If I had ever written a theatrical bucket list, seeing Marianela Nunez dance the lead in Giselle would’ve been right at the top. My favourite ballerina in one of ballet’s oldest, most iconic and dramatically challenging female roles? Yes please.
So you can imagine how excited I was last Thursday, as I headed to the Royal Opera House. How would Nunez compare to Tamara Rojo and Natalia Osipova, the stars of my previous viewings?
Simply, she’s incredible. Giselle is almost a dual role – the contrast between the naive, emotional young girl of Act I and the later mournful spirit is as marked as the contrast between Odette and Odile. As one of the finest dance actresses I’ve ever had the privilege to watch, Nunez nails both aspects of Giselle’s character.
She begins with speedy pointe work, blithe jétés and smiles that illuminate the stage. Her mad scene is incredibly affecting – Nunez’s heartbroken Giselle gradually becomes more and more distraught, until it consumes her. In Act II, her movements are calm, dreamlike and almost languid – with the exception of the dizzying turns flawlessly executed at Giselle’s entrance.
Every Giselle needs an Albrecht, and Vadim Muntagirov is ideal in this role. He’s a fantastically light, nimble dancer and exudes sufficient poise and presence to be a convincing prince. Together, they are twice as brilliant and I really hope to see them partnered in more ballets next season.
The only disappointment this time around is Itziar Mendizabal in the role of Wili Queen Myrtha, who isn’t quite menacing enough for my liking. The Wilis as a unit are terrifying though, perfectly synchronised and spookily beautiful in their long tutus and ghostly veils. There are few more impressive, atmospheric sights in ballet than a stageful of Wilis glowing in the light. Give me them over swans anyday!
Now, I’m off to write that bucket list. I might even blog it if you’re lucky.