We’ll keep this simple: Tulsa Ballet’s opening night performance of “Giselle,” Friday at the Tulsa PAC, was just about perfect.
“Giselle” has been challenging dancers and thrilling audiences for 178 years, with its demanding choreography and its timeless tale of romance, betrayal, death and redemption. And Tulsa Ballet’s production, staged by artistic director Marcello Angelini after the original choreography by Jules Perrot and Jean Coralli, brings all those elements together superbly.
The story “Giselle” tells is a simple one. The title character is a delicate young woman, who for some time has been courted by a mysterious visitor to her village. This visitor, Albrecht, is actually a nobleman, and when a jealous rival for Giselle’s affections reveals the secret, Giselle is so distraught by this seeming betrayal that she goes mad and dies.
When the grieving Albrecht visits Giselle’s grave, he is set upon by a ghostly gathering of Wilis – spirits of young women who have been betrayed by false lovers, and who at the bidding of their formidable leader Myrtha force these feckless fellows to dance themselves to death for their romantic perfidy.
Principal dancer Na Eun Kim danced Giselle (Madalina Stoica has the role for Saturday’s performance), and she was exquisite from her first step. She moves with such lightness and control that she truly appears to float around the stage, executing the extensive pointe work with steely grace, and imbuing the character with an aura of innocence that was captivating.
She was well matched by guest artist Hyonjun Rhee, a former Tulsa Ballet principal dancer. His partnering of her was impeccable, and his solo work had the sort of subtle bravura quality that we’ve always enjoyed in his dancing. (Arman Zazyan danced the role Saturday evening.)
As Myrtha, Sena Hidaka opened the second act with a stunning display of pointe work, at once ethereal and powerful. Chandler Proctor vigorously portrayed vengefulness and despair as Hilarion, the rival for Giselle’s affections who meets his fate at the hands of the Wilis.
The ensemble sections of ballet – the peasant celebration in Act One, and the gathering of the Wilis in Act Two – were energetic and precise. The peasant pas de quatre performed by Jaimi Cullen, Maine Kawashima, Jonnathan Ramirez and Shuhei Yoshida drew “bravos” from the audience, especially for Kawashima’s vivacious solo, Cullen handling of her pointe-intensive choreography, and Yoshida’s soaring leaps.
Principal conductor Peter Stafford Wilson led the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra in a robust, richly voiced performance of the Adolphe Adam score that was highlighted by excellent solo performances by concertmaster Rossitza Goza and principal violist Jeffery Cowen.
Les Dickert effectively and evocatively lit the sets on loan from Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, which caused the young girl sitting near me to say, “Wow!” each time the curtain rose.
Tulsa Ballet’s “Giselle” continues with performances Saturday, Nov. and Sunday, Nov. 3, at the Tulsa PAC. For tickets: 918-596-7111, tulsapac.com.