Thiago Soares and Akane Takada in 'Giselle'. Photo: Tristram Kenton
Thiago Soares and Akane Takada in 'Giselle'. Photo: Tristram Kenton © Tristram Kenton

Giselle, the finest flower of balletic Romanticism, sublime in emotion and sublimely difficult to dance well, has been installed for several weeks at Covent Garden. It has honourably been in the British national ballet’s repertoire since 1934, when Alicia Markova superbly danced its first performances.

In these eight decades it has put on a good deal of weight and is now an over-upholstered, 55-minute-first-act, 50-minute-second-act, heavily wooded, thumpingly reorchestrated affair in which the ardours of 1840s style are clouded by portentous dramatics and lethargic accompaniment.

I have seen many acclaimed interpreters of Giselle and Albrecht, and my admiration has lately been for two debutants. Very fine is Vadim Muntagirov as Albrecht to Marianela Núñez’s sincere Giselle. In every role Muntagirov offers technical clarity matched by emotional — even spiritual — grace, and a dramatic sense that speaks of his dignity and intelligence as an artist. His Albrecht is sweetly loving of Giselle, then frozen with remorse as his dalliance is revealed, and haunted by these feelings in every dazzling step of the forest scene. It is an interpretation of unfailing elegance and acutely judged expression.

In her recent debut Akane Takada draws Giselle — as with her notable appearance in Swan Lake last year — in an exquisite line that exposes dance and drama with unerring clarity. The role, its shapes, feelings and musical impulses, as well as its heart, are clear and true.

Takada’s airy grace, her appreciation of the physical and emotional logic of her dances, and a penetrating sense of despair in the mad scene, show her gifts: a Giselle of subtle power. Thiago Soares, who cannot make a meaningless action on stage, was her Albrecht. The role is nobly done. His dancing may seem momentarily thin, but the character is superbly understood.

For the rest, various peasants leapt energetically and rather coarsely about; Yuhui Choe danced ravishingly in the Act One sextet; Tomas Mock was a fine Hilarion — no easy task — and the orchestral tempi trudged onward.

To April 15,

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