Vishneva & Gomes Sublime in Giselle

June 2, 2011

Never have I been so in love with the ballet Giselle. Last night Diana Vishneva and Marcelo Gomes were astounding and moving, lifting each other into the stratosphere. I don’t want to compare them with Alina Cojocaru and David Hallberg last weekend (see my previous blog), but seeing both pairs within a few days is overwhelming. Yes Vishneva is stronger and more dramatic. She’s so beautiful she fills the eye no matter what she’s doing. I was worried she wouldn’t be frail and spiritual but boy was I wrong. As the innocent young girl, the way she moved her head expressed modesty, humility. In the mad scene she was not just stunned but also unhinged. The other Giselles I’ve seen recently at ABT, including Cojocaru, were pretty minimal in the mad scene.

Vishneva was more extravagant in her madness, more unpredictable. She tilted her head to an extreme, like she was trying to understand how the world had become so lopsided. At one point her hand shook like she was about to explode. It was both galvanizing and satisfying—I mean you expect a Giselle to go mad in the mad scene. What was Carla Fracci’s mad scene like? Has anyone seen it?

At her death Marcelo was so beside himself that a cry seemed to escape from his mouth just before his squire squired him off.

Both Cojocaru and Vishneva were weightless in the true romantic style, and both had partners who made that possible. If anything, I would say the Cojocaru/Hallberg pairing was more tender while the Vishneva/Gomes pairing was more risk-taking—probably because they had danced together far more than Cojocaru and Hallberg had. And also possibly because, well, they are both just such full-blooded dancers. Gomes ended one of his variations with a double tour en l’air where his head was all spiraling and it seemed like his head led him down to the ground.

Both couples were beyond superb and I hope you get to see them someday. Both couples illuminated the story and reminded me how amazing it is that Giselle still speaks to us 170 years later. And Adolphe Adam’s music just carries you along so you anticipate each scene with curiosity.

After the second Giselle of the week, I started thinking about the direction of the couple’s love—from class-bound to class-less, from physical to spiritual. It’s really the direction that a real-life relationship takes if you’re together long enough. The physical attraction ignites it and carries it a long way, but eventually the devotion you feel is less physical. It’s almost like the double disaster of Albrecht’s duplicity exposed and her death accomplished what only time accomplishes in a love relationship. And at the end of life, what you have is devotion rather than physical attraction. And devotion can extend beyond death. Because the essence, the soul of a person, is enduring. It almost doesn’t matter whether you interpret the Giselle story to be real or to be Albrecht’s hallucination. His devotion lives on.


Vishneva and Gomes in
Giselle. Photo: Gene Schiavone, courtesy ABT.