May 22, 2012
Upon learning that her beloved is betrothed to another, the village maiden, Giselle goes mad and turns into an ethereal Wili-- the kind that give men the willies. At the Metropolitan Opera House, Alina Cojocaru stepped into the coveted role of Giselle joined by the wildly popular Angel Corella in one of his final performances with ABT before retiring on June 28.
A dome of foliage parts to reveal a castle on a distant, manicured
hilltop overlooking the light infused countryside where villagers
prepared for the harvesting festivities. Despite fragile health, Giselle's heart is light because she loves the dashing young man who woos her through teasing games and attentive dances. Suspicious of the confident bloke who steals his girlfriend, Sascha Radetsky (Hilarion the huntsman) vows to unmask the heart-stealing nobleman, Count Albrecht, posing as a local peasnat.
Enticed by her sunny beau, Giselle opens up, her lithe body sensitively responding to the musical cues in lilting jumps and feathery, springy steps. Simple and vulnerable, shyness covers her face and carriage. In contrast, Albrecht's open face and body emphatically embrace all experiences.
Still one of the most delightful male performers, Corella's plies are
not as spongy as they once were, but his technical precision is impressive. A well matched couple, Cojocaru and Corella breeze through
the rustic, airborne dances.
After a royal party arrives revealing Albrechts’ royal roots and betrothal to another, Giselle's frail constitution dissolves. In the famous mad scene, Cojocaru simply gives up hope. She doesn't pitch herself into a cyclone of despair; instead she projects a palpable, profound loss of belief in any reason to live. It's truly heartbreaking. In response, Albrecht loses his cavalier shield and despairs at what he has wrought.
Lost to this world, Gieslle reappears in Act II as the wili who retains her compassion. The cool dark, wooded sphere is ruled by the ruthless Queen Wili Myrtha (Gillian Murphy), who is intent on keeping her domain male-free. When the despondent Hilarion and Albrecht enter wili terrain to mourn at Giselle’s grave, Myrtha takes offense.
Forced to dance nonstop, Hilarion succumbs after a series of blurry leaps and turns, but Albrecht prevails. When Cojocaru appears to protect him, air surrounds her limbs and weightless hops. But she holds back in the initial whirlpool of puffy turns--leg bent low behind he--and when slipping through a long, line of traveling hops. Her balances, however, emerge soundlessly out of motion and Corella demonstrates clean beats, uninhibited jumps and turns.
By far, the most commanding figure in the Second Act was Gillian Murphy. Her rapid-fire point pricks and robust leaps consume the stage and call everyone to attention. Incandescent in her filmy, fast bourees (tight runs on point) Myrta pumps much needed energy into the production and sea of corps dancers in white tulle.
In the end, Albrecht lives and Giselle melts into his memory.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis