Giselle, with Osipova and Acosta, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, January 2014

Out of this world — Natalia Osipova took us to realms where dance and emotion combine into an ethereal unity. The easy grace of her first appearance in Act I drew distant kisses from Carlos Acosta, and I have rarely seen young love so beautifully expressed in this role.

Act I, all images ROH/ Bill Cooper

Act I, all images ROH/ Bill Cooper

As Act I moves forward the wonderful pas-de-six led by Yuhui Choe and Valentino Zucchetti helped express the joy of the peasants, with gloriously musical movement from Choe and wonderfully clean jumps from Zucchetti. Yet this youthful tranquillity cannot last forever, and Adam’s music, so well directed here by Boris Gruzin, tells us so. What a pleasure it was to hear the Royal Opera House orchestra playing well for the ballet after such poor performances earlier in the season. This is how it should be all the time — from the Royal Ballet we expect no less.

Acosta and Osipova

Acosta and Osipova

As we slowly moved into the emotional heart of the drama, Thomas Whitehead made a robustly passionate Hilarion, and Acosta an engagingly passionate Albrecht, with Deirdre Chapman and Christina Arestis excellent as the mother and the Duke’s daughter. Osipova as Giselle herself appeared to float through the air, expressing such happiness in her glorious partnering with Acosta that her final madness and death scene became all the more gripping.

In Act II, Hikaru Kobayashi as Queen of the Wilis glided across stage on invisible well-oiled castors, and when Giselle herself finally appeared she was a sylph, spinning and jumping like nothing on earth. From her first appearance to her final disappearance into the ground behind the cross that marks her grave this was nothing but a spirit, yet exhibiting an immaculate classical line whenever visible to the audience.

After Kobayashi marshalled her forces of the night, they were ready for the necromantic visits of the young men, and Whitehead’s Hilarion produced wonderful turns and a splendid show of power and exhaustion — such a pity Giselle cannot love him. The man she loves she protects, but even he has to turn and jump, and Acosta did so with death-defying precision, producing some superb entrechats-six.


This was a Giselle to be treasured for future reminiscences, not simply because of the excellent ensemble work, solos, characterization, and orchestral playing, but because Osipova’s performance was truly mesmerising.

There will be a live cinema relay featuring Osipova and Acosta on January 27, and performances with various casts continue until February 10 — for details click here.

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