Ah, Giselle. It had been decades since I last saw this most famous of full length ballets. Additionally, I had never seen The Joffrey Ballet perform one of the great romantic ballets. I was not disappointed by this walk down memory lane coupled with a new Joffrey experience. It’s hard to go wrong when performing in the majestic, acoustically perfect theatre that is the Auditorium. I also had the pleasure of introducing a Northwestern Univeristy theatre major to both the venue and the ballet and it’s always a treat to introduce someone to the things I love.
The orchestra, led by Scott Peck, was a wonderful partner to Lola de Avila’s staging of the Marius Petipa original from 1841. And although the piece is over a hundred fifty years old, Giselle illustrates the youthful passion of the human spirit in a time of heightened anxiety and uncertainty.
A ballet in two acts, Giselle begins with the unfolding of a tragic story of deception and manipulated love. When the curtain rises, the cottage of Giselle is seen stage right, while opposite is the cottage of Duke Albrecht. Albrecht comes to the village in disguise before his marriage to Bathilde, the daughter of the Prince of Courland. Albrecht flirts with Giselle, who falls madly in love with him. Hilarion is also in love with Giselle and warns her against him, but she refuses to listen. Once Giselle discovers Albrecht’s true identity, Giselle dies of a broken heart.
Act Two begins near Giselle’s grave on the night she’s laid to rest. We are introduced to the Wilis, the spirits of women jilted before their wedding who seek revenge on men by dancing them to death. Albrecht appears and begs for Giselle’s forgiveness. Her love undiminished even in death, Giselle does. Hilarion enters, pursued by the Wilis, who throw him to his death in a nearby lake. The Wilis then surround Albrecht and sentence him to death. As they attempt to dance Albrecht to exhaustion, Giselle protects him. Day breaks and the Wilis retreat to their graves. Giselle’s love has saved Albrecht. By not falling to the Wilis and their feelings of revenge and hatred, Giselle is also freed and returns to her grave to rest in peace.
The casting was spot on. The exquisite Victoria Jaiani performed the iconic role of Giselle with great restraint and stunning amplitude. Temur Suluashvili’s Albrecht was noble, romantic and dashing, everything an Albrecht should be. The soloists and corps were also in fine, synchronized form, and I was delighted to see that members of the Joffrey Studio Company and Joffrey Academy were given the opportunity to perform in a Joffrey Premiere. The scenic and costume design, imagined by Peter Farmer, were classically detailed and in perfect harmony with the staging and choreography. Michael Mazzola’s lighting design also stood out, especially when the curtain first rises on Act I and the stage left streams of light can only be described as heavenly. I left the theatre on a warm, breezy October night, happily reacquainted with Giselle and looking forward to more classics from The Joffrey.
Tickets and Schedule
The Joffrey Ballet is performing Giselle October 18–29, 2017; the full performance schedule is as follows:
Wednesday, Oct. 18 at 7:30pm, Friday, Oct. 20 at 7:30pm, Saturday, Oct. 21 at 2:00pm and 7:30pm, Sunday, Oct. 22 at 2:00pm, Thursday, Oct. 26 at 7:30pm, Friday, Oct. 27 at 7:30pm, Saturday, Oct. 28 at 2:00pm and 7:30pm, Sunday, Oct. 29 at 2:00pm
Single tickets range from $34 – $174 and are available for purchase at The Joffrey Ballet’s official Box Office located in the lobby of Joffrey Tower, 10 E. Randolph Street, as well as the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University Box Office, by telephone at 312.386.8905, or online at Joffrey Ballet website.
About The Joffrey Ballet
Classically trained to the highest standards, The Joffrey Ballet expresses a unique, inclusive perspective on dance, proudly reflecting the diversity of America with its company, audiences, and repertoire which includes major story ballets, reconstructions of masterpieces and contemporary works.
Founded by visionary teacher Robert Joffrey in 1956, guided by celebrated choreographer Gerald Arpino from 1988 until 2007, The Joffrey Ballet continues to thrive under internationally renowned Artistic Director Ashley Wheater and Executive Director Greg Cameron.