Ballet Nacional de Cuba “Giselle” March 27, 2009 8:30 PM, Gran Teatro de La Habana Sala Garcia Lorca
I am still reveling in last night's fantastic performance of Giselle by the Ballet Nacional de Cuba. This was the second night in a 4-evening series of Giselle performances. As is her custom, right before the performance began Madame Alicia Alonso arrived at her seat in the center first balcony, to standing applause by the audience. Dressed in a gorgeous turquoise outfit with a sparkling top and matching head scarf, she stood there for a moment, taking in the respect and admiration from the warmth of the applause, then took her seat and the performance began.
Anette Delgado’s Giselle and Joel Carreno’s Albrecht were outstanding. They seem to be a perfect partnership. I saw them late last year in the pas de deux of “La Esmeralda” and casting them together is an excellent fit: they compliment each other well --both being physically compact dancers-- and have a chemistry that brings to mind some of the great partnerships in the history of ballet. In my years as a balletomane I have seen many performances of Giselle, including Baryshnikov with ABT in one of his final performances, and I have to say the production last night was one of the finest I have ever seen, second only to that of Nina Ananiashvili and Andris Liepa (1987 Bolshoi tour at the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco.)
In her the first act as Giselle, Delgado captures the quintessential aspects of the character: joyful, innocent and in love with Albrecht. Mr. Carreno, who is blessed with talent for turning and jumping, is a youthful and charming Albrecht, also very much in love with Giselle. Delgado’s Act I solo seemed effortless – she danced with grace and technical excellence. In the moment when Giselle discovers Albrecht is engaged to Bathilde and breaks up their embrace, Albrecht is aware of and visibly disturbed by the mess he has created, and turns his head looking away, while Giselle tears off the necklace Bathilde had given her. The acting by both Delgado and Carreno is convincing and heart wrenching. Delgado’s mad scene is authentic – she appears desperate and crazy, laughing when she picks up the sword, reminiscing about her earlier dancing with Albrecht, and reenacting the “he loves me, he loves me not” test with the flower, ending with her head in her hands, sobbing.
I particularly liked one part in Act I that I don’t recall from previous versions I have seen, when Giselle’s mother pantomimes what happens if you die of a broken heart, gesturing that the ground opens up, the wili come out and make the man who betrayed you dance until his death. Another change in this version (that has been adapted by Alicia Alonso from the original Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot version) is that the Act I Peasant Pas de Deux has become a Pas de Dix, performed by 4 male and 6 female dancers. These young, gorgeous dancers displayed the trademarks of the Cuban ballet: clean, pure technique – they are really a pleasure to watch.
In Act II Amaya Rodriguez was a cold, commanding Myrtha. She has long limbs, high extensions and incredibly high arches, and her face resembles somewhat that of the Bolshoi’s Maria Bulova - fair and beautiful. The scenery uses lights to resemble fireflies in the forest at some points. The wilis were mesmerizing to watch, and angry. At one point, they encircle Hilarion while crouched down, running, with their arm/elbow in front of their face – an effective gesture to show their strength and anger. To me, Carreno is ideal as Albrecht. He first enters the scene desolate, looking for Giselle’s tomb while carrying the flowers and his cape. He drops the cape and places the flowers on the grave, then runs, to the gorgeous music of Adam, looking for her.
The pas de deux of Giselle and Albrecht was absolutely beautiful. Delgado and Carreno portray the love of the two characters so poignantly that it brought tears to my eyes. In the series of arabesques, he lifts her effortlessly while she maintains her arabesque, creating a surreal effect that she is floating. Later, toward the end of the Act when Giselle does a series of light arabesque “hops” also lifted by Albrecht, Delgado’s heel never touched the ground, only the ball of her foot touched town and pushed off--most graceful and light. One part Alonso has removed in this version is the brises en diagonal that Albrecht usually performs; however, Carreno executed perfectly the series of two pique arabesques, chasse, double tour en l’air landing in open 4th position. As in the first Act, the emotions and expressions by both dancers exude the eternal love that the two characters feel for each other. Giselle desperately pleads to Myrtha to save Albrecht from his death. At the end, when she returns to her grave, there is dry ice from the wings, and she gives him a single lily and he cherishes it. The curtain falls with Albrecht laying on her grave.
The only negative part of this performance was that the orchestra did not accompany the dancers last night; it was performed to recorded music. I quickly forgot this fact though, and was lost in the beauty of the performance. Two young corps dancers to watch are Grettel Morejon and Yanier Gomez.