The Mikhailovsky Ballet’s Giselle – A Review

The Mikhailovsky Ballet opened their season at the London Coliseum on Tuesday 26 March with Giselle, starring their golden couple Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev. Could they live up to all the hype? Read on to find out!

Those of us who have been lucky enough to see this pair before have perhaps become a little blasé about their technical proficiency, their seamless partnering and the stunning lifts in which Vasiliev holds Osipova high over his head without the least sign of strain. But in Giselle they showed us more than that; they added a remarkable facility for storytelling and the ability to transmit intense emotion while not compromising their technical standards one iota. Plus both of them had spectacular elevation, Osipova in particular seeming to be mounted on springs.

mikhailovsky ballet giselle review

Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev in Giselle © The Mikhailovsky Theatre

Vasiliev had a mountain to climb in getting us to sympathise with the Count (as Albrecht is called in this production) in the first act. This is a man who has become engaged to two women simultaneously and is about to get his comeuppance. But somehow he achieved it – his passion for Giselle, the self-delusion that it would all turn out all right – was shown in his expressive face and subtle gestures. Osipova’s characterisation was equally fine; both in the extremes of her happiness and of her despair. The clarity of the mime by all the principals, including Anna Novosylova as Giselle’s mother and Vladimir Tsal as the Gamekeeper (Hilarion), was exemplary. The peasants’ pas de deux was nicely danced by Sabina Yapparova and Anton Ploom, though rather meanly I kept wishing it had been Vasiliev and Osipova.

In the second act as the Wilis closed in and the Count danced for his life we saw what our star couple were really made of. The power of Vasiliev’s grands jetés, the speed of Osipova’s petits battements, their assurance and command of the dance were breathtaking. I’ve never thought of Giselle as edge of the seat stuff before, but Vasiliev and Osipova made us feel all the emotional desperation of his dance to death and the relief/despair as dawn breaks, and the Wilis retreat leaving the Count slumped exhausted over Giselle’s grave. Ekaterina Borchenko gave able support as an imperious Queen of the Wilis but it was Vasiliev and Osipova’s night. The audience called them back for an extra encore and then gave them a well-deserved standing ovation – you should have been there!

The Mikhailovsky season continues at the London Coliseum until 7 April 2013.