Giselle, Royal Ballet, ROH, Covent Garden, February 2016

For the opening night in this new run of Giselle, Sarah Lamb took over the title role at short notice from Natalia Osipova and delivered a flawless performance. Her emotional energy and light, floating steps in Act I portrayed the slightly out-of-this world girl she represents before her beautifully executed mad scene, and in Act II her gossamer light dancing well depicted the sylph she has become, albeit one determined to save her lover Albrecht.

Sarah Lamb as Giselle, ROH image/ Bill Cooper

Sarah Lamb as Giselle, ROH image/ Bill Cooper

As Albrecht himself, this was Matthew Golding’s role debut and after a somewhat nervous start in Act I, he made a very fine Act II partner, his solo turns beautifully executed. As his failed rival Hilarion, Thomas Whitehead showed superb rustic assertion in Act I, and robust and anguished dancing in Act II as the wilis condemn him to death. Tierney Heap as their queen was a picture of cold precision and command, a striking contrast to Giselle’s achingly gentle femininity.

Mad scene, ROH/ Bill Cooper

Mad scene, ROH/ Bill Cooper

In Act I the mime between Giselle and Albrecht was beautifully performed, and Kristin McNally as Giselle’s mother delivered her marvellous mime sequence describing the legend of the wilis, spirits of jilted young girls who kill any man daring to approach their unhallowed burial ground in the forest. As Albrecht’s real fiancée, daughter of the Duke of Courland (a district in modern Latvia), Christina Arestis displayed the superiority and cold beauty of which Albrecht has evidently tired, preferring to share the simpler pleasures of the rustic villagers.

Golding, ROH/ Tristram Kenton

Golding as Albrecht, ROH/ Tristram Kenton

The dancing in this country world was sheer delight with a marvellous pas-de-six headed by Yuhui Choe and Alexander Campbell, along with well-matched synchronicity from boys Marcelino Sambé and Luca Acri, and girls Francesca Hayward and Yasmine Naghdi. Wonderful joy and sadness from the corps de ballet in Act I, with well-disciplined performances from the girls as heartless wilis in Act II. All very well conducted by Barry Wordsworth with the orchestra on top form in this simple but beautifully evocative music by Aldolphe Adam.

Performances with various casts continue until April 15, with a live cinema relay on April 6 — for details click here.

Leave a Comment