ceilings after the second bell, blocking newcomers on their way to be seated. And of course, there were the latecomers who were nonetheless seated well into Act One, forcing a short game of musical chairs in the orchestra level as the ticketed patrons replaced the unticketed.
Thankfully these measures of disrespect bore no relation to the quality of the performance or performers. One minor disappointment came from the last minute casting change. Daria Pavlenko had been billed to dance the role of Giselle up until about 4 p.m. the day of the performance. Soon thereafter the online casting reflected a change: Sofia Gumerova would take her place. Rumors suggest that Gumerova may have really been cast all along.
Before discussing the performers, a word about the roles in this ballet. There is no bible of interpretation for these characters, no encyclopedic reference for how the details of their psychologies should be portrayed. We know Giselle is a young, innocent peasant girl, pure of heart. Is she energetic and playful? Or demure and shy? Is she passionately in love with Albrecht, or simply flattered, captivated by the young man's advances? These questions are answered individually by each dancer who performs the role. Diana Vishneva’s Giselle is more vibrant, passionate and enamored with her suitor; she’s in love and she makes that clear. Sofia Gumerova's interpretation is much cooler. She falls in love suddenly, trusts blindly, but isn't overly demonstrative. Hers is the Giselle you would expect to be hurt by Albrecht's betrayal. Vishneva's is the Giselle who probably saw it all coming – and maybe didn't even care.
Gumerova, it has been said, is an ' aristocratic' ballerina. This description fits her well. Cool, reserved, refined, with little sass, spice or heat. Her talent lies in her long, beautifully shaped legs and feet. Her upper body is not as expressive and she isn’t blessed with the graceful shoulders of some of her counterparts, but this seems minor when one considers the amount of control she has in her legwork and balances. One of the taller ballerinas in the company, her long lines lend themselves easily to adagio work.
And then there is the character of Albrecht. Is the already-engaged prince really in love with Giselle, or just playing around? Is he a cad, a womanizer, or a man in love who gets caught at his own (poor) game of dress up? Is his graveyard visit motivated by feelings of the heart or simple guilt? When he blames Hilarion, is it male pride, or a simple defense mechanism because he cannot handle the loss of his love?
Ilya Kuznetsov partnered Gumerova as Albrecht in this performance, and his interpretation seemed somewhere in the middle. He was captivated by Giselle from the start, using every free second to look at her, touch her. But he would not look her in the eye at the moment of truth. That the Mariinsky has a tall, strong partner of Kuznetsov’s bearing is a plus. That he has so much acting talent, an elastic plie and enviable arches is a blessing.
I’ve never considered Albrecht a character role, but based on the Mariinsky’s typical casting for Kuznetsov, they seem to think it is. Regardless of the role’s categorization, Kuznetsov does an admirable job. His acting talents reach the far stalls of the audience, and he has an innate aptitude for projecting sorry and angst into the hall.
The Queen of the Wilis, Myrtha, was danced with perfectly regal, razor sharp coldness by Viktoria Tereshkina. Her praises have already been sung here, and she continues to deserve them. She skimmed across the stage in her first bourree-d entrance, an ephemeral being; her fingers in the first series of arabesque penchees were pointed grave-ward, indicating the realm she protects, and her ballon in the saut de basque circle was virtuosic.
Tatiana Tkachenko and Ekaterina Kondaurova danced the roles of Moina and Zulma, respectively. Tkachenko’s ability to dance with her eyes draws one’s attention; her variation was particularly accurate. Kondaurova would be an excellent Myrtha – her long lines, beautiful feet and clean technique lend themselves to the meatier role. She is one of the more obvious choices for promotion within company ranks, and hopefully in coming seasons that will be reflected in her casting.
Alex Nedviga drew attention even in his minor role as Albrecht’s aide, princely himself in the miming sequences. Ruben Bobnikov as Hilarion did a fine job in acting the role.
Boris Gruzin conducted.
Edited by Staff.
Read related stories in the press and see what others are saying. Click here.