Saint Petersburg Classic Ballet in Giselle

Derngate, Northampton
January 11, 2016

David Mead

Founded by Marina Medvetskaya in 1996, the Saint Petersburg Classic Ballet are the latest Russian company to embark on a tour of the UK. Their debut season consists of the usual diet of the classics, but that’s what pleases mass audiences. Their very traditional telling of Giselle, with all its requisite love, treachery and forgiveness is certainly appealing and provides for an enjoyable evening.

The setting for Act I is certainly bright. The village sits in a sunny valley beneath a castle atop a crag. There’s a sense of springtime, added to by the bright orange, yellow and turquoise of the villagers’ dresses. Heartbreak and tragedy are the last things on anyone’s minds.

Natalia Romanova is a convincing Giselle. Early on there’s more than a hint of mischief and sense of fun. I’m sure I detected a glint in her eye when she deliberately spread her dress on the bench to stop Albrecht sitting down. The moments leading up to her death (from a weak heart here; no suicide) are masterful. Hair down and face a tumult of emotions she tears around the stage until the inevitable end arrives. In Act II, when she returns from the grave, her face may be plain and her expression barely changes, but her eyes and body are run through with sadness.

For all the life of Act I, and Giselle’s death apart, it’s the second half of the evening that provides all the highlights. The sunshine is replaced by the ghostly setting of a spooky graveyard by a river; the realm of Myrtha. As Queen of the Wilis, Yuliya Yashina’s Myrtha is quite simply magnificent. Her commanding presence and icy stare is enough to put anyone to death alone. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone say so much with a look and a point of the finger.

Vadim Lolenko as Albrecht is a solid partner although struggles to make a strong connection. Is he really in love with Giselle? Is he just a cad trying it on with a local girl? It’s hard to tell, although his sense of remorse at the very end as he is left to live with the consequences of what he has done was credible.

More persuasive was Evgeniy Silakov as Hilarion. With his red hair and beard he actually looks like he might just be a gamekeeper. In Act I he suffers from an overdose of gesture, and not very convincing gesture at that. Much better are the moments when things happen more naturally, most notably his brief altercation with Albrecht about who is to blame for Giselle’s death, in which they almost come to blows, and that is totally believable. In Act II, Silakov’s being danced to death was dramatic and packed with excellent leaps.

Viktoria Pishkova and Andrei Djula danced what is usually known as the Peasant pas de deux (but here simply called the ‘pas de deux’) with assurance, although their sudden appearance and dress seem out of place. They look more like a prince and princess from another ballet who had somehow stumbled across the festivities.

The corps compliment the leads well, dance with spirit and energy, and certainly add to the enjoyment of the big picture. There were largely together, but there were times when it paid not to look too closely at feet and arms.

A bonus with the Saint Petersburg Classic Ballet is that Medvetskaya somehow found the money for a live orchestra, the Hungarian Sinfonietta. Under conductor Vadim Perevoznikov they gave an excellent account of Adam’s score.

Giselle continues at Derngate to January 12, followed by The Nutcracker to January 16. For details, visit www.royalandderngate.co.uk.
The Saint Petersburg Classic Ballet tour continues to Crawley, Jersey and Bath. Click here for dates.