Giselle ballet. Music by Adolphe Adam revised by Joseph Horovitz. Libretto by Théophile Gautier and Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges. Choreography by Marius Petipa after Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot. Directed 2014 by Sir Peter Wright at the Royal Opera House. Stars Natalia Osipova (Giselle), Carlos Acosta (Count Albrecht), Thomas Whitehead (Hilarion), Deirdre Chapman (Berthe), Johannes Stepanek (Wilfred, Albrecht's Squire), Christopher Saunders (Duke of Courland), Christina Arestes (Bathilde, Courland's daughter), Alastair Marriott (Leader of the Hunt), Hikaru Kobayashi (Myrtha, Queen of the Wilis), Elisabeth Harrod (Moyna, Myrtha's attendant), Akane Takada (Zulme, Myrtha's attendant). Pas de Six danced by Yuhui Choe, Valentino Zucchetti, Francesca Hayward, Luca Acri, Yasmine Naghdi, and Marcelino Sambé). Boris Gruzin conducts the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House (Concert Master Peter Manning). Designs by John Macfarlane; lighting by Jennifer Tipton recreated by David Finn; staging by Christopher Carr; directed for screen by Ross MacGibbon. Released 2014, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: A
This is the same production that was performed by the Royal Opera Ballet at the Royal Opera House in 2006 and published by Opus Arte in 2009. Why did Opus Arte (which belongs to the ROH) do a new Blu-ray of this? The stars in 2006 have mostly retired and how there's a new stable of dancers. My guess is that ROH management wanted to support its current dancers by giving them a change to shine in a new video of this famous ballet. What has changed in 8 years? Many small details have changed, and we will point out a few in our screenshots. And, of course, a fabulous performance by one star can have a big impact on the desirability of a disc.
So which version should you buy now, the 2006 performance or the 2014? And is the better of these choices as good as the venerable Giselle from the Paris Opera Ballet that was first published in 2009? We will try to answer these questions with the help of our screenshots. (By the way, in this review, I'll assume you already know the Giselle story. If you don't know the story, read some of our other Giselle reviews where we go into the story.)
Natalia Osipova is the new Giselle. Osipova has it all: beauty, acting skill, and incredible dancing ability. Her star is still rising. She did an amazing job in The Flames of Paris at the Bolshoi and in Notre-Dame de Paris at la Scala. Now it appears she has been recruited to give the ROB a female super-star (that they had trouble developing themselves). Carlos Acosta is the new Albrecht. He has had an astonishing career with more than 10 credits for Blu-rays reported on this website. (Go to the Search tool to see all this.) But he is fast approaching retirement, and his star is now setting into the western seas of choreography and ballet management. Here we see Giselle and Albrecht falling in love. Note how pretty the costumes are even in close-up:
If you will compare the next three screenshots below to the screenshots for the 2006 Royal Opera Ballet disc, you will see that Peter Wright brightened up the set a lot for his update. This in turn makes it much easier for the cameramen to get great high-resolution video images. Wright was no doubt encouraged to do this by the folks at Opus Arte:
Deirdre Chapman is the new Berthe, shown here explaining how the Wilis kill the young men they capture in the forest (the crossed wrists stand for "death"):
In 2006, the Royal Opera Ballet was good at creating a convincing story with careful personal direction of the dancers in the crowd scenes. But Wright reorganized these scenes (especially with the appearance of the royals) and made the directing even better. Everyone on stage received detailed instructions for every move and expression for each second of the drama. The result is a marvelous fusion of the arts of ballet, stage drama, and movie-making. Here Osipova is so fetching acting the role of the shy, innocent village girl. Christopher Saunders is the new Duke and Christina Arestes the new Bathilde, both impressive in their efforts to politely ingratiate themselves with the peasants:
Wright lets Giselle show off her 32 one-foot hops especially to the royal visitors, which helps explain why Bathilde was so charmed by Giselle. Note the joy on Giselle's face: