Tuesday, July 12, 2011


The marriage of technology and art provided a real treat for a Chicago audience of ballet aficionados today. We attended a performance of the ballet Giselle as produced by the Mariinsky Ballet in St. Petersburg Russia and shown in 3D. The ballet stars were Natalia Osipova as Giselle and Leonid Sarafanov as Count Albert. Sometimes they seemed almost too perfect in their performance but both were outstanding and their ballet skills combined with Adam's music managed to bring tears of joy to my eyes. This is the epitome of Romantic ballet with music and story that touches your heart.

Giselle is the age-old story of a prince who has disguised himself as a peasant, and gains the love of a simple village girl. This fairytale love story falls to pieces when the tale turns to that of betrayal and heartbreak. Giselle joins the vengeful Wilis to bring revenge upon her beloved prince, but ultimately her deep love transcends even death and she grants forgiveness upon her lover. The second act is particularly eerie with the corps de ballet covered with white costumes against the dark background of the setting beside the grave of Giselle.  

The pervasive atmosphere of the ballet was indebted to the works of Victor Hugo, Heinrich Heine, and the ballet critic Théophile Gautier. The librettist Verney de Saint-Georges had first been attracted to Hugo's Orientales with its evocation of a ballroom where dancers were condemned to dance all night, and to Heine's De l'Allemagne and its depiction of the Wilis, Slavonic supernatural beings who lured young men to death by dancing. I had seen the ballet performed once before by the American Ballet Theatre in a live performance at the Civic Opera House. The Mariinsky's 3D extravaganza was even better.

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