Westpac St James, Wellington

03/11/2006 - 11/11/2006

Production Details

Choreography: Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot
Restaged by: Gary Harris with the assistance of Sherilyn Kennedy

Composer: Adolphe Adam
Lighting Designer: Jon Buswell
Conductor: Kenneth Young

Royal New Zealand Ballet

Love Conquers All – Even Death: Ballet at its most Bewitching

Moonlit and magical, the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s TOWER Season of Giselle is the quintessential Romantic ballet. It is a story of love and betrayal, and ultimately forgiveness, as poignant today as it was at the first performance in 1841.

In a superbly atmospheric production, Artistic Director Gary Harris fulfils a love affair he has had with the ballet since he was a teenager. For the first time in his 35 year career he restages this masterpiece, sparing nothing to capture the emotional depth and drama of this enduring classic. “I’m drawing on everything I’ve ever learned. It’s important for dancers to go back to their roots and really understand this work,” says Harris. “For dancers and dance lovers alike, Giselle is an incredible gift from the past.”

Assisting Harris is New Zealand’s most accomplished Giselle, Sherilyn Kennedy, who danced the famous role as a principal dancer with the Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet in London. “My focus is to bring this great ballet alive for the young dancers of the RNZB so they are able to impart to the audience this great tragic love story and find it rewarding to do.”

The RNZB first performed excerpts of Giselle in 1954 with additional choreography by the company’s founder, Poul Gnatt. Sara Neil restaged a full production in 1965, and productions have followed by Bryan Ashbridge (1973), Dorothea Ashbridge and Harry Haythorne (1981) and Ashley Killar (1993).

Wellington, Westpac St James Theatre
3-5 & 8-11 November
Featuring the Vector Wellington Orchestra

Invercargill, Civic Theatre
14 & 15 November
Dunedin, Regent Theatre
18 & 19 November
Featuring the Southern Sinfonia

Christchurch, Isaac Theatre Royal
22-25 November
Featuring the Christchurch Symphony

Palmerston North, Regent on Broadway
28 & 29 November
Featuring the Vector Wellington Orchestra

Napier, Napier Municipal Theatre
2 & 3 December
Auckland, Aotea Centre at THE EDGE®
6-10 December
Featuring the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra

Hamilton, Founders Theatre
13 & 14 December

In all venues other than Wellington, Dunedin, Christchurch, Palmerston North and Auckland, the company will perform to a recording by the Vector Wellington Orchestra.

Dance ,

Truly beautiful ballet

Review by Deirdre Tarrant 08th Nov 2006

The 2006 programme series was titled Truly, Madly, Deeply and in Giselle, their third season this year, this is what the company delivers.

Truly a ballet in the classical tradition, meticulously recreated and presented. It was lovely to see all the ‘real’ steps beautifully danced by both soloists and corps and the production was a credit to Director Gary Harris and his assistant, Sherilyn Kennedy.

Act 1 had the required chocolate box setting and reminded one of all those ballet pictures that hang on little girl’s bedroom walls. Catherine Eddy in the lead role of Giselle, had the required technical clarity and an engaging naivety but the dramatic interpretation when she is jilted and tips over the edge to madness was unconvincing. She was much more secure in the second Act and it was in the dark depths of the forest of the Wilis that the ballet reached its strongest and most convincing.

Qi Huan as Albrecht was stunning all the way, every inch the handsome privileged prince who by his actions and deception sets off a disastrous chain of events and cares deeply enough to follow Giselle to her grave. Their pas de deux where Giselle dances to save him and he pleads for his life carried the lyrical quality and the passion forward effortlessly with exquisite partnering and with breathtaking bursts of elevation and batterie.

As the Queen of the Wilis (strongly danced by an imperious but curiously unmusical Alana Baird) retreated with her corps de ballet of shadowy spirits the curtain fell on a despairing, but alive, Albrecht reaching out to us, "Love conquers all – even death" but he seemed to question: why?

Kenneth Young conducted the Vector Wellington Orchestra and the contribution that live music and his sympathetic rendition of the Adolphe Adam romantic score undoubtedly helped give this company of young dancers an artistic awareness of the history of this work. It has been an excellent year of dancing by our national ballet company and this was a Truly, Madly, and Deeply satisfying final season.


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Meticulous restaging

Review by Jan Bolwell 04th Nov 2006

If you need a solid infusion of traditional classical ballet then this is the show for you. All the iconic images are present – from the dark, mysterious forest setting to the white tutus, to the familiar choreographic steps and spatial patterns danced to the plink-plonk music of Adolphe Adam. (Thank god Tchaikovsky came along and lifted ballet music into a higher realm!)

In one form or another Giselle has been part of the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s repertoire since the beginning. In 1954 Poul Gnatt staged excerpts with his fledgling company, Sara Neil restaged a full production in 1965, followed by productions in 1973 (Bryan Ashbridge), 1981(Dorothea Ashbridge & Harry Haythorne) and 1993 (Ashley Killar).

This time it is the turn of artistic director Gary Harris assisted by Sherilyn Kennedy. They work their young cast well and this Giselle has a freshness and energy about it, aided by sympathetic playing from the Vector Wellington Orchestra under the baton of Kenneth Young.

The two acts in Giselle are in such contrast to each other that they could be two separate ballets, and they make distinctly different demands on the dancers. The rustic first act is peppered with lively dances that on opening night were a bit rough around the edges, with some of the men failing to nail their landings and some mistiming by the women.

So much skilled acting as well as dancing is required in Giselle and this has yet to become comfortably embedded in Harris’s production. A lot of it is about rhythm and timing and allowing characters to somehow breath in their interactions with one another. 

The exception is Qi Huan who is outstanding in the role of Albrecht. Not only is this tall and elegant dancer technically assured with gloriously controlled elevation and sparkling legwork, but he also holds the audience with his strong and focused acting. In this respect he completely overwhelms Giselle, danced competently but in a rather muted manner by Catherine Eddy. It requires a dancer of considerable stature to master this role in terms of both dancing and acting, and while Eddy makes a reasonable fist of the death scene at the end of Act One, she still has some distance to go in taking command of this role.

Not so Alana Baird as Myrthe Queen of the Wilis. This lovely dancer grows more and more impressive, and the maturity of her performance shines through in Act 2 of Giselle as she implacably leads the vengeful Wilis on their path of destruction, luring young men in the dead of night into the forest and towards their death. It is a focused and suitably imperious performance.

Baird is supported by the lithe and fluid Yu Takayama, Clytie Campbell and the Wilis whose disciplined dancing is enhanced by the superb atmospheric lighting by Jon Buswell, where the trees in the forest seem to take on a life of their own.

Gary Harris’s careful and meticulous restaging of Giselle – the mimetic passages are beautifully rendered – is like a gift for this young company, for it draws them back into the essence of the art form. That can only help them to grow as artists. And now they have a national tour to truly come to terms with Giselle and discover the intricacies and subtleties behind the choreography. The opening night of Giselle in Wellington was a beginning rather than a completion of that process. 


Bruce McKenzie November 11th, 2006

I cannot let the comment "plink plonk " music go unchallenged. I recently rediscovered this wonderful score watching the Cullberg Ballet's strange and moving modern dance version , which uses the original Adam music ,though shifted around in parts.Why would a modern company dance to an old score like this? Because it is the very flavour of Giselle. Musically I liken it to the Opera's of Bellini and Donizetti , and like them, they often have phrases that seem conventional and banal but always take off to lyrical and imaginative heights.Tchaikovsky, Delibes, Stravinsky and Prokofiev are the very best but I'm sure they would recognise the lightness and lift this score gives to the dancers. I don't think the musicians playing it would ever give it such a condescending description.

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