Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Marcelo, Marcelo, Marcelo!

So much has already been written about Friday night’s performance of American Ballet Theatre’s Giselle that I hesitate to add my small voice to the cheers, but I was so moved by the experience I can’t help but proceed anyway.

So, let me start at the beginning. Before Friday night, I had seen Diana Vishneva only a few times before in my many years of ABT - in ballets such as Sylvia (with Ethan Stiefel), in On The Dnieper (with Jose Manuel Carreno), and several times last season in Thais (with Jared Matthews). This season, I’m seeing her twice - in Giselle and Lady of the Camellias - and honestly I had bought both tickets to see Gomes. I had heard, though, that Vishneva is fantastic in both. As for her Giselle, the hype did not let me down.

And, if Marcelo Gomes wasn’t already my favorite dancer, he surely would be after this performance. His acting, technique and performance soared beyond my own expectations.... I came away saying “I knew he was great, but I had no idea he could do THAT!”
Act I

I’ve seen Giselle at least three times by ABT in recent years, twice with Julie Kent and once with Natalia Osipova, and once this winter by the Mariinsky at the Kennedy Center with Lopatkina. As much as I loved each of those performances, Vishneva’s Act I Giselle is the first time I really connected with the character and the love story. Vishneva’s Giselle was more lively, and less shy, than the others I’ve seen, and this worked perfectly with the masculine and loving Albrecht that Gomes embodied. I believed them entirely - they were young people enjoying the day and the dance, and not dancers merely telling a story to get us to the drama of Act II. Of course, this did make Vishneva’s mad scene all the more jarring - Kent’s shyer version seems to die more naturally - but Gomes’ reaction to her death matched her emotion and kept the scene credible. Gennadi Saveliev’s Hillarion was also the most likable portrayal I’ve seen - the first I’ve really empathized with. His Hillarion was as sweet and justifiably hurt as his Tybalt is threatening. I think he really helped to make Act I just as important as the famous scene that follows. Of course it helps that physically he is a good match for Gomes.

On a technical level - Vishneva’s turns and hops were flirty and precise and perfectly in character. Gomes had more lightness and energy than I’d seen from him last year and the height and extension of some of his jumps should have tipped me off for what I was about to see in Act II. Jared Matthews and Maria Riccetto gave a lovely and confident peasant pas de deux; I can’t wait to see their Coppelia even more. Kristi Boone also gave a more sympathetic and mature performance of the princess than I’d seen her do in the past - I thoroughly enjoyed it.

By intermission the audience was buzzing and the energy in the opera house was the opposite of Wednesday night during the repertory program.

Act II

The beginning of Act II seemed somehow different to me; perhaps because I was sitting dead center in the orchestra this year - I’m not sure. The power of Saveliev preparing the cross for Giselle’s grave really set the stage for the entire act to come. Gomes’ emotion was clear and honest from the minute he stepped back on to the stage. But the real moment was Vishneva’s entrance. She was no longer a ballerina but a spirit - her eyes never meeting ours but staring right through us. Her Giselle was not the internal one many ballerinas play. Even the moments when she and Gomes touch, it’s as if she wasn’t really there. The two huge lifts, reminiscent of Alessandra Ferri and Roberto Bolle in Ferri’s last Manon, were ENORMOUS and as if Albrecht was lifting something truly lighter than air.

Vishneva’s technical mastery of Act II has already been covered by Haglund and countless other reviewers, so I will limit myself to saying I agree whole heartedly. I believed she was dancing to protect her Albrecht and that he was in real danger. As for Gomes, I’m still really in awe of what I witnessed. I have always loved his dancing for the energy he puts into it, and the fact that he always dances inside the music itself - but his entrechat six Friday night - I had NO idea he had that kind of height and precision in him so near the end of a ballet. Whether he has been conditioning in the “off season” or whether the emotion of the night took him to a new level I don’t know. But it was truly one of the most glorious expressions of human capability that I’ve ever seen. I’m simply inspired and humbled.

In short, Friday's Giselle made me believe. Like Ferri’s Manon, and her last Romeo and Juliet. Like Kent’s Act I Cinderella. Simply breathtaking.

Next up is Vishneva and Gomes again, in Lady of the Camellias. Last year I saw both Kent/Bolle and Dvorovenko/Stearns. I’ve heard that Vishneva and Gomes combine the best of both of those performances into something entirely their own. I’m looking forward to it!

**On one less positive note, I still sadly do not understand what people like about Veronika Part’s dancing. Her port de bras seemed continually awkward as did several of her head positions. My friend (a former professional ballerina) and I got no energy from her at all as Myrtha. Yuriko Kajiya’s and Isabella Boylston’s solos were much more precise and haunting - Kajiya in particular had some beautiful and strong lines that made us wonder if perhaps she should have been dancing Myrtha. The willis were lovely as usual - though I did notice one girl repeatedly out of synch which threw me a little.

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