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BWW Review: GISELLE, Royal Opera House

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Sir Peter Wright's classic production returns to the Royal Opera House.

BWW Review: GISELLE, Royal Opera House BWW Review: GISELLE, Royal Opera House Sir Peter Wright's Giselle is one of the Royal Ballet's most recognisable productions and offers the most coveted of roles for any ballerina. But it is Natalia Osipova who treats opening night audiences to her take on the role - and what a captivating and very complete experience it is.

In Act I as a peasant girl, she sparkles with innocence as she falls so brutally in love with Reece Clarke's witty and likeable Albrecht before being cruelly jilted. The mad scene can feel jarring and unrealistic but her turmoil is tangible so much does she live Giselle's heartbreak.

As her eerie spirit is summoned in Act II, she is inspired in the many "big" moments. There's the ridiculously elongated developpé that brings her foot level with her head with a serene calmness, and a presage lift that brings about a bit more jeopardy on this opening night. Planned or not, it's all a gripping watch as she combines fearless attack with softness and musicality.

You'd be forgiven for thinking this was the Osipova show but the evening features an enjoyable debut from Reece Clarke as Albrecht. An unnatural pairing, there is about a foot in height difference between them, but they nonetheless enjoy a lively chemistry, Clarke is particularly charismatic in his flirtation with Giselle at the beginning of Act I.

Physically, there is great variance in how they dance the choreography and there is a lack of romantic chemistry but a great deal of trust and well-timed moments to showcase Clarke's attentive partnering. He is another fine technician in the Royal's ranks (the entrechats in Act II are breathtaking), but Osipova dazzles to such an extent, we occasionally lose his safe and competent portrayal in face of the depth and nuance in his partner's.

As we head to the forest in Act II, the ghostly Wilis' are drilled to perfection, managing the demanding holds in arabesque and those energy-sapping hops across the stage whilst retaining their ethereal composure. Ballet Mistress Samantha Raine has done an incredible job at synchronising this corps de ballet in one of the most challenging classical roles. (The streaming of the rehearsal from World Ballet Day is well worth catching and will give you a newfound appreciation for this exhausting role.)

Mayara Magri offers up a stone-cold Queen of the Wilis' in her debut as Myrtha. Magri is impressive, her upper body exuding the regality necessary with able support on hand from Claire Clavert and Melissa Hamilton - who are equally assured as Moyna and Zulme, respectively. Magri, similarly to Osipova, dances with a softness but there is solid technique at play that allows her to float across the stage so effortlessly whilst remaining authoritative.

There are notable supporting performances that make this Giselle so complete and satisfying. Elizabeth McGorian displays tenderness and pride as Giselle's mother Berthe. Christina Arestis shines as Bathilde, whose disdain for village life is understated but cutting. Above all, it's a delight to see the boundless energy of Luca Acri and the return of Yuhui Choe as the pair take centre stage in the charming pas de six in Act I.

This run of Giselle features many other great interpreters of the role, including Marianela Nunez and Sarah Lamb, but the thrill of this opening night performance and the full spectrum of emotions displayed from Natalia Osipova mean it will linger in the memory for a long time to come.

Giselle is at the Royal Opera House until 3 December

Image: Alice Pennefather


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