Giselle, with Osipova and Vasiliev, Mikhailovsky Ballet, London Coliseum, March 2013Posted on 27 March 2013
What a pleasure this was. I’ve not seen the Mikhailovsky Giselle before, but it’s a fine production created in 2007 by Nikita Dolgushin, with excellent designs by Vyacheslav Okunev well lit by Mikhail Mekler. And the orchestra under Valery Ovsyanikov played with huge spirit, giving a performance far better than some of his work with the Royal Ballet. The dancing on the first night was led by Osipova and Vasiliev, who were both lured away from the Bolshoi in December 2011.
Natalia Osipova as Giselle was extraordinary. Her control, her wonderful jumps with gentle unhurried beats, and above all her musicality. Every tiny movement of her body showed how she felt the music. Of course, this is how it should be, but it so rarely is and even with some of the most brilliant dancers the music may be nothing but background. Here it is the essence. Yet it should not be supposed that Ms. Osipova is merely a very musical dancer with perfect technique — she is an actress, and her death in Act I following her shock that her lover is the Count, already betrothed to another, was heartbreaking.
As the Count himself, Ivan Vasiliev also showed fine dramatic talent, so sure of himself at first, yet horribly uncertain when the Gamekeeper, who adores Giselle, summons the hunting party to unmask him. In his powerful Act II solo, as fine fortissimos from the Russian orchestral brass demanded he dance to death, he showed himself to be almost exhausted before dawn rose at stage rear and the wilis power faded. The two of them together showed her to be a mere wisp, floating in the air as he moved on the ground, and her ability to float already showed itself with her solo dancing in Act I.
The other dancers gave fine support to these two principals, with good ensemble work from the corps in Act II, and full engagement by all dancers with the action in Act I. Ekaterina Borchenko as Queen of the Wilis in Act II performed fine jetés, and her borrées as she glided around the stage were a delight. Vladimir Tsal as the Gamekeeper was wonderful in his mime and his forceful interaction with the Count, and Anna Novosyolova as a rather young looking mother of Giselle showed grief at the end of Act I reminiscent of a Lady Capulet. And in the Act I peasant pas-de-deux, Sabina Yapparova showed glorious control and her musical dancing was a delight.
Altogether a terrific performance, and though you may not get the same two principals, this is a lovely production. Beautiful costumes, and the sets give a feeling of a world beyond, with a winding road to the castle in Act I, and a moonlit stream in Act II. The performance itself shows attention to detail that seems to have been lacking in some London shows by big Russian ballet companies in recent years. A great success for the Mikhailovsky ballet.
Performances of Giselle continue until March 29, followed by Don Quixote and other productions until April 7 — for details click here.
I do not share your view of Vasiliev. I was stunned by how mediocre he is other than dashing around the stage and a few grand jetes. On the other hand Osipova was extraordnary! As was Borenchenko. Bank to Vasiliev – he doesn’t have the body of a dancer – those thighs surely must mean that a true plie is impossible. Tsal was equally disappointing – limp.
Oddly enough, I didn’t really mention his dancing, just the dramatic side of the performance. This is very much a ballet for Giselle, and to a lesser extent the Queen of the Wilis. I wonder what your opinion of him will be after Don Q, which I shall see on Sunday evening.