‘Giselle’ opens Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s 50th season | TribLIVE.com
Theater & Arts

‘Giselle’ opens Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s 50th season

Mark Kanny
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Courtesy of Rich Sofranko
Amanda Cochrane and Yoshi Nakano in Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s 2016 staging of “Giselle.” Amanda Cochrane and Yoshi Nakano in Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s 2016 staging of “Giselle.”

To open its 50th anniversary season, which is also the final one for its artistic director, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre will present a restaging of “Giselle,” one of the most popular masterpieces in the repertoire.

“Giselle” is a story about love which extends beyond death. Its second act is filled with ghosts but imparts an important lesson for the living.

“It’s one of my most favorite ballets and a chance to work on it with three ballerinas and the company one final time,” says Terrence Orr of the start of his last season at the helm of the company. He says he’s enjoyed creating choreography, with the help of a dramaturg he’s brought, that “helps all the characters develop their roles.”

Four performances

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre will present four performances of “Giselle,” with the company orchestra performing Adolphe Adam’s score, Oct. 25-27 at Pittsburgh’s Benedum Center.

The ballet takes place in a village on the Rhine River in Germany where grapes are grown for wine. Giselle has an admirer, but falls in love with Albrecht, an aristocrat in disguise as a peasant. When his duplicity is revealed Giselle, who has a weak heart, is devastated and dies. In Act II, Albrecht leaves flowers on Giselle’s grave, but is forced to dance to his death by the Wilis. They are the ghosts of women, abandoned before their weddings, out for revenge on men. Giselle’s spirit helps Albrecht survive until dawn, when the Wilis lose their power.

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre uses rotating casts, with different couples in the starring roles.

When dancing Giselle in Act I, Hannah Carter says she thinks “about the character and how joyful she’s feeling. I add a nervousness as well because of the anticipation she feels in a relationship at that stage. I think she knows Albrecht is hiding something from her and I try to get this across as well.

“I think Giselle is not your everyday peasant girl in the village. She’s heard all these fairy tales about love. I think Giselle is attracted to someone she doesn’t know. She wants that fairy tale ending, being head over heels in love.” Her partner Alejandro Diaz keeps a broad perspective on his role.

“Albrecht is born into the aristocratic life,” Diaz says. “He escapes into a small town in Germany in the early 1600s. It’s in this town that he finds his freedom. He falls for this beautiful girl in this little village. She’s not only the most beautiful girl in the village, but sadly she’s also stricken with a damaged heart.”

Makes it immortal

Giselle’s forgiveness in Act II of Albrecht’s deceit is what makes the ballet immortal.

“It speaks to the need for humanity to find the will to give forgiveness and not hold a grudge. We all appreciate the untouched feeling this story has. It’s quite delicate. At the end, when Albrecht is making his final walk from the grave – because he made it to dawn because of Giselle – it’s a sad moment. Specifically, it speaks to how fragile the whole interaction was and life is.

“Sometimes the arts do that to you,” he says. “It hits you and takes your breath away.”

Mark Kanny is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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