“Giselle” is the ultimate in Romantic era ballet. It combines all the essential elements — princes, peasants and fairies in a supernatural tale of love, betrayal and madness.
Because this story is one of the oldest that ballet has to offer, it can feel slow and stodgy, like one long adagio. But the Moscow Festival Ballet’s rendering, as seen at Proctors on Friday night, is one of the best seen in these parts in decades. This is surprising because the Moscow Festival Ballet’s productions often seem tired and ho-hum, perhaps because the company is constantly on tour.
Not so this go around. While some of the peasant costumes are stained, everything else about his production is excellent.
Of course, this assessment is rooted in the dancing. While a second-string ensemble in Russia, it has obviously attracted some outstanding dancers, namely Maria Sokolnikova, who dances the title role. Light, delicate and a fine technician, she plays the part of the pretty peasant girl with a sweet and kind innocence. Her petit battement, a rather lost ballet specialty, is especially precise and beautiful.
Her abilities helps her deliver a believable character — one who is the object of desire for both the huntsman Hilarion, played fiercely by Evgeniy Rudakov, and the disguised Prince Albrecht, danced by Konstantin Marikan. This leads to an unpleasant love triangle that ends in Giselle going mad and dying. And that’s just the first act.
In the second act, both men visit her grave where the wilis, ghosts of women betrayed by their lovers at the altar, seek revenge. Elena Khorosheva, as a cool, emotionless Myrtha, leads the swarm of ghostly fairies who indoctrinate Giselle into their nightly dance of vengeance.
Hilarion, who begs for mercy, meets a sad fate at their hands. But Giselle protects Albrecht from the wilis as she still loves him.
Throughout, Sokolnikova is divine, especially as she hovers, her arms balanced over her head. She is the intangible sylph who will forever haunt the dreams of Albrecht.
Also wonderfully convincing is Rudakov as Hilarion. One could feel his passion — and his then rage — as Giselle dismisses his affections for those of Albrecht. His abilities, too, are well honed, making him a powerhouse on stage.
Marikan as Albrecht is regal, but had difficulty in launching jumps and making smooth landings. Still, he carries off his part with fine acting and tender partnering of Sokolnikova. The lifts over his head demonstrate their devotion despite death. More lovely are the balances Marikan helps her achieve she leaning on him for strength.
Khorosheva offers a bloodless Myrtha who was both strong and determined. She and the wilis, all in white, intrigue as they swirl about the stage preparing for their nightly executions.
In the end, the wilis and Giselle dissipate, leaving Albrecht alone at the graveside. He collapses at its base as the curtain descends — his regret so palpable it leaves some in tears.