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Washington Ballet returns to its new and improved 'Giselle' at the Warner

Eun Won Lee and Gian Carlo Perez in the Washington Ballet's Giselle (xmb Photography)

In some ways the Julie Kent era at Washington Ballet began with Giselle, the big classical story ballet on her first season in 2017. After two years of pandemic struggles, the company has brought back its artistic director's production of this romantic ghost story, described by Kent as "revised and refined," this time at the Warner Theater instead of the Kennedy Center's slightly larger Eisenhower Theater. The venue change brought with it some box office woes, as delays in picking up tickets delayed the start of the performance by a half-hour, problems that can hopefully be prevented going forward.
Other Reviews:

Sarah L. Kaufman, Washington Ballet’s ‘Giselle’ brims with charm and musical delights (Washington Post, April 29)

Other Productions:
American Ballet Theater (2020)
Bolshoi (2014)
Ballet de l'Opéra de Paris (2012)
Mariinsky (2011)

Eun Won Lee, the Korean étoile who came to Washington to dance for Kent, remained remarkable in the title role. She was equally fragile in both acts, a bubbly girl weakened by a bad heart. As one of the Wilis in the Act II ballet blanc she was less a vaporous spirit this time, it seemed, than a soul that yearned to be still corporeal, a living woman now just out of Albrecht's reach. Her Albrecht, the strong and nobly comported Gian Carlo Perez, in an admirable debut, seemed to see her but could not grasp her at first in that darkened second act.

To their credit Kent and her partner, associate artistic director Victor Barbee, have certainly captured the frightening side of the ballet's "Halloween" act. Adelaide Clauss glowered with menace in her debut as Myrtha, queen of the Wilis, the avenging spirits of wronged women. The absurdly pompous Hilarion of Oscar Sanchez, another fine debut, got his just deserts when the ghosts drove him to his agonizing death.

The most impressive debut came in the peasant dance scene in Act I, an extended pairing often used to feature rising dancers. The chipper Tamako Miyazaki danced with Rench Soriano, who joined the Washington Ballet studio company in 2019. He was compact and strong in this athletic choreography, all leg musicle and clean vertical line in his leaps. The corps bounced with fervor in the peasant scenes in Act I, changing into rigid, forbidding spirits in Act II. The surprise moment when their white veils are ripped away, pulled by strings into the wings, added to the aura of mystery.

Charles Barker, principal conductor of American Ballet Theater, returned to the pit in his ongoing collaboration with Kent. He presided over a stripped-down chamber arrangement of Adolphe Adam's score, which other than some occasional weakness in the strings (parts covered by only twelve musicians total) was remarkably effective. Nicolette Oppelt's flute and Ron Erler Fatma Daglar's oboe were highlights in the woodwinds, with fine contributions from harpist Nadia Pessoa and an ardent viola solo from Jennifer Ries in the touching Act II pas de deux. The horns and trumpets provided heraldic hunt sounds in Act I.

The Washington Ballet's Giselle runs through May 1 at the Warner Theater.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for the nice mention. The oboist playing was actually FatmaDaglar who subbed for Ron at the last moment.

Charles T. Downey said...

Thanks for the correction - so noted.