|Artists of the National Ballet of Canada in Giselle. (Photo: Aleksandar Antonijevic)|
Giselle is a work of fantasy, as compelling as anything seen today on Game of Thrones or Outlander, or any other contemporary pop culture enterprise probing the paranormal. No matter that the story of a Rhineland peasant girl who returns to earth as a ghost after dying of a broken heart is now 175 years old. It remains a powerful tale of love and vengeance – ballet as powerful theatre. Certainly, this iconic Romantic work has enabled the National Ballet of Canada to conclude the bumpy 2015/2016 season with a bang. The company’s performance of Giselle at Toronto’s Four Seasons Centre for the Arts two Fridays ago was especially sharp, with everyone from ensemble dancers to solo artists turning on the charm to make the ballet come alive for today’s audience. Sir Peter Wright’s 1970 remake is both logical and lively, despite dwelling 50 percent of the time in the land of dead. It is also sumptuously gorgeous. Adolphe Adam’s original 1841 score is a hauntingly beautiful – and readily recognizable – piece of music which the National Ballet Orchestra, under the baton of David Briskin, made poignantly dramatic. You can’t help but be moved just listening to it. But the ballet is really a feast and on this point Desmond Heeley’s eye-grabbing sets and costumes, bathed in tones of emerald green, burnished gold and lapis lazuli blue, more than deliver. The celebrated designer, a fixture of Canada’s Stratford Festival, died five days before Giselle opened on June 10; the National Ballet used the occasion to pay tribute to Mr. Heeley, dedicating the opening night June 15 performance to his memory.