The Tokyo Ballet’s romantic, tragic and haunting Giselle is spectacular. It looks and sounds magnificent. It is the story of a charming and naïve peasant girl with a weak heart, who attracts the attention of a woodsman, Hilarian and a count in disguise, Albrecht. Giselle falls for the latter, but humiliated, the former vows revenge. That comes when Hilarian exposes Albrecht’s true identity, while Giselle discovers that the count is engaged to marry a princess. The consequences are devastating, with ghostly visions plaguing both Hilarian and Albrecht.
Sensationally choreographed by Leonid Lavrovsky, I was awe-struck by the beauty and reverence at the heart of the ballet. Akira Akiyama radiates in the lead, as she all but glides across the stage. I could not have been more impressed by her commitment to her craft. There is an ethereal quality about her, which is perfectly in keeping with the second act. Yasuomi Akimoto is outstanding as her opposite number. His power, dynamism and dancing prowess are inspiring. He has star quality about him.
Among the many highlights of Giselle is the precision and skill of the corps de ballet, as fine as I have had the good fortune to witness. Emotion-charged, the attention to detail in The Tokyo Ballet’s work is breathtaking. Nicola Benois’ sets – autumn leaves, evergreen trees and wooden cottages in Act I and an eerie graveyard amidst a forest setting in Act II – are redolent. Her costuming in the first act is characterised by a surfeit of rich colours and pastel costuming, while pristine white is the standout in the second.
Takashi Kitamura’s lighting elevates the spectacle, the spark, the sizzle and the drama. The music is sublime. Adolphe Adam’s score is superbly realised by Orchestra Victoria, under the baton of Benjamin Pope. Presented by The Australian Ballet, it is wonderful to see The Tokyo Ballet come to our shores with such an outstanding and memorable production. It will long live in my memory. With two 55-minute acts and a 20-minute interval, Giselle is playing at State Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne until 22nd July, 2023.
Other reviews you might enjoy:
- Instruments of Dance (The Australian Ballet) – theatre review
- Identity (The Australian Ballet) – ballet and dance review
- Swan Lake (United Ukrainian Ballet) – ballet review
Alex First is a Melbourne based journalist and communications specialist. He contributes to The Blurb on film and theatre.