Classic ballet a class act

Giselle, music by Adolph Adam, the Russian State Ballet of Siberia, Regent Theatre Ipswich, Friday 26th February 2010

Giselle, music by Adolph Adam, the Russian State Ballet of Siberia, Regent Theatre Ipswich, Friday 26th February

IF last night's ice-cold easterly winds didn't make the members of this wonderful ballet company from Siberia feel at home, then the warm welcome from the packed audience at the Ipswich Regent certainly should have.

The Russian State Ballet of Siberia have built up a strong Suffolk following in the four or so years they have been touring the UK with their attractive and largely traditional productions of the ballet classics. In Ipswich they opened their three day visit with Giselle, a Romantic ballet originally performed in France and pre-dating the great Russian creations such as Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty by several decades.

For all its age, the plot of Giselle, set in medieval Rhineland, has some surprisingly up to date overtones. It is a tale about class divisions, and class has never been more topical, while the supernatural goings on in the second half are very much in the Twilight and Vampire Diaries mode.

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Sweet and innocent peasant girl, Giselle, has fallen in love with a handsome newcomer to the village called Loys. Hans the forester, himself in love with Giselle, thinks this stranger is up to no good, and he's right, because Loys is really Count Albrecht, a local princeling. Giselle's mother has her suspicions, too. “You shouldn't be dancing with him, you don't know anything about him, and besides, you've got a bad heart,” she mimes. This being a 19th Century ballet, there's quite a lot of miming.

Albrecht is soon rumbled, and confesses to being engaged to a glamorous countess. Heartbroken at her lover's deception, Giselle goes mad and dies. In Act Two, a repentant Albrecht is attacked by the vengeful Willis, the white clad spirits of jilted brides, but saved from death by the love of a forgiving Giselle, whose ghost rises from her unconsecrated forest grave to protect him.

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That this ballet has survived for almost one and three quarter centuries is down to the famous central role, one of the most important challenges for any ballerina, and in Anna Aulle the Siberian ballet are lucky to have a dancer of world-class standing. With her gamine, Audrey Hepburn looks and an exquisite technique, perfectly suited to the choreography which demands an ethereal, otherworldly quality, she made a beautiful Giselle.

As Albrecht, Yuri Vyskubenko partnered sensitively and did his best to generate some sympathy for the cad. As for poor Hans, Valery Guklenkov went defiantly and athletically, if unfairly, to his death at the hands of the Willis. Anna Germizeeva was an implacable Queen of the Willis.

Sergei Bubrov's production is conventional, but one that brought out the high drama at the end of Act One. The pretty sets and costumes accentuated the romantic atmosphere, although the lack of space at the Regent meant that the cross marking Giselle's grave had to be set so far into the wings it must have been invisible to much of the audience. Adam's charming score was well played by the Russian State Ballet Orchestra under Anatoly Tchepurnoi.


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