REVIEW: Giselle by Varna International Ballet @ Theatre Royal Brighton

February 14, 2023

Founded in 1947 and currently celebrating their 75th anniversary, the critically acclaimed Varna International Ballet comes to the UK for the very first time.

This melancholic, romantically tragic, traditionally danced ballet is filled with drama in a heart-breaking tale of love, treachery and redemption and understanding from beyond the grave. The moving story of delicate Giselle, who loves to dance but really rather shouldn’t as she’s got a weak heart, and her aristocratic but duplicitous lover Albrecht, is set to a romantic score from Adolphe Adam.

The set offers a gentle outline to the action: a rustic village, a crepuscular moon lit forest, the ethereal misty graveyard… You can read a synopsis here, as I always find it helpful to have a vague outline about what’s going on in a ballet especially – if like me – you’re not a regular.

The corps de ballet commit and dance with grace, offering some super synchronised moments of ballet bliss.  Choreographers Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot bring out the best is this large group of dancers in the compact restrictions of the Theatre Royal stage.

In the second half, we enjoyed them dancing as the tortured spirits of girls wronged by dastardly men in their lives, cast aside by lovers, dying tragically, they capture men and force them to dance to their dooms. Giselle herself has one final night on earth, dancing with devotion, resisting bitterness and allowing the power of her unrequited love to flow and desperately protecting her still living lover from the vengeful maiden wraiths.

Marco Di Salvo shows great athleticism in the lead, effortless flying across the stage, leaping with lythe perfection, my companion was in awe when Di Salvo shone high and wide demonstrating his rather perfect extension of those phenomenally long legs and giving just enough understated romance in his lead to be convincing as a lover.

Giselle was as she should be, gentle, beautiful, delicate, dancing with a formidable grace and on point. Anastasia Lebedyk dances the role with rigour and an attention to fine detail much adored by the audience, her high jumps bringing gasps from the ballet fans in the audience and sighs for her swift tragic death.

Their pas de deux buoyant, energetic, tender, and allowing this passionate young pair of dancers to shine in this demanding and delicate duet. The partnership of Lebedyk and Di Salvo as poor, doomed Giselle and deceitful Count Albrecht, who captures her heart while posing as a peasant, dances out with intricate perfection.

The conductor Stefan Boyadzhiev leads the small live orchestra well, although placing them down in the pit (no doubt to give as much space as possible for the dancers on stage) muted their sound a little. From the Royal Circle the emotive power of some of the music felt dulled, with a lack of volume to some of the dramatic pieces.

Varna International Ballet are based in Bulgaria, with dancers and musicians from across Europe. They perform with classical tradition and focus on performing much loved classics in an entertaining and agreeable way. This international ballet company feature soloists from Ukraine, Spain, Italy, Germany and France.

There’s something extra fun about watching a classic ballet, danced in a classic way in a rococo theatre like the Theatre Royal, its velvet plushness and plastered glided excesses underlining what a lovely experience ballet can be. Having a live orchestra gives a real sense of timelessness to this evening’s performance.

For more info or to buy tickets for four remaining performances, CLICK HERE