As Kevin McKenzie pointed out in his introduction to yesterday's American Ballet Theatre matinee at the Kennedy Center Opera House, "Giselle" is one of the most popular and important works in ballet, with challenges works in ballet, with challenges for its performers akin to those "Hamlet" preents for actors. Audiences had a chance to see for themselves the openness of this ballet to varying interpretations, as ABT presented two more "Giselle" casts in matinee and evning performances yesterday.
Coming as they did on the heels of Wednesday's magical opening night portrayals by Alessandra Ferri and Mikhail Baryshnikov, these preformances posed even greater pressures. However, capacity audiences were with the dancers, and the excitement in the theatre was palpable.
At the matinee, Cynthia Harvey's Giselle was quietly impressive, as she modulated her dancing to plumb the expressive possibilities of the vernerable choreography. Her Albrecht, Patrick Bissell, danced an interpretation of the role that was radically different from that of Baryshnikov's ardent lover. Bissell's Albrecht was an upper-class cad, sure of his attractions and intent on wearing away Giselle's virginal shyness with his sexual charm. He was not evil, simply careless. While he acquitted himself well in his Act II variations, Bissell's acting performance lacked detail.
Marianna Tcherkassky's evening Giselle was, from the beginning of Act I, shadowed by her fate; she was violently distressed by Wilfred's declarations as well as by the depths of her own passions. However, the first act was decidedly tepid, hampered by a lack of cheminstry between Tcherkassky and her Albrecht, Kevin McKenzie, whose motivations were unclear. But both dancers gaines strength in Act II, where Tcherkassky emerged brilliant and McKenzie fervent.
Other standout performances were the evening myrta of Leslie Browne, whose lushness in epaulement verged on wildness, and Kathleen Moore's evening Berthe, who had her own feral insanity in Giselle's mad scene.
Ferri and Baryshnikov return tonight in the final "Giselle" of ABT's current run.