Jose Carlos Martinez’s Giselle opens in Ljubljana

Choreographer Jose Carlos Martinez, conductor Kevin Rhodes, set and costume designer Inaki Cobos Guerrero and artistic director of Ljubljana Ballet Renato Zanella pictured at a press conference ahead of the premiere of Giselle in Ljubljana.
Choreographer Jose Carlos Martinez, conductor Kevin Rhodes, set and costume designer Inaki Cobos Guerrero and artistic director of Ljubljana Ballet Renato Zanella (from right to left) speak about a new Ljubljana production of Giselle. Photo:STA

Giselle, sometimes referred to as the Queen of Romantic Ballet, will premiere at Ljubljana’s Cankarjev Dom on 12 January in a co-production with the national opera and ballet company that has been choreographed by Jose Carlos Martinez, the new director of ballet at the Paris Opera.

The Spanish choreographer has added a contemporary touch to the classic love story. Speaking to reporters in Ljubljana earlier this month, Martinez said the idea was to give the story new dynamics to better reflect today’s sensibility.

Martinez choreographed the ballet in Zagreb last year but the Ljubljana production has been retouched.

He said they started considering the production when he worked with the Ljubljana ensemble two years ago on Le Corsaire, a ballet fairytale set to the music by Adolphe Adam, the French composer who also wrote the score for Giselle.

The set and costume is by Inaki Cobos Guerrero, who like Martinez comes from Spain. He took a traditional approach where the costumes will spotlight the difference between aristocratic and peasant characters but the set will create the impression of levitation.

The orchestra is being conducted by Kevin Rhodes, who comes from the US. He said Giselle was right at the beginning of the history of ballet as it is understood today. The score also features a leitmotif which Adam (1803-1856) had used in Giselle before Richard Wagner.

Based on a text by German Romantic author Heinrich Heine, Giselle is a story about a young country girl who, deceived after unhappily falling in love, finds herself in a fairy world of former fiancées who died before they could marry and indulge in their dance passion.

The ballet contrasts between the reality of the real-life story in the first act and the fantasy content in the second act. It was first performed in Paris in 1841 and has since become part of the classic ballet repertoire.

Cast in the lead roles of Giselle and Prince Albrecht will be four alternations of dancers, including Japanese-born Kenta Yamamoto and Ukrainian ballerina Anastasia Matvienko, who has recently joined the Ljubljana ensemble.

The choreographer says it will be interesting to see how the traditions of different ballet schools will intertwine, including the French school, which he hails from himself, and the Russian school, represented by the Ukrainian dancer.

The ballet will run at Cankarjev Dom until 28 January.