This was a long anticipated opening night– in the presence of the Prime Minister Mr Abbott– that will be long remembered. The Australian Ballet was in peak form and Madeleine Eastoe and Kevin Jackson delivered exceptional performances .
The performance is a revival of the 1986 Maina Gielgud version of GISELLE that has been in the Australian Ballet’s repertoire ever since. First performed in 1841 GISELLE is now regarded as one of the major Romantic ballets. The ballet tells a story of disguise, intrigue, young love, broken hearts and deception. Not forgetting the impact of the eerie, sinister Wilis who appear in Act 2-a group of supernatural women whose thing is to dance men to their deaths- determined on revenge.
Peter Farmer’s lush sets and costumes in Act 1 were mostly in russet, autumnal tones featuring a concealed woodland grove with Giselle’s grave marked for Act 2.
Under the emphatic, precise baton of Nicolette Fraillon the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra gave a magnificent, finely nuanced performance .
Eastoe as Giselle was outstanding and her dancing was exquisite. In Act 1 she was the innocent village maiden, deeply in love with Albrecht and dancing joyfully. Her scene that portrayed madness was chillingly conveyed.
In Act 2 Eastoe is also ethereal, featuring effortless elevation– she is as light and elusive as a feather- that lies just out of Albrecht’s reach. She was like mist or gossamer- using her love and determination to try and save him.
Kevin Jackson as Albrecht was magnificent too. In Act 1 he is a pampered playboy, seriously in love with Giselle yet caught up in his betrothal to Bathilde.
In Act 2 Albrecht is shown as penitent and grieving, his billowing red cloak of Act 1 changed to a deep black one. He has become an attentive partner and there are some difficult, high , ‘Bolshoi’ lifts where Giselle appears to fly. The pas de deux in both Acts are breathtaking.
Jackson gets to show off his elevation and in Act 2 there is an extended, blinding blur as he is compelled to dance at Mythe’s- Queen Of the Wilis- command and audible gasps are heard from the audience.
Myrthe was excellently danced by Dimity Azoury. Cold, hard and commanding she had a very strong arabesque line and performed with impressive aloofness.
Poor Hilarion, the village huntsman also in love with Giselle, was broodingly danced by Andrew Killian.
Olga Tamara as Berthe, Giselle’s mother, used mime to chillingly tell the story of the Willis in Act 1. The bouncy , enchanting peasant pas de deux to entertain the court was deliciously performed by Ako Kondo and Chengwu Guo .
The court in Act 1 was luxuriously dressed in great contrast to the peasants and it was delightful to see Steven Heathcote as the Duke dressed opulently in red and gold.
In Act 2 the Wilis were superb, appearing like mist, ominous and remorseless, precise in their automata like choreography .
Love conquers all in this magnificent production that rightly received a standing ovation.
Running time – 2 hours including one interval.
The Australian Ballet in GISELLE is playing the Joan Sutherland Theatre at the Sydney Opera House until the 22nd April.