The Royal Ballet: Giselle Review

Heap’s singular technique and exquisite fury as the Queen of the Wilis was enthralling.

The Royal Ballet’s Friday night opening of Sir Peter Wright’s Giselle was marred by the revelation that Natalia Osipova was once again forced to withdraw due to injury less than a month after returning to the Royal Opera House stage.

Sarah Lamb acted as a replacement once more for the Russian star – having previously replaced her as Juliet last autumn.  She paired Matthew Golding (Principal) during his debut as Albrecht in this production of the renowned classic.

Giselle is a coveted role and a task to perform – demanding both shimmering technique and artistic grandeur.  Giselle enters as a young girl, falls in love, is betrayed and dies of a broken heart or, as Wright would rather, by killing herself with Albrecht’s sword – and that’s only Act I.  In Act II, Giselle returns as a Wili and protects Albrecht from her new peers from dancing to his death.

Personally, I do not favour Lamb in classical roles – her American background makes her far greater in contemporary ballets.  Her Giselle, though musically inclined and technically satisfying, lacks the force needed to fill the theatre.  Throughout she seems to hold back, her jumps never truly leaving the floor – something particularly necessary for Act II’s ghostly grandeur.  There were several moment’s when I found myself thinking ‘Ah what a treat these jumps would be if it were Natalia.’

However, her mad scene and death must be given due credit.  Lamb admitted to me that she spends ample time thinking of the iconic scene and it does not go unnoticed.  Here, she is far more theatrical than she led on to believe before.

As Albrecht, Golding is no more satisfying.  In Act I he seems lost – though a sudden change of partner would be enough to throw anyone off.  Though his elevation is incredible (a reason he is probably so often paired with Osipova), he fails to make a mark.  In Act II, while the Wilis are making him dance to his death, Golding takes off in a series of entrechat six and his port de bras (carriage of the arms) is quite odd – something between first and second, but not quite and very muddled above his fast-beating feet.

While Lamb and Golding may not have been my preferred choices for the role, Artist Tierney Heap struck gold as Myrtha.  Her singular technique and exquisite fury as the Queen of the Wilis was enthralling through Act II.

Another brilliant casting were the pas de six of Act I which showcased First Soloists Alexander Campbell, Yuhui Choe and Francesca Hayward and Soloists Luca Acri, Yasmine Naghdi and Marcelino Sambé.

As the Wilis in Act II, the female corps were spectacular – it is a thrill to hear all the dancers take off and land as one, to hear them hop in unison.

Giselle will run until 15 April 2016. For tickets and further details visit the website of the Royal Opera House.

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