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American Ballet Theatre

Giselle 2015
A Romantic Ballet in Two Acts

Julie Kent’s Final ‘Giselle’
Xiomara Reyes’ Farewell at ABT

At the
Metropolitan Opera House

Kevin McKenzie, Artistic Director
Rachel S. Moore, Chief Executive Officer
Alexei Ratmansky, Artist in Residence
Victor Barbee, Associate Artistic Director
Ballet Masters: Susan Jones, Irina Kolpakova,
Clinton Luckett, Nancy Raffa, Keith Roberts
Ormsby Wilkins, Music Director
Kelly Ryan, Director of Press and Public Relations
James Timm, Director of Marketing and Brand Management
Susan Morgan Taylor, Manager of Press and Online Media

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
May 27, 2015

(Read More ABT Reviews)

(See a Conversation with Conductor, David LaMarche, on this Season’s Ballet Music.)

Giselle (1841, Paris, 1987, Current Production, ABT): Choreography after Jean Coralli, Jules Perrot, and Marius Petipa, Staged by Kevin McKenzie, Libretto by Théophile Gautier, on a theme by Heinrich Heine, Orchestrated by John Lanchbery, Music by Adolphe Adam, Scenery by Gianni Quaranta, Costumes by Anna Anni, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton. Set near the Rhine, Hilarion, a hunter in love with villager, Giselle, leaves wild game and flowers on her doorstep. Count Albrecht, disguised as Loys, a peasant, swears love to Giselle and uses a "he loves me, he loves me not" daisy to prove his intentions. Loys and Hilarion wish to duel, but the villagers return, and Giselle risks her weak heart to dance for Bathilde, the prince's daughter, part of a hunting party.

Bathilde gives Giselle her golden necklace, but havoc breaks loose when Giselle discovers that Loys is an imposter, affianced to Bathilde. Giselle dances herself to death of a broken heart and becomes a Wili, a maiden whose fiancée failed to marry her prior to her death. Wili Queen Myrta helps the Wilis dance and entrap men between dusk and dawn, and Hilarion meets a cruel fate. However, Albrecht is saved by Giselle, who dances with him until 4 AM, when the clock strikes, and the Wilis lose power. Giselle returns to her grave, with many calla lilies strewn about. (ABT Notes).

Cast on May 25, 2015:
Conductor: Charles Barker

Performed by Julie Kent as Giselle, Roberto Bolle as Count Albrecht, Thomas Forster as Hilarion, the village huntsman, Duncan Lyle as Wilfred, the squire, Susan Jones as Berthe, Giselle’s mother, Roman Zhurbin as The Prince of Courland, Leann Underwood as Bathilde, the prince’s daughter, Luciana Paris and Blaine Hoven as Peasant Pas de Deux, Gillian Murphy as Myrta, Katherine Williams as Moyna, Zhong-Jing Fang as Zulma, and the Company as Court Ladies and Gentlemen, Giselle’s Friends, Villagers, and The Wilis.

Cast on May 27, 2015:
Conductor: Ormsby Wilkins

Performed by Xiomara Reyes as Giselle, Herman Cornejo as Count Albrecht, Patrick Ogle as Hilarion, the village huntsman, Alexei Agoudine as Wilfred, the squire, Nancy Raffa as Berthe, Giselle’s mother, Roman Zhurbin as The Prince of Courland, Luciana Voltolini as Bathilde, the prince’s daughter, Sarah Lane and Joseph Gorak as Peasant Pas de Deux, Stella Abrera as Myrta, Luciana Paris as Moyna, Misty Copeland as Zulma, and the Company as Court Ladies and Gentlemen, Giselle’s Friends, Villagers, and The Wilis.

Two Principal ballerinas this season chose Giselle for their ABT Farewells, Paloma Herrera and Xiomara Reyes. One Principal ballerina chose Romeo and Juliet, but would have one ballet performance in Giselle, prior to her late June Farewell, and that was Julie Kent. I am not scheduled for Ms. Kent’s Farewell, or for Ms. Herrera’s, as this is a very busy ballet season, with so many choice conflicts, but I did catch Ms. Kent’s final Giselle on May 25, and Ms. Reyes’ Farewell in Giselle, on May 27. Both performances were exquisite, and both uniquely different. Ms. Kent, as Giselle, was truly crying from within, and she gave a poignant portrayal of the doomed maiden, Giselle, who turns into a Wili, a ghost who dies of a broken heart, before her wedding day. This is a favorite among the Ballet Theatre story ballets, and its 19th century choreography still grips the viewer, as does the rapturous Adolphe Adam score. Ms. Reyes, as Giselle, was truly poignant, romantic, and serene. She was partnered by her longtime ballet partner, Herman Cornejo, as Albrecht. I had reviewed their 10th Anniversary as a duo at Ballet Theatre, in a performance of Don Quixote. On the 27th, Mr. Cornejo was nurturing, gallant, dramatic, and, true to form, technically astounding.

In the unfolding of this two-act ballet, Ms. Kent, long-limbed and willowy, threw herself into a mood of abandon, tossing theatrically in her partner, Roberto Bolle’s (as Albrecht) arms. In Act II, when Myrta, Queen of the Wilis, and the Wili ensemble of women, dance any man to death, who crosses their paths, Ms. Kent was visibly distraught, as she kept Mr. Bolle in motion, as he jumped with tiny kicks, over and over, until the chimes of 4 AM were heard, and the Wilis were sent back to their graves. There was rapturous chemistry between Ms. Kent and Mr. Bolle, different from the seasoned chemistry of Ms. Reyes and Mr. Cornejo. Both Ms. Reyes and Mr. Cornejo are power-packed dancers, petite in height and bravura in technical feats. Mr. Cornejo, who still has well over a decade in the height of his dance career, carried Ms. Reyes about the stage as if she were weightless, and she almost is. Ms. Reyes is diminutive, but filled with high energy and extreme skill. Their pre-4 AM dance, in the face of the furious Wilis, was astounding, with Mr. Cornejo’s renowned tight, rapid spins, extended fluttering, sideways kicks, and breathtaking elevated leaps. Ms. Reyes, in the Pas de Deux’ swinging lifts, seemed but a filmy feather, in pendulum motion.

As the rejected Hilarion, the hunter who had adored Giselle, before he is danced to death in his Act II spiraling swirls, Thomas Forster, on the 25th, was more persuasive and charismatic, than Patrick Ogle on the 27th. Both carried the choreography well, but Mr. Forster was the credible actor. Nancy Raffa and Susan Jones, both Ballet Masters, performed the role of Giselle’s mother, Berthe, with Ms. Raffa as Ms. Reyes’ mother, and Ms. Jones as Ms. Kent’s mother. Both are masters of the role and assisted Giselle in letting down her hair, for the Act I mad scene, in Giselle’s transition from life to death. A key role is Bathilde, of royalty, who was affianced to Count Albrecht, who had pretended to be a peasant, in Act I, to woo Giselle. On the 25th, Leann Underwood had the role, with Luciana Voltolini in the role on the 27th, both requisitely arrogant, then distraught, on realizing Albrecht’s duplicity. Myrta, Queen of the Wilis, carries much of Act II, and only the crème de la crème get this role. Gillian Murphy remains the finest Myrta I’ve ever seen, and probably always will. She danced as Myrta on the 25th, with Stella Abrera, also stirring, stark, and steely, dancing as Myrta on the 27th. Moyna and Zulma, Myrta’s lead Wilis, both of whom have Act II solos, were danced on the 25th by Katherine Williams and Zhong-Jing Fang, and on the 27th by Luciana Paris and Misty Copeland.

The Peasant Pas de Deux is a highlight of Act I, in the village scene, and Luciana Paris with Blaine Hoven danced on the 25th, with Sarah Lane and Joseph Gorak dancing on the 27th. Ms. Lane and Mr. Gorak added sparkle and ebullience, with Ms. Paris needing a stronger partner on the 25th. Numerous solos abound in this showcased Pas de Deux. Charles Barker, on the 25th, and Ormsby Wilkins, on the 27th, kept Ballet Theatre Orchestra sumptuous and sensational. And, as always, the Corps, as Friends and Villagers in Act I, and the female Corps, as Wilis, in Act II, were incomparable. After the Wilis hopped on one foot, the other leg raised to the rear, arms outstretched, from one edge of the forest to the other, through ensemble lines, kaleidoscopically, the audience shouted accolades on both nights. But, the prime accolades were reserved, on these two nights, for Julie Kent, on the 25th, in her final Giselle, and for Xiomara Reyes, on the 27th, in her ABT Farewell. Both ballerinas, I am sure, will continue to dance, internationally, as guest artists, in Galas, and in balletic projects. They may teach, create events, and dance, as well, in the genre of modern dance. Kudos to Julie Kent. Kudos to Xiomara Reyes.

In honor of Ms. Reyes’ Farewell, on the 27th, numerous retired Ballet Theatre dancers and teachers were onstage. A mountain of flowers, falling, golden confetti, and the entire ballet company, clapping and cheering in front of the audience’s standing ovation, was quite a scene. Mr. Cornejo led Ms. Reyes by the arm, stage right, then stage left, in front of the lighted, Met curtain, so Ms. Reyes could absorb the “bravos” and acclaim up close. Ms. Reyes gracefully bowed - a ballerina of elegance and luminosity.

Julie Kent in "Giselle"
Courtesy of Marty Sohl

Xiomara Reyes and Herman Cornejo
in "Giselle"
Gene Schiavone

Xiomara Reyes at the Curtain Call
of her ABT Farewell Performance.
Courtesy of Gene Schiavone

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at