SARATOGA SPRINGS – The National Ballet of Cuba made its long-awaited debut Wednesday night at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center to open the summer season for the venue. Also new is a brass fanfare and loud gong that summon people to take their seats.
The ballet company, which is celebrating its 70th season, presented “Giselle,” a two-act storybook ballet. As choreographed by company director Alicia Alonso to taped music by Adolphe Adam, the story is about a village girl who falls in love with Albrecht, the Duke of Silesia, who is in disguise as a villager. Like all love stories, there’s also a rejected suitor, a death and then Giselle returns as a Wili, a spirit that leaves her tomb at midnight to entice men to dance to their death.
The first act opened on a wooded rustic village scene in which the large, enthusiastic crowd was introduced to the corps as villagers in floral costume shades designed by Salvador Fernandez, Grettel Morejon as Giselle, Dani Hernandez as Albrecht and Ernesto Diaz as Hilarion, the rejected lover. The choreography was pretty, not especially complicated, with the corps being a little loose but forming nice tableaux.
Morejon skillfully danced her famous solo diagonally across the stage hopping en pointe on one foot as she did ronde de jambs with the other foot to finish with pique turns. Costumes were plush with rich reds for the royal party that showed up and there was good drama when Hilarion revealed Albrecht’s true identity and Giselle goes mad. A deep rose lighting lit the back scrim effectively.
But anyone who knows the ballet was waiting for the second act, which belongs to the Wilis. Mist covered the twilight wooded scene as the 24 Wilis in long white traditional tutus entered. Ginett Moncho as the Wili Queen had great extension in her solos and choreography was far more difficult. Everyone shone in this act. The corps was precise and hit all their marks seeming to float like wraiths, much to the audience’s pleasure, which often applauded.
Morejon danced with feeling as she pleaded for Hernandez’s life. He, too, took some very athletic solos. They also worked well together in the various pas de deux. His final fling onto her grave brought a whoop from the crowd, which cheered and yelled.
Interestingly, the main topic at intermission seemed to be the story line, as few people had seen the complete ballet but many were familiar with specific solos.
The ballet will be perform at 2 p.m. today (Thursday) and a final time at 8 p.m. Friday.