Giselle, The Australian Ballet

Sydney Opera House, May 1

Graeme Murphy fell ill earlier this year and was unable to complete his new ballet, The Happy Prince, in time for its premiere in Melbourne, which was to have been in March. It was then to be performed in Sydney (it is now likely to be seen in 2020). Alexei Ratmansky’s Cinderella (2013) and Maina Gielgud’s Giselle (1986) were rushed into the Melbourne and Sydney schedules respectively – safe choices and understandable ones, given both ballets were staged recently.

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Ako Kondo and Chengwu Guo in Giselle. Photo: Daniel Boud

Ako Kondo’s gentle, thistledown Giselle captivated from the moment she appeared. She seemed scarcely to touch the ground, levitated by her love for Albrecht. When she went mad she seemed even less substantial, sinking to her knees as if weightless. Kondo’s interpretation was delicately drawn and full of fine, illuminating detail – the shy, brief touching of hands with Albrecht, her quiet awe in the presence of Bathilde, the heartbreaking way in which she told Hilarion she didn’t love him, forced into a declaration her sweet soul shrank from making. Principal artist Andrew Killian is a highly experienced Hilarion who on this occasion appeared much more vulnerable than usual, a portrayal that meshed beautifully with Kondo’s approach.

She undoubtedly benefited from Leanne Benjamin’s insights. The former Royal Ballet principal artist was guest coach for this season.

As always, Olga Tamara was superb as Giselle’s mother. She is marvellous in the mime, which is the audience’s bridge from the first act to the second. It was also good to see the Peasant pas de deux pleasingly integrated into the action. It can often seem rather dull, overlong and extraneous but one felt that Jill Ogai and Marcus Morelli – Ogai in particular – were part of this community. With her natural, earthy quality Ogai would be an interesting Giselle.

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Ako Kondo and Chengwu Guo. Photo: Daniel Boud

Chengwu Guo’s Albrecht was danced gleamingly although his acting was less layered in the first act than Kondo’s. The moment when Albrecht recognises the necklace his betrothed, Bathilde, has given Giselle went for little and appeared to be completely forgotten the next second while the upstairs-downstairs relationship with his attendant, Wilfred (Timothy Coleman, excellent), was sketchily rendered. Guo was more convincing in the second act as he tenderly supported Kondo, who was entirely of the air and at one with the melting Romantic style that gives Giselle its enduring appeal.

The women of the company were entrancing as the wilis in Act II and perhaps would have been more dramatically forceful had Nicola Curry as their queen, Myrtha, registered more forcefully herself.

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The Australian Ballet in Giselle. Photo: Daniel Boud

During this season of Giselle The Australian Ballet is also performing in New York at the Joyce Theater’s Australia Festival, presenting a mixed bill from May 9-12 featuring three of TAB’s four resident choreographers. Stephen Baynes’s Unspoken Dialogues and Alice Topp’s Aurum will be joined by a new work from Tim Harbour. With part of the company out of town a handful of more junior dancers will be seen as Hilarion, Myrtha and in the Peasant pas at some performances. It’s worth scanning the casting to see who and when.

Giselle ends on May 18.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Dagmar Pidd says:

    Hello Deborah, You might remember me talking to you on many occasions mainly at the ballet including in Melbourne. The reason I am writing is that I also the performance you commented on but I would suggest that you also go to one of the performances where Brett Chynoweth and Jade Wood are dancing. I saw them on Friday and at the end I had tears coming down my cheek which has never happened in a ballet before. I know from your previous writings that you have always commented favourably on Brett and saying he should be Principal which of course he now is. Their performance was absolutely terrific particularly Brett – his technique was faultless and his acting/emotion was what did it for me. I would love to hear you comments if you were able to go. I think they still have 4 more performances before 18th May. I also have another query – is there an embargo on printing you comment as I tried to do it but it wouldn’t work. I like to include reviews etc with my cast sheets. Elisabeth Pidd

    On Fri, May 3, 2019 at 12:27 PM deborah jones: FollowSpot wrote:

    > deborahjones2012 posted: “Sydney Opera House, May 1 Graeme Murphy fell ill > earlier this year and was unable to complete his new ballet, The Happy > Prince, in time for its premiere in Melbourne, which was to have been in > March. It was then to be performed in Sydney (it is now likel” >

    1. Hi Dagmar – thanks for your comments on Brett and Jade. Really unfortunately I don’t think I will get a chance to see them but you are right in thinking I would very much like to. I will see at least one other cast and will update my post. There is no embargo on printing my comments. No idea why that wouldn’t work. Sorry!

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