HCMC – Giselle is one of the most extraordinary ballets ever written. It will be revived by HBSO for two performances on Friday, October 21, and Saturday, October 22, in the Saigon Opera House.
The first reason Giselle is extraordinary is that it is in two strongly contrasting acts. The first presents a colorful village in southern Germany in the Middle Ages at harvest time. Giselle is a shy, innocent girl who is likely to be chosen as Harvest Queen.
The second act, however, in set in an afterlife. following Giselle’s death. Almost devoid of scenery, it is instead a visual world of drifting mists and menacing ghosts anxious to recruit Giselle into their company.
A second reason why Giselle is extraordinary is that it is the only piece of music still remembered by its composer, Adolphe Adam. It dates from 1841.
In love with Giselle is Albert, an aristocrat. He decides to disguise himself as a country boy in order to increase his chances of winning Giselle’s love. In reality he is engaged to be married to an upper-class woman.
Another man, Hilarion, is also in love with Giselle. He is poor, however, and stands little chance.
At the climax of the first act Giselle suddenly dies of a heart-attack (another surprising feature in a classical ballet) after Albert’s girlfriend arrives in the village. The whole of the second act takes place in an afterlife peopled only by ghosts.
There, a group of disembodied spirits, the Willis, try to recruit Giselle into their number. They are a group of maidens who have been betrayed by their lovers, and so never married. They are led by a cruel and arrogant Queen of the Willis, Myrtha, a major role in this second act.
Albert, however, follows Giselle into the afterlife, and though he is unable to bring her back to the world of the living, he succeeds in protecting her from Myrthe and the Willis.
Giselle will be danced by Do Hoang Khang Ninh, and Albert by Meritorious Artist Ho Phi Diep. Myrtha will be Meritorious Artist Tran Hoang Yen, and Hilarion by Meritorious Artist Dam Duc Nhuan.
Do Hoang Khang Ninh has appeared in most of the HBSO’s most celebrated productions – Coppelia, Ballet Kieu, as Clara in Nutcracker, and as the Summer Fairy in Cinderella.
She was selected to go to Norway on a special training program with the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet.
Ho Phi Diep is remembered for his memorable performance as Don Jose in Ballet Suite Carmen, plus other roles in Coppelia, Cinderella, Nutcracker and Swan Lake. He was made a Meritorious Artist in 2019. He has been working with HBSO ever since graduating. He is the soloist and Deputy Head of HBSO’s Ballet Department.
Tran Hoang Yen (Myrtha) is also a soloist and Deputy Head of the HBSO Ballet. She has won many prizes, including Gold Medal from the National Competition of Voice-Dance and Music with the Vietnamese ballet The Legend Lives on.
It is unusual to see a Vietnam Meritorious Artist dancing the small part of Hilarion, and in HCMC we will be privileged to watch Dam Duc Nhuan in the role.
The entire production has been overseen and re-staged by Japanese artist Yuki Ohmori and French artist Chloe Glemot. Glemot has worked with dance companies in Paris, New York, Montreal and London. She moved to Vietnam in September 2013.
In 1993 Yuki Ohmori, meanwhile, won 1st Prize in the Pas de Deux Category-1 in the All Japan Dance Competition, and the same year won a scholarship to the Australian Ballet School. In 1996 she joined the New National Theatre Ballet in Tokyo, staying for ten years.
This, then, will be a star-studded revival. Tickets are price from VND400,000 to VND750,000, with a special concession of VND80,000 for students. The show begins at 8.00 p.m.