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In "For those who may be interested ........" 25 Jan 2014 I warned that "an HDTV transmission bears about as much resemblance to the theatrical experience as hamburger does to fillet steak". The Royal Ballet's Giselle was the third transmission that I have seen this year and it was by far the best. I left the Huddersfield Odeon in a much better humour than I did in October when I watched Don Quixote (see "¡Por favor! Don Quixote streamed to Huddersfield" 17 Oct 2013). I think that is because I learned quite a lot about the ballet yesterday.
The reason I learned so much was that I had already seen this production with almost the same cast on 18 Jan 2014 (see "Giselle - Royal Ballet 18 Jan 2014" 20 Jan 2014). Seeing the same work on a big screen is a bit like watching an action replay in sport. You see the catch or try on the field but not quite how it happened. The action replay enables spectators to see how the fielder positioned himself or how the ball passed to the forward who edged over the line. In very much the same way the broadcast enabled me to appreciate some of the subtleties of the ballet such as the disappointment on Myrtha's face and the relief on Giselle's as the bell tolls 4 and Albrecht escapes.
In my review of the performance of the 18 Jan 2014 I commented on Acosta's presence and Ospiova's virtuosity as an actor as well as a dancer. Those qualities shone through yesterday too. However, I had not realized just how strikingly beautiful Ospiova is until I saw the footage of her interview and rehearsals before the broadcast. My admiration for her has soared even higher. I also paid more attention to the other dancers such as Thomas Whitehead who danced Hilarion with grace. Before the show I tweeted
"Heads up for fellow Yorkshire person Thomas Whitehead who dances Hilarion in #ROHgiselle tonight. You lost the lass and died. Not fair!"
To my great surprise the House twitter feed "favorited" (sic) that tweet.
Now for the criticism. Although yesterday's was the best broadcast from Covent Garden so far it still fell short of the Bolshoi's. Their works are presented by Katerina Novikova, an accomplished presenter who is at home in three languages. Last night's ballet was introduced by Darcey Bussell who is a ballerina and not a presenter. While it was lovely to see her and hear her experience of dancing Giselle there were lots of missed opportunities. For instance, interviews with Sir Peter Wright and Kevin O'Hare were compressed into one question each from members of the public. One of those questions from Dave of the Dave Tries Ballet was very interesting. If only there had been time for Sir Peter to develop his answer.
Instead the focus was on the story of the second act and the wicked wilis who have it in for all men. I really don't think it is necessary to tell the story because the choreography is sufficient in itself. The best way to appreciate the second act of Giselle is the same way as one enjoys Balanchine as pure abstract dance without a story.
A big difference between the Royal Ballet's transmissions and the Bolshoi's is the former's use of twitter. The Royal Ballet suggests a hash-tag and invites the public to tweet where they are from and what they think of the ballet. I am not sure why they do that. You can't say much about a ballet in 140 characters especially after you have identified your cinema so the result is gush. Superlatives upon the superficial. Too much attention is given to those voces populorum. That is probably why we did not hear from the conductor or designer at all and why so little time was given to Sir Peter. Maybe a chance to explore the topic raised by Dave will arise when Sir Peter speaks to the London Ballet Circle on the 14 April.
But the main reason for coming to the cinema yesterday was to see the dancing and hear the music and they were as exquisite on camera as they were on stage. I think I now know how to use HDTV to best advantage: see the same production on the stage and in the cinema. Having seen how well that worked for Giselle I will do the same for Christopher Wheeldon's Winter's Tale. As I said before, HDTV is to a live performance what hamburger is to fillet steak but yesterday's was like a very good hamburger, the sort we used to get at The Great American Disaster. If you are too young to remember the GAD read Will Self's "A burger with a side order of smugness" 27 Jan 2011 The New Statesman,