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Rob Maynard
MusicWeb International, April 2012

ADAM, A.: Giselle (La Scala Ballet, 2005) (NTSC) 107289
ADAM, A.: Giselle (Paris Opera Ballet, 2006) (Blu-ray, Full-HD) 108049

Three cheers for Arthaus Musik! Even in these straitened times the company continues to keep balletomanes happy, on this occasion issuing rival Milan and Paris versions of the favourite old warhorse Giselle—though I’ve no doubt that the company assumes, quite rightly, that true fans will want both versions anyway.

The appeal of the slightly earlier La Scala performance lies undoubtedly in its two über-charismatic stars, Bolle and Zakharova. After the earlier release of their fabulous Milan La Bayadère (TDK DVWW-BLLBSC), this Giselle will doubtless consolidate their reputation even further among collectors of ballet on DVD.

Bolle’s physical strength…together with his self-evident emotional sensitivity to a role, enable him to dance the role of Albrecht to perfection. In acting the role, too, he has a striking technique whereby his eyes appear to look, but to see nothing—especially useful when conveying the prince’s moral shortcomings in Act 1 and his visual inadequacy in the supernatural episodes of Act 2.

Bolle’s partner here, Svetlana Zakharova, certainly matches him when it comes to being both easy on the eye and accomplished as a dancer. From a technical point of view, her performance is virtually flawless.

Milan’s other dancers are generally well cast and technically very proficient. Vittorio D’Amato’s Hilarion looks suitably nasty when required… Apart from a somewhat fumbled clasping of hands, Act 1’s pas de deux peasants, Sophie Sarrote and Antonio Sutera, made an especially positive impression. Lesser roles are invariably well danced and the corps de ballet, whether impersonating rather too well dressed peasants in Act 1 or cruel man-hating wilis in Act 2, are fine.

I was very taken with Tina Protasoni’s direction for TV and video. Camera angles are invariably well chosen and occasionally rather imaginative. There is a striking shot where Hilarion, with massive malevolence and triumph in his expression, presents Albrecht with the sword that is proof of the latter’s nobility. There are, in fact, rather more facial close-ups than one finds in many other ballet recordings. That can be a danger if the performers are hammy or are over-mugging to reach the back stalls, but those dangers are successfully avoided here and I thought that the close-ups added considerably to the on-stage drama.

Having enjoyed the Milan Giselle so much, I had doubted that the Paris version would top it. But, in many respects, I was to be proved enjoyably wrong.

The one obvious area where the French production cannot compete, at least in some respects, is in its lead performers. Bolle and Zakharova simply radiate star quality as personalities

The Paris set is quite similar to Milan’s, even to the extent that the quite convincing village huts of Act 1 look somewhat out of place against a more impressionistic backdrop. Paris’s Act 2 set is, however, preferable in that it has rather more atmospheric detail on display at the rear. The beautiful Act 2 lighting—all finely graded shades of grey so that you often feel that you are watching a “black and white” recording—is also far more atmospheric than Milan’s.

François Roussillon’s direction for TV and video is also first rate. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

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