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Review, 6-16: Adios, Julio
At ABT, an Albrecht's Last Dances
Copyright 2006 Gus Solomons jr
NEW YORK -- When the
peasant maiden Giselle dies at the end of Act I in American Ballet
Theatre's version of the perennial classic -- which opened for a
week's run on Monday -- it's from a congenital heart condition,
aggravated by the stress of unfulfilled love for Count Albrecht,
who captures her heart, disguised as a peasant, Loys. Her secret
admirer Hilarion (in Monday's cast, Gennadi Saveliev), the village
huntsman uncovers Albrecht's deception, and Giselle's excitement
at being chosen Queen of the Wine Festival compounded by the devastation
of learning that her love can't be consummated causes her to succumb
to her fragility. This scenario is more dramatically convincing
than older versions of the Jules Perrot/Jean Coralli classic (book
by Vernoy de Saint-Georges, Theophile Gautier, and Coralli), where
Giselle seems to go suddenly, strangely mad and die of a "broken
Artistic director Kevin
McKenzie strives to reanimate the classics by heightening their
dramatic plausibility. He also casts each ballet with three sets
of principals, insuring depth of quality. The only shortcoming of
the opening night cast of "Giselle" -- and it was a minor lapse
at that -- was in the title role. Xiomara Reyes is the perfect size
to be partnered by Julio Bocca -- who is dancing his swan song with
ABT this season -- and she's capable of the technical demands of
the strenuous part. But as an actress, she really hasn't the gravitas
for the role.
When in Act I Giselle
realizes Albrecht is lost, she stands motionless for a long time,
absorbing the shock. Such a moment, swathed in Adolphe Adam's dramatic
music, should embody all the mental anguish she's feeling, but Reyes
doesn't have the force of presence to keep the moment from looking
"directed" rather than emotionally inevitable. In Act II, her entreaty
to Myrta, Queen of the Wilis (Gillian Murphy), to spare Albrecht
from his sentence of dancing himself to death for invading their
sanctuary is not altogether convincing.
Murphy, however, as
Myrta gives her customary technically flawless rendition, but she
is also dramatically riveting as a fairy not to be trifled with,
guarding her flock of Wilis -- young women who died before losing
their virginity. Her presence is so commanding that when she's onstage,
she rules the scene, along with Stella Abrera and Veronika Part
as Moyna and Zulma, her two adjutants.
Murphy's kinetic attack
has post-modern release quality, as she virtually dives into a series
of rocking side to side extensions; yet she remains classically
precise. And she shows sophisticated musical phrasing doing a series
of piqué turns that accelerate to outpace the tempo of the
music at their peak, and then subside into a breathtakingly controlled
multiple pirouette and serene finish.
As a "danseur noble,"
Bocca eschews bravura in favor of technical precision, finesse,
and truthful dance acting. As Albrecht, he is buoyantly youthful
and passionate, yet regal. His masterful partnering gives Giselle
the requisite weightlessness of a spirit, and his variations shimmer
with refined grace and expressive power. He is leaving ABT at the
top of his game.
The production lived
up to the high standards the troupe brings to the Metropolitan Opera
House. (Would that they had a home of their own!) Gianni Quaranta's
lush but unobtrusive foliage became a natural halo-like frame around
the dancing, lighted with her customary magic by Jennifer Tipton,
who made costume designer Anna Anni's pristine white tutus luminescent,
while keeping the surrounding atmosphere mysteriously obscure.
Conductor David LaMarche
set a brisk pace for the Act I peasant dances, pushing the petite
allegro of the stellar corps to its limits and giving the folksy
tombé pas de bourrée steps an exciting brio. He was
also enormously sensitive to the phrasing and tempos of Reyes in
Giselle's Act II variations, ebbing and flowing with her every breath,
carrying the first-rate orchestra with him. And the female corps
de ballet deserves special praise in Act II for its faultless unison,
arrow-straight lines, and perfectly symmetric formations.
Julio Bocca and this
cast dance "Giselle" again tonight at the Metropolitan Opera House.