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Ballet Review, June 2010

If you’re going to make changes in a classic ballet, why just fuss with it, as most adapters do, seldom improving on the original, rather than going all out and making it your own, as MathewBourne did with Swan Lake or Mats Ek with Giselle, as seen in this film of Ek’s well-known 1982 version. One may not like it, but it’s Ek’s vision from the start. Motivation is minimal, with no supernatural and no confusion about Albrecht’s identity.Giselle is a working class barefoot hoyden on a farm that raises large eggs, so I’m not even clear why smooth Albrecht and tougher Hilarion care so much for her. Act 2, is famously set in a mad house, with Myrtha as the matron and theWilis the other inmates. I don’t even know just what happens to Albrecht here, for it all may be his dream.Clearly, though, that’s not the point; you either like this version or you don’t.Certainly the dancers are totally committed to it.

The film, which uses Richard Bonynge’s recording of the score, was made in 1987 with the original principals and is typical of television films. It seldom shows the full stage, focusing instead on close views of the dancers, showing the movement rather than the trajectory and sometimes cutting away to minor figures or details. The notes explain Ek’s intentions.

Gramophone, February 2010

Mats Ek’s Giselle should be approached with caution. A pioneering piece of revisionism, first performed by the Stockholm-based Cullberg Ballet in 1982, it caused a sensation and subsequently became deeply influential on a younger generation of choreographic rebels…seeking something more psychologically realistic and erotically overt than the classic texts allowed.

This Giselle is no simpering village maiden but a pathetic halfwit, living in a crazy world defined by cartoon-style settings. Instead of dying and joining the crew of ghostly Wilis in long white tuille skirts and pointe shoes, she is sent to a madhouse where the cool city slicker Albrecht remorsefully visits her only to end up being stripped stark naked by the inmates.

With committed performances from Ana Laguna and Luc Bouy in the leading roles, it’s all very gripping…Richard Bonynge’s familiar Decca recording of Adam’s delightful score provides the soundtrack.

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