Ai-Gul Gaisina’s production was first staged by Houston Ballet in only 2011, yet came across as way too yesteryear.
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There’s something about Giselle. Two men adore her in this romantic love triangle set to lush, if repetitive music by Adolphe Adam. Hilarion the woodsman is one. Protective and aware of Giselle’s frail condition, he becomes enraged when she falls for Prince Albrecht disguised as a fellow worker.

Giselle’s happiness soars as she dances with this handsome stranger and falls in love. Her tendency to express her feeling through dance worries her Mother, who is afraid her daughter’s weak heart won’t cope and she will die.

When Hilarion discovers that Prince Albrecht is two timing Giselle, he blows the whistle. The heartbroken Giselle goes into shock, emotionally shattered. Not long after she dies.

The role of Giselle is challenging, as the soloist must be a good actress as well as a gifted ballerina. Rachael Walsh succeeds on both counts and is charming in the role. Her descent into sudden madness has pathos and her dancing compels.

There’s plenty happening in the first act, yet, there were untidy edges, tiny gaffs in ensemble and some mistiming. The entire cast seemed in need of an emergency shot of theatrical energy. Most, with the exception of Walsh and Meng Ningning, were awkward in the mime sequences. Stager and Producer Ai-Gul Gaisina’s production was first staged by Houston Ballet in only 2011, yet came across as way too yesteryear.

Peter Cazalet’s set, especially in Act 1, underwhelms. The costumes were unflattering to the men and women and somehow succeeded in making Queensland Ballet’s gorgeously trim dancers look a little clunky. In the beautiful white act after interval, with rewarding luminous lighting design by Ben Hughes, the ballerinas looked like 1950’s brides in lemony frocks with unyielding corsets and stiff skirts.

Nevertheless, perhaps because Marius Pitipa’s choreography after Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot, is better in the second half, all were deeply engaged and the corps de ballet danced with beautiful precision with stunning glissades, elegant arabesques and pirouettes. It was like a different production.

The spectral scene with supernatural themes captured the imagination. The wild Slavonic ‘wilis’ – bride wraiths betrayed by their fiancées on their wedding days- seek to extract revenge by making their formerly betrothed dance until they die.

Giselle’s pas de deux with Albrecht is lithe and full of charm with Matthew Lawrence delivering multiple and extraordinarily accomplished entrechat in which he appeared to jump repeatedly a metre in the air.

Hurray for live music and long may this continue, except that, the impressive Camerata of St Johns was uncharacteristically flawed here and there under Anthony Mogrelia’s direction on Saturday night.

Rating: 3 stars out of 5


Queensland Ballet

Produced and staged by Ai-Gul Gaisina

Choreography: Maruis Petipa, after Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot

Libretto: Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges and Théophile Gautier

Music: Adolphe Adam

Conductor: Andrew Mogrelia

Set and Costume Design: Based on original designs by Peter Cazalet

Lighting Design: Ben Hughes


Playhouse, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

22 June – 6 July


Gillian Wills
About the Author
Gillian Wills writes for ArtsHub and has published with Griffith Review, The Australian Book Review, The Australian, Limelight Magazine, Courier Mail, Townsville Bulletin, The Strad, Musical Opinion, Cut Common, Loudmouth, Artist Profile and Australian Stage Online. Gillian is the author of Elvis and Me: How a world-weary musician and a broken ex-racehorse rescued each other (Finch Publishing) which was released in the UK, Canada, New Zealand and America in January, 2016.