Giselle premiere at Astana Opera is just days away
NUR-SULTAN. KAZINFORM - The Astana Opera is undergoing final preparations for the premiere of Adolphe Adam's ballet Giselle. The legend, retold by Heinrich Heine, stirs the audience's hearts for almost two centuries now. Fantastical spirits - the Wilis, Giselle, soaring at a height of five meters, impeccable choreography, and sets, hand-painted by Italian artists, make the Astana Opera's production truly unique, the opera house's press office informs.
The premiere will take place with the support of the Ministry of Culture and Sports of the Republic of Kazakhstan on June 14, 15 and 19.
The final touches are being perfected in the ballet studios: corps de ballet dancers - ghostly brides - the Wilis, who died before they married, spin in an almost weightless dance, and the performers of Giselle and Albrecht's parts dance the more passionately and faster the more they feel that the hour they had for dancing expires...
The production team is comprised of legendary figures: the Ballet Master is the People's Artist of Russia Altynai Asylmuratova, eminent contemporary Set Designer Ezio Frigerio, the Academy Award-winning Costume Designer Franca Squarciapino. Music Director and Conductor - Arman Urazgaliyev.
Altynai Asylmuratova knows all the intricacies of this ballet. After all, she danced Giselle at different international venues, ranging from the Mariinsky Theatre in Russia to the Royal Ballet in the United Kingdom. Her portrayal of the protagonist remains a benchmark even today.
"I was predicted a different range of characters, for example, I was viewed as the protagonist in La Bayadère, Don Quixote, Le Corsaire, but I dreamed of performing Giselle since childhood. Thanks to my teacher Olga Moiseeva, who happily responded to my desire to dance this ballet and gave me a chance to prove myself. When I was 18 years old, my Giselle was completely different from when I was 25 or 35. Outlook on life changes, you reconsider your attitude towards your characters, you grow professionally, which is all very interesting. Furthermore, a lot depends on who you dance with," Ms. Asylmuratova says. "Aigerim Beketayeva and Bakhtiyar Adamzhan are announced in the playbill for the first performance day. They are very organic, musical dancers. Aigerim's form is very suitable for the part of Giselle, and we have already done the pas de deux from the second act in the gala ballet programs, so it should be easier for her. The most important thing is to also do the first act so that she lives in this role. Aliya Tanykpayeva is an experienced dancer, despite which she came earlier to work longer on all the details of the production. It impresses me a lot, as it means that she is a true professional."
Assistant Ballet Masters - the Honoured Artist of Russia Konstantin Zaklinsky and Elena Sherstneva rehearse in the studios with the dancers for 8-9 hours, because everything must be perfect at the premiere.
"Everything is done brilliantly in this ballet. It is believed that the first in the list of top ballets is Giselle, and after that Swan Lake. This is a classical art gem, in which the drama is that after being deceived Giselle goes insane and dies. However, it is interesting that a pleasant feeling that the main character loves even after her death, remains at the end of the performance. Protecting Albrecht, she saves him from death. This is the power of love, which makes this ballet the best of the entire classical repertoire," the Honored Artist of Russia Konstantin Zaklinsky noted.
Vivid Colours of the Ballet Giselle
The outstanding figures of art Ezio Frigerio and Franca Squarciapino created for the Astana Opera many wonderful productions that have no analogues in the world. The list of their awards is very long, and each year it continues to grow. Wherever they work, the designers' talent finds true recognition. Their work is appreciated by the entire artistic and musical world. Recently, the masters received the Medalla de Oro al mérito en las Bellas Artes in Spain.
It is curious that the couple did many ballet productions together, and 40 years ago Giselle was one of the productions in which Franca Squarciapino then worked as an assistant to Ezio Frigerio. Thus, during over 40 years of collaborative work, this creative couple has gained tremendous experience and knowledge, which they generously share today with the Astana Opera.
"The design rendering of the production is 90% pictorial art. This is one of the most difficult categories in theatrical production. The painstaking process of hand painting has always been highly valued in the world, therefore the ballet Giselle turned out to be very beautiful, especially in terms of painting, which was made for us by world-class experts. The plethora of high theatre painters is, unfortunately, becoming smaller and smaller, but we managed to collaborate fruitfully with them, including Renato Rinaldi, who created fairytale-fantasy paintings of houses and soft scenery in accordance with Ezio Frigerio's sketches. I hope the capital's audience will appreciate their work. It is also important that such a rich palette of colours does not exist in any other opera houses," Victor Carare, Deputy Director for Design and Production, said.
Separate rigid set elements are motorized, operating on a remote control. Thanks to complex devices, the cross on Giselle's grave will rotate, but the technical findings do not end there: the craftsmen constructed a mechanism allowing the main character to fly at a height of 5 meters from the left wing to the right. In addition, Giselle's large-scale house, which is 6 meters high, is impressive. In order to make it convenient to move, the specialists have mounted small wheels in its base.
Not only the magnificent sets, but also the costumes by the Academy Award winner Franca Squarciapino will delight the audience.
"162 costumes were made for this ballet. We were looking for natural, 'breathable' fabrics for skirts and corsets, so that the dancers would be comfortable. These are silk, cotton, linen, taffeta, and all of them are in different colors: yellow, red, green, orange, white, blue, etc. It took 4 meters of fabric to make one skirt layer, and there are about 5 such layers in one costume. Despite this, the costumes did not become heavy. Franca Squarciapino chose almost weightless fabrics, so that the ballerinas could flit around in them onstage," Assistant Costume Designer Anna Verde said.
The costumes' cut reflects the 18th century era. For the Principal Dancers, they are much more complex, because they have a lot of hand-made details, for example, ribbon and trim finishes, appliqués, and beadwork.
"We will not deviate from the classics; the entire production is designed as if you were watching the original several centuries ago. Of course, the structure of fabrics, colours - all this corresponds with today's reality, but the spirit of that era is conveyed with absolute precision. All the costumes are like children to us, we painstakingly work on each and every one of them. For example, the corset for Giselle's costume is almost a work of art; it is all hand-made, with a huge amount of small details and decor. However, each outfit has its own characteristics, first of all, it concerns the play of colours, which Franca Squarciapino loves to use so much in her works," Anna Verde concluded.
The production turned out to be very interesting for the Prop Shop craftsmen as well. They have already filled the baskets intended for Giselle's friends who work in the vineyard, with grapes. The prop masters consider the hunting scene the most colourful and, at the same time, difficult work. They needed to make realistic-looking stuffed falcons, pheasants, partridges, ducks, fallow deer and hares. Here the master sticks a feather to a feather, which is not just a laborious process, it is also very important to create a uniform colour of plumage.
There are many nature images in this production, thus, it is rich in various kinds of wildflowers, including a daisy, from which Giselle will tear off petals. The prop masters will be repairing them after every performance. A tree branch must also break, but here the craftsmen used a latch mechanism to make it reusable.
On the Way to Perfection
Every ballerina strives to perform Giselle perfectly, but not everyone can show her special, heartfelt life. The theme of love - treason - forgiveness is understandable to everyone and three dancers will be conveying it to the audience: Aigerim Beketayeva, Aliya Tanykpayeva and Anastasia Zaklinskaya.
Principal Dancer of the Astana Opera Aigerim Beketayeva has the gift of a romantic dancer. The young performer has won the audience's recognition in many countries, portraying such characters of 'poetic' heroines.
"It is a great honour and joy for me to prepare this part with Altynai Asylmuratova. This is not an easy role, but this makes it more interesting, because you need to convey two completely different characters, different states of mind: the love and happiness of a peasant girl and a Wili. The second act is a lot more difficult technically, it is necessary to show weightlessness, airiness in it, and the acting skills are important in the first act. In the madness scene, I try to let everything flow through myself, relying on my personal experiences and emotions. I would like the viewers to live the story of Giselle with me, to believe me. When I was preparing for this part, Altynai Asylmuratova advised me not to look at other performers, but to search for my own understanding, sense of this character, to feel Giselle's personality myself," Aigerim Beketayeva said.
"Probably every ballerina wants to perform the ballet Giselle, and I am no exception. It attracts me with its depth, psychology and the opportunity to interpret the character by using acting skills. The situation in which my heroine finds herself is also typical in today's time. The entire tragedy likely lies only in the fact that Giselle is a girl with a delicate psyche who is not capable of surviving deception and betrayal. The world in which she lives is far from reality, and when a collision with a harsh reality occurs, she 'breaks down', going insane. At this moment I feel very sorry for her. I will be leading a classical performance for the first time, I realize the great responsibility that lies with me, and at the same time I consider it a great test. It seems to me that it is impossible to characterize and describe Giselle in a specific way, since this is a really complex romantic-dramatic part, and her portrayal is individual for every dancer. I am grateful to my partner Olzhas Tarlanov, who introduces me to this production," Anastasia Zaklinskaya shared.
Much in this ballet depends on the performer of the male part of Albrecht. The ballet masters see him not as an insidious seducer, but as genuinely enthralled by the peasant girl Giselle.
"You can work on Albrecht's part for a long time. I am sure that even after the premiere, I will find nuances and colours to add to it. In the first act, the Duke's mannerisms and gestures resemble a spoiled boy who wants to get everything right now, my hero does not like to wait, does not know the word 'no'. At first he plays with Giselle, and only later he realizes that he has feelings for her. Fluctuations of his emotions, his mood - everything must be conveyed to the audience, and it is really difficult. Since Albrecht is a Duke, he has a distinctive demeanor and deportment, which is reflected in the choreography: turnout of the legs, classical steps, clean and precise lines. It should be noted that this style is complicated, but not new to me. In the second act, we are faced with a different task: it is necessary to convey the atmosphere of the afterlife," Bakhtiyar Adamzhan noted.
Romantic Ballet Music
Adolphe Adam's music is not just a rhythmic accompaniment to the dances: it is distinguished by its spirituality and poetic nature, and it also creates a mood, outlines the characters and the continuous musical action.
"The famous pas de deux and adagio from the second act are often performed in concert programs, as is the viola solo, which is invariably a success among viewers. All the music of this ballet is permeated with romantic melodies inspired by the spirit of that time. I see this music only with the stage action. All the main characters are written in the music very clearly, everything that is written in the libretto is illustrated: whether it is the story of Giselle and Albrecht or the cold Myrtha. The wonderfully inserted pas de deux from the first act is spellbinding in its beauty. It is not known whether it was in the ballet originally or whether it was a written fragment. Ballet music was not especially favored in the 19th century, and the composers who wrote it were often in the second or even third place when compared with operatic or symphonic composers. Previously, the soloists boldly demanded their own variations from the conductor, and separate music was created for them. Melodies were often taken from operas, a huge number of which were written at that time. At times they did not last even one performance, but were rich in beautiful melodies that were arranged, instrumented and used as ballet music," Music Director and Conductor Arman Urazgaliyev said.
"The remarkable storyline of this ballet attracted enormous public attention. It was skillfully formed and reworked by librettists. In the second fantastical act, a bell appears in the musical section. It strikes 12 times, creating mystical atmosphere of the night. The music itself sets up the mood for the listeners to cross over from the real life into the world of the Wilis. In terms of musical imagery, Giselle is a simple peasant girl, and she is characterized by simple melodies, saturated with colours. As for the male part of Albrecht, in the first act, we understand from the music that he is a high-society gentleman. Taking into account ballet nuances, this is reflected both in his rhythm and in his variations. I think no one will remain indifferent to the beautiful romance - Albrecht's late repentance. The hero comes to Giselle's grave, and at this moment the oboe plays amazingly, and its beauty is not inferior to symphonic works," the Music Director concluded.
The unique harmony of the touching plot and its choreographic manifestation made the fate of Giselle extremely successful. There is no doubt that this ballet will also be of great interest to the capital's audience.