Staging and Additional Choreography
deborahjones.me 29 December 2015
Writing on dance, musical theatre, theatre and opera in Sydney … mostly
Thrills and spills: the year in dance
Coppélia, choreographed by Maina Gielgud for Christine Walsh’s Australian Conservatoire of Ballet, Melbourne, December 1,8 2015
There was quite a lot of new choreography and loads of rearranging but basically Gielgud’s production was a staging rather than a new work. But what a beauty. It was hard to believe this was a student production, so high were its standards. The young dancers were not just technically assured, they gave terrifically engaged and engaging performances, working seamlessly with the delightful guest artists from Tokyo Ballet, Maria Kawatani and Arata Miyagawa. Christine Walsh designed the many costumes, all of them splendid.
18 December 2015 (evening), Hamer Hall, Victorian Arts Centre, Melbourne
What a wonderful surprise this performance was! The venue was interesting—Hamer Hall is basically a venue for concerts and so the performance space is without a proscenium arch. But the unusual space was used thoughtfully and little of the theatricality that is achieved with a proscenium-style theatre was lost.
This Coppélia was staged by Maina Gielgud especially for the Australian Conservatoire of Ballet, a training establishment led by former Australian Ballet dancers Christine Walsh and Ricardo Ella. Gielgud had added some choreography and had made some changes in order to accommodate her cast, including giving Swanilda (Swanhilda in this production) a little sister called Elysia, adding two extra friends for Swanilda and, with fewer male dancers than might be available in a company, rearranging some dances slightly. Gielgud also re-imagined somewhat the character of Dr Coppélius having him make two swans, a spider, a caterpillar and other creatures, which we saw in his workshop in Act II, in addition to his ultimate creation, the doll Coppélia. Otherwise the ballet ran as we have come to expect.
Coppélia’s friends in rehearsal, Australian Conservatoire of Ballet, 2015
But this was no ordinary school production. The dancers had been beautifully trained, thoroughly rehearsed and looked like professionals. It was a thrill to see such a sense of engagement among the cast throughout the show, which of course transfers across into the auditorium and gives the audience a sense of engagement as well. And this theatricality began early with a wonderful performance of the Act I Mazurka. This was not one of those staid renditions that we often see. This was real character dancing with bodies bending, faces beaming with pleasure, and steps being performed strongly. And the same can be said of the Czardas that followed later in the act
Two guest artists from Tokyo Ballet, Maria Kawantani and Arata Miyagawa, took the leading roles. Both were beautiful dancers but, in particular, Miyagawa as Franz was technically superb. Everything was so cleanly executed. His double tours were done with such perfection in the body and feet (and amazing landings in a perfectly placed demi-plié), but they also soared upwards in a way that made me gasp. Then there were the manèges of various steps, the pirouettes, his partnering—he was just brilliant. But more than that, he too had that sense of engagement with everything and everyone on stage. I just loved the way he blew kisses across the stage to Swanilda as she was about to start a variation in Act III.
Another standout performer was the young girl, Hana Glasgow-Palmer, who played Swanilda’s little sister. Too young yet to be part of the Conservatoire’s professional training program, she nevertheless gave the role real character. Her outstanding stage presence and, again, that ability to engage, augurs well for her future. I also especially enjoyed Prayer, danced calmly and serenely by Victoria Norris. But every dancer contributed beautifully to this performance and, quite honestly, in a number of ways it outshone many a professional show I have seen.
The music was played by the Australian Conservatoire of Ballet Orchestra, with some musicians seated on a dais upstage, others above the stage space. The orchestra was led by conductor Peter Tandy and there were times when the music gave me goose bumps, again something I don’t normally feel when listening to orchestral accompaniments at the ballet.
This Coppélia was a significant achievement for all concerned.
Production and staging
Ballet review: The Australian Ballet's Giselle is stunning
Myrtha (Ako Kondo),centre, and the Wilis in the second act of "Giselle". Photo: Jeff Busby
Music by Adolphe Adam. Production by Maina Gielgud. Choreography by Marius Petipa, Jean Coralli, Jules Perrot. The Australian Ballet with the Canberra Symphony Orchestra. Canberra Theatre. Until May 26.
Giselle is one of the great works of the balletic repertoire. Its story of love, betrayal and forgiveness needs powerful acting as well as exceptional dancing, and its romantic heritage (it was first performed in Paris in 1841) requires that its two acts be very different from each other. The first act, showing village life at harvest time, is grounded in reality; the second, set in a ghostly forest clearing at midnight, is just the opposite. The opening night of the Australian Ballet's Canberra season of Giselle ticked all the boxes and was nothing short of stunning.
In the leading roles of the peasant girl Giselle, and Albrecht, the man Giselle loves, Lana Jones and Adam Bull danced exceptionally well, both together and in their respective solos. The relationship between them unfolded beautifully throughout Act I. Then, when Albrecht's true identity was revealed – he is not the peasant he seems to be but a Count in disguise – Jones brought compelling dramatic force to her mental collapse. Bull played Albrecht as a man genuinely in love and, although he could not deny his aristocratic lineage when confronted with it, we felt his anguish as he faced Giselle's onstage death.
By Act II Giselle, as prefigured in Act I, has become a Wili and rises from the grave to join others like her who have been betrayed in love. They prey upon men who enter their domain at night and, at the command of Myrtha, their Queen, condemn them to dance until they die. Jones and Bull again showed their exceptional technical skills but also consistently stayed in character. Their first encounter, after Albrecht had entered the forest to mourn at Giselle's grave, was a moving one. Jones drifted past Bull as an apparition whom he could not catch. As the act progressed we felt Bull's desperation as he obeyed the command to keep dancing, and we felt Jones' all-consuming love as she pleaded that he be saved.
As Myrtha, Ako Kondo was superb. She was, as ever, technically assured. But she also brought just the right imperious quality to her performance. No one could escape her cold-heartedness.
Hilarion, the rough and untutored gamekeeper also in love with Giselle, was strongly danced by Andrew Killian. His role in unmasking Albrecht in Act I is crucial and Killian made his every move and thought unmistakably clear.
The peasant pas de deux, a highlight of Act I, was danced by Miwako Kubota and Christopher Rodgers-Wilson. They made a charming couple, both in their dancing and in the way they engaged with each other, and with us in the auditorium. Natasha Kusen and Robyn Hendricks also caught my eye for their lyrical performance as the leading Wilis in Act II.
Although the size of the Canberra stage caused one or two difficult moments, the dancers of the Australian Ballet performed as the true professionals they are. It was a wonderful Giselle, beautifully danced, thoroughly engaging, and dramatically convincing throughout.
SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
Australian Ballet bids Madeleine Eastoe farewell at her peak in triumphant Gielgud production
April 3, 2015
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Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Madeleine Eastoe bows out of the Australian Ballet
Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House, April 2
Done well, Giselle is probably the greatest ballet in any classical company's repertoire. Its drama of love, betrayal, madness, death and life preserved on a knife edge is succinctly played out in the ethereal beauty of romanticism cut through by slices of realism.
Giselle can be powerful theatre, and it is in Maina Gielgud's revival of her 1986 production which has launched the Australian Ballet's 2015 season in Sydney. It's a wrenchingly portrayed, beautifully danced presentation that maintains - or could revive - your faith in the future of ballet without updates, this being the 19th century choreography of Marius Petipa, Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot.
Gielgud's eye for detail and her ability as a producer, a skill honed when she was the AB's artistic director, gives the production top-to-toe quality that should be on view throughout its run, with different casts in the principal roles.
However, opening night was a special occasion because Madeleine Eastoe has chosen Giselle as her retirement role with the company. And she plays it for all it's worth: a tremulous peasant girl swept off her feet by a sophisticated stranger who turns out to be a two-timing nobleman. She dies in grief, but not before she goes mad, recalling with heart-breaking clarity each step of her joy and how it was soured.
She then joins the vengeful ghosts of jilted BRIDES in the forest as a mature woman who defends her beloved betrayer long enough to save him. Eastoe's portrayal is an emotional journey in which every changing aspect is believable. She has always been a strong actress; now, as she ends her stage career, her technique and ability to convey meaning through body language are at their peak. I am sorry to see her go.
As the philandering Count Albrecht, Kevin Jackson is notable not only for his stylish dancing and attentive partnering, but also for his acting, which is so much better than in Swan Lake only a few weeks ago. Their pas de deux - shy to joyful in Act I, virtuosic and desperate with an aura of intimacy in Act II - are distinctively characterised and eloquently danced.
Supporting roles are also well drawn and precisely performed. Andrew Killian's vigorous Hilarion is a rough diamond worthy of sympathy. The peasant pas de deux, performed by Ako Kondo and Chengwu Guo is a delightful highlight. Dimity Azoury is an imperious Myrtha with a great jump. Olga Tamara is a poignant mother, Rudy Hawkes a deservedly anxious manservant.
The corps de ballet is in top form: vivacious and communicative in Act I, softly synchronised in Act II. Peter Farmer's traditional designs, lit by Francis Croese to William Akers' original plan, look good. Adolphe Adam's music gets melodious treatment from the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra, conducted by Nicolette Fraillon.
Well done indeed.
Until April 22
Australian Ballet’s Giselle a brilliant farewell for Madeleine Eastoe
THE DAILY TELEGRAPH
APRIL 03, 2015 1:12PM
Madeleine Eastoe and Kevin Jackson are stunning in Eastoe’s farewell performance. Picture
Madeleine Eastoe and Kevin Jackson are stunning in Eastoe’s farewell performance. Picture: Jeff Busby
Giselle has always been one of my favourite ballets.
There’s love, passion, betrayal, tragedy and one of the best forms of revenge ever seen on stage — the ghosts of women jilted at the altar forcing their unfaithful fiances to dance to their deaths. What could possibly ever beat a plot like that?
And with the latest production of The Australian Ballet, not much at all.
This is an absolutely seamless Giselle, danced with vivacity, gut-wrenching emotion and a skill so crisp, it slides a knife straight into the heart.
Madeleine Eastoe, in the title role on opening night, performs with a such a gossamer lightness and stylish self-assurance, it’s as if she was born for this role. Indeed, she possibly was.
It’s the one with which she began her career as a principal artist with the company ... and now it’s the one with which she’ll end it, having announced she’ll retire after her last performance as Giselle in July this year in Adelaide.
But before she does, this provides a spectacular showcase to farewell one of the most gifted ballerinas Australia has ever produced.
As the innocent peasant maid who falls in love with a nobleman disguised as villager, her joyful dancing lifts the heart. As a woman plunged into despair by the knowledge that he’s betrothed to another, her fragility then breaks our hearts — as well as hers.
The forest scenes are a joy to behold.
And finally, in the forest, where her own spirit rises to join those of the other betrayed women, her performance becomes almost ethereal as she pleads for her former lover to be spared.
As that treacherous nobleman Count Albrecht, Kevin Jackson is a commanding presence on stage. His incredible extended series of entrechat-six in Act 2 — when he leaps into the air and crosses his feet over each other no fewer than six times — drew gasps from the audience.
This is a very classical, yet updated, production from former artistic director Maina Gielgud, whose first Giselle was in 1986. It’s quite stunning in its form and simplicity, and those scenes in the woods are so delicate and wraithlike and otherworldly, and danced with such rigorous synchronicity, they’re a joy to behold.
A special mention also to Ako Kondo and Chengwu Guo whose peasant pas de deux in the first Act make the stage fairly crackle with electricity.
Overall, this Giselle is a beauty. And the sadness with which we watch Madeleine Eastoe take her final bows is tempered by the pleasure she’s given us over the years, and with this, her stunning finale.
Sydney Opera House; until April 22, australianballet.com.au
Erik Bruhn Production staged by Maina Gielgud
Opera di Roma:”La Sylphide”
Roma, Teatro dell’Opera, Stagione di Opere eBalletti 2012 2013
Balletto in due atti
Coreografia di Erik Bruhn da August Bournonville, ripresa da Maina Gielgud
Musica di Hermann Severin von Løvenskjold
La Sylphide ALESSIA GAY
James ALESSIO REZZA
Madge ALESSANDRO TIBURZI
Gun ANTONELLO MASTRANGELO
Effie CRISTINA MIRIGLIANO
Una Sylphide ANNALISA CIANCI
Due Sylphidi ERIKA GAUDENZI, REBECCA BIANCHI
Orchestra e corpo di ballo del Teatro dell’Opera di Roma
Direttore David Garforth
Scene Michele Della Cioppa
Costumi Shizuko Omachi
Luci Mario De Amicis
Allestimento del Teatro dell’Opera
Roma 31 Maggio 2013
Una Compagnia veramente in forma, brillante e precisa ci regala un bel pomeriggio all’Opera in stile Ottocento. Silfidi, sogno, amore terreno, amore ideale, magia, morte; è La Sylphide. Vedere Bournonville è sempre una gioia. Ma non solo. È anche un tuffo nel passato, un viaggio con la macchina del tempo. Auguste Bournonville rappresenta l’unico vero solido legame con la coreografia del balletto romantico, con il tempo di August Vestris, con la grande era del virtuosismo maschile e della leggerezza aerea di danzatrici come Maria Taglioni o Fanny Elssler.. La Sylphide, come parte dell’opera di Auguste, grazie ai suoi discendenti che maniacalmente l’hanno conservata e tramandata nel piccolo paese scandinavo arriva a noi quasi intatta come il grande danese l’aveva pensata e creata nel 1836. Se poi la versione è così bella, “moderna” come quella del raffinato e indimenticato Erik Bruhn il gioco è fatto.
Danza, mimica e recitazione, scrive Maina Gielgud, già Direttrice del Royal Danish Ballet e curatrice della versione Bruhn, vivono di un equilibrio perfetto, rendono fruibile ed emozionante un capolavoro assoluto della dans romantica. Certamente la Gielgud ha saputo trasmettere Il bellissimo e prezioso “stile ” alla Compagnia. Prima fra tutti Alessia Gay è stata una Sylphide deliziosa, precisa, misurata in ogni elemento tecnico e stilistico, con una padronanza e sicurezza invidiabili. Alessia Incarna i principi di questo difficilissimo stile in cui il virtuosismo non è nel gesto eclatante semmai nella dinamica, in quell’idea di “mai finito”, fluidità, facilità e assenza di sforzo. Il suo Aplomb impressiona, le sue punte inchiodano il pavimento, si arcuano e fissano la posa fin quando la musica non decide, nello sbalzo disegnano nell’aria percorsi precisi, veloci, mirabolanti. La magia è tutta lì . Con la sua naturalezza infonde grazia alle bellissime e complesse legazioni, il suo port de bras ammalia, il suo sorriso delicato accompagna le vispe traversie di spirito innamorato fino all’epilogo drammatico.
Alessio Rezza invece racconta il suo James con eleganza, recitazione chiara, espressiva, senza vezzi inutili e con un finale emozionante. La sua è un interpretazione “matura” ,notevole. E poi che dire del piano tecnico: grande elevazione, vigore sorprendente, energia e precisione. Le bellissime legazioni in kilt sono esplosive ma portate con grande eleganza e facilità, I suoi entrechatscome i suoi tours en l’air sono sospesi in aria e conclusi senza sforzo in quinte inchiodate, le sue pirouettes sono precise e musicali. Insomma come è bella questa coppia Gay-Rezza, pure coadiuvata da un corpo di ballo curato nei movimenti, danzante, preciso e coinvolgente nella danza scozzese del primo atto, plastico nelle pose pittoriche del secondo atto. Un plauso anche ad Antonello Mastrangelo vivace Gun e ad AlessandroTiburzi coinvolgente ed inquietante Madge. Bella ed energica l’esecuzione dell’orchestra diretta da David Garforth, come il raffinato allestimento scenico di Michele della Cioppa. Unica nota debole la presenza di un pubblico non folto. Sarà l’orario pomeridiano in un giorno lavorativo? In effetti sembra una strana scelta questa del venerdì alle 18.00 soprattutto per questa coppia che merita il pubblico delle grandi occasioni e vigorosi applausi. Foto Lelli e Masotti
Maina Gielgud Production and staging
Review: 'Giselle' excels by leaps, bounds
Houston Ballet digs deep to reach new level of artistry
11:52 PM CDT on Monday, June 13, 2005
By CHRISTIE TAYLOR / Special Contributor to The Dallas Morning News
HOUSTON – If only being in love came with a set of instructions as clear as those given to the dancers in Houston Ballet's Giselle. Maina Gielgud, the company's artistic associate, coached them in one of today's finest interpretations of the Romantic ballet, originally choreographed in 1841 and now performed by companies throughout the world.
So many classical ballets rely on pantomime and elaborate costumes to buoy the action, which can often distract from the dancing. Ms. Gielgud refrains from that, instead insisting that the dancers pull the story out from their souls until they become sophisticated actors tapping deeply into the human experience. Her coaching brought out a new level of artistry in the company.
The dancers responded beautifully on Saturday night, transforming the story of an innocent girl who falls in love, goes mad and dies into a timeless story that Houston Ballet is lucky to have in its repertoire. Leticia Oliveira as a young, carefree Giselle used her huge, expressive eyes and hummingbird-quick footwork to develop her character. Ms. Oliveira has long excelled as one of Houston Ballet's best technicians, but never before has she been so spellbinding to watch.
Zdenek Konvalina also danced convincingly as Albrecht so that when it came time for him to die of exhaustion in Act II, it looked like he might actually do so. His legs worked like a remarkable combination of steel and elastic, whipping off multiple turns and jumps, then collapsing to the floor like a lover whose spirit had been stolen. Throughout the ballet, the corps provided finely tuned support, with Kelly Myernick as a terrifying Myrtha.
Performance reviewed was Saturday.
June 10, 2005, 2:28PM
Giselle is a moving masterpiece
By MOLLY GLENTZER
Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle
With her Giselle, Houston Ballet artistic associate Maina Gielgud makes a swell case for keeping classical ballet tradition pure and alive.
Created in 1986 for the Australian Ballet, this production is a museum piece in the best sense, as enjoyable to see as any "still" masterpiece hanging on a gallery wall. Gielgud sidesteps the melodramatic overtones Giselle often acquires today. Her Act 1 is full of foreshadowing, but not heavy — focused more on human frailty than fear of vengeful Wilis in the woods. Her peasant heroine clearly has a bad ticker, so it makes sense that she won't survive the betrayal of her lover, the disguised Prince Albrecht, who's been slumming it.
And Gielgud's Act 2 might have been lifted straight from a 19th-century lithograph, its romantic styling is that pristine.
Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot's 1841 original and Marius Petipa's later tweaking couldn't have been any more sublime than the Houston Ballet's delicate, sympathetic rendering of the ballet fantastique, which opened Thursday.Mireille Hassenboehler danced with delectably subtle body language, not at all the same dancer who was first thrown into the Giselle lead on a few days' notice in 2001. She was sweetly innocent in Act 1. Her mad scene was intriguingly understated, more dazed than wild. No flinging or flaying needed.
She was unmistakably dead in Act 2. Her just-so tilted head, forward-leaning torso and weightless footwork were part of the magic. But her gaze, emptier than a mile-deep pit, also mesmerized. Avoiding eye contact with the still-breathing Albrecht as well as her sister Wilis, she was in her own world.
Hassenboehler was nicely paired with Andrew Murphy, whose refined Albrecht was also a joy to watch. The slow burn of his remorse was palpable, and balanced with elegant lightness — oh, those arched feet in the blazing entrechats.
The Best of Us
Houston Ballet struts its stuff in "Rock, Roll & Tutus"
By Marene Gustin
SUITE EN BLANC
Published: Thursday, March 3, 2005
And for those needing their tutu fix, HB throws in Serge Lifar's 1943 abstract classical work Suite en Blanc. This is a company premiere of the Paris Opéra Ballet leader's work, and here the coaching of Houston's new artistic associate Maina Gielgud shines through like starlight. This celebrated ballerina brings a clarity of line and sense of control to the company's classical work that has been missing in the past. Suite en Blanc is a big ensemble piece with dancers in white tutus and tights. It focuses on crystalline classical movement. Five years ago, I wouldn't have thought the company capable of a piece like this, yet they hold more than their own this time. In fact, the entire evening is a snapshot of where the company has arrived, talent-wise. From the dazzling solos to the corps work, Houston Ballet members seem secure in this rep, whether they're dancing contemporary, rock and roll or classical.
HOUSTON CHRONICLE ARCHIVES
Paper: HOUSTON CHRONICLE
Date: SAT 02/26/05
Ballet rocks with Rachmaninoff
By MOLLY GLENTZER
………………………………………..They take chances, and it's exciting to watch.
The title suggests an evening of contrasts, but it's the parallels in Stanton Welch's new Nosotros and Serge Lifar's 1943 Suite en Blanc that surprise. The ballets are structurally similar and plotless, demanding extreme virtuosity.
……………………………. Yet Suite en Blanc is a glorious, full-classical white tutu-fest, …….
Lifar's layered imagery, with tableaux of corps dancers who `float' upstage on risers, has the power to make even ardent story ballet-lovers swoon. As geometrically balanced as classical architecture, Suite en Blanc pays stylistic homage - in brief snatches of movement - to Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty and Giselle. But it's more pizazzy. Think of Serenade on steroids.
Still performed in Europe, the ballet is rarely seen in the United States. I'm betting it will become a signature tour piece for Houston Ballet.
The last great male star of Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, Lifar led the Paris Opéra Ballet for about 30 years, as a premier danseur from 1929 to 1944 and director from 1947 to 1958. He drew Suite en Blanc 's music from Édouard Lalo's 1882 two-act story ballet Namouna, scrapping Lucien Petipa's silly plot but keeping its curiously named section titles.
The utterly charming Leticia Oliveira, in the Flute solo, perfectly personified the music; her effortless fouettés dazzled, too. Mireille Hassenboehler was marvelously relaxed in the Cigarette solo. Zdenek Konvalina flew with powerful, expressive grace through the Mazurka solo. The men, in general, are fearlessly airborne these days.