Spirited Siberian ballet

An unseasonably warm February evening in Ipswich saw a tremendously warm reception for the returning Siberian ballet company. Their opening performance (they are due to perform the perennial favourites “Swan Lake” and “Nutcracker” later in their three day stay) was Giselle, one of the oldest of the 19th Century ballets.

Giselle, The Russian State Ballet of Siberia, Regent Theatre, Ipswich, February 23 2012.

Giselle may be some 170 years old, but its themes of love and death, betrayal and forgiveness are as universal now as then. It also provides two of the most demanding roles for a ballerina and a male dancer, and it was in this ballet that the legendary Margot Fonteyn first danced with Rudolf Nureyev almost exactly 50 years ago.

The company is at its very best in this production. The staging is simple and effective, with attractive costumes, the performances from the leading dancers are strong, and the jilted brides (the Wilis) who haunt the forest in the second act – a whole corps de ballet of white-gowned Miss Havershams - are pretty much pin-perfect in their precise formations.

Tiny, sylph-like Anna Aulle made a beautiful Giselle. Totally secure in her technique, she created a truly believable character, from the sweet-natured, fragile peasant girl driven to madness by her lover’s betrayal, to the soulful, otherworldly apparition of the second act. This was a performance that could easily stand comparison with some of the most famous interpreters of this role.

As Albrecht, Giselle’s feckless lover, Dmitry Sobolevsky partnered Aulle with great sensitivity, and showed fine elevation in his solos – one leap off stage seemed to reach halfway up the proscenium arch. This is a young dancer with an undoubtedly promising future.

Excellent support was provided by Ekaterina Bulgutova as an icy, imperious Myrtha, Queen of the Wilis (another young dancer whose steely technique shows much promise) and Ivan Karnaukhov as poor Hans the forester. I always feel sorry for this character, he clearly loves Giselle, but his only reward for exposing Albrecht’s duplicity, is being forced to dance to his death by the Wilis.

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Another bonus was the playing by the sizeable orchestra, under the direction of Alexander Yudasin, of Adolphe Adam’s attractive and, at the time, ground-breaking score, especially the gorgeous flute playing.


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