Creation for Le Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève
First performance: October 2, 2012
Music: Adolphe Adam
Light Design: Patrik Bogårdh
Costume Design: Rachel Quarmby
Original Artwork: Zaria Forman
Photo: Gregory Batardon

"At its inception, Giselle was a vehicle for Théophile Gautier's ghostly fantasy of dew-drenched wilis. The attraction was the Romantic ideal of ethereal beings in gossamer gowns poised on tiptoe. However, ballerinas have always prized the dramatic opportunities the role offers, valuing the duality of the character that spans both the warm, loving peasant girl and the spiritual ideal. Swedish choreographer Pontus Lidberg has created a Giselle that still offers a powerful central role, creating a contemporary tragedy where the supernatural is replaced by Albrecht's guilt-ridden nightmares as he replays his part in Giselle’s death. Lidberg also deals effectively with the modern social leveling of ancient class structures, neatly transposing the context to modern Europe. The eponymous heroine is not from peasant stock but an immigrant, dressed in jeans, ethnic bolero and headscarf — our new underclass and a political issue high on the Swiss agenda. At the climax of Act I, Giselle sees the wedding dress she believes is meant for her, she tries it on and is wearing it when she dies. This is the image seared on Albrecht's brain, so, although in modern dress, the iconic white ballet dresses again create the magic in Act ll. The production is a combination of intelligent insight and theatrical nous that has, at its core, the Romantic ideal of doomed love and the obsession of a broken heart. The score follows the original; at times following the action so faithfully it seems almost to be written for this new version. The action is made clear through a series of monochrome video slides that indicate the setting: a staircase, the simple kitchen where the immigrant workers meet, or the grand halls and bedrooms of the rich. It is a masterly concept where every detail is considered. In Sarawanee Tanatanit, Lidberg has the perfect interpreter for his Giselle. She is high-spirited, bursting with life and in touch with every emotion. On the discovery of his deception, her pain is visceral. Like a little hunted animal, every nerve raw, she struggles to escape from Albrecht’s embrace. Damiano Artale plays the character as a wealthy, thoughtless and immature young man. His inability to understand his emotions is revealed as he stands by, a helpless onlooker as she grasps the gun from security guard Hilarion, played by Nathanael Marie, and, in the ensuing struggle, dies as the gun fires. In Act ll Albrecht has the opportunity to expiate his sins, wrestling with his conscience and finding eventual peace in the arms of his dead love. Myrtha (Madeline Wong) doubles as Giselle's mother, a suitably intimidating figure for Albrecht, although there is little of the evil undercurrent of the original. The tone of this act is predominately forgiveness and love, realized in effective choreography that is both aesthetically pleasing and dramatically valid. There is also plenty of strong dancing for the ensemble of women, in bridal frocks, and white-suited men, making a very satisfying alternative interpretation. Revising much-loved classics is a dangerous business, but this production captures the essential humanity and makes it artistically relevant, the warmth of the applause proving the audience's enthusiasm."