McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer St. (Seattle Center), 441-2424, pnb.org. $28–$184. 7:30 p.m. Thurs.–Sat., 2 p.m. Sat., 1 p.m. Sun. Ends June 8. (Season encore program: $35–$200, 6:30 p.m. Sun.)
Pacific Northwest Ballet’s new set and costume designs for Giselle reflect two different facets of the same period. Jérôme Kaplan’s sets, inspired by lithographs illustrating the original 1841 production, evoke the timeless fantasy world of romantic ballet. Yet his costumes, many of them drawn from fashion plates of the mid-19th century, anchor the production in that specific era. The contrast supports the dramatic crux of the ballet, where the dead and the living meet in a struggle between love and revenge.
When the company premiered this version of Giselle in 2011, the big news was its restored choreography. Where many productions had slimmed down the mime and eliminated characters and subplots, the PNB team—Peter Boal, Doug Fullington, and Marian Smith—dug into the historical record to uncover the most complete version of the original choreography by Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot. Those details are still there, enhanced by Kaplan’s designs.
Opening night, Kaori Nakamura returned to the role of Giselle, the peasant girl who falls in love with a nobleman in disguise, only to go mad and die when his deception is uncovered. Nakamura, who’s retiring at the end of the season, gives a beautifully gradated performance, her acting and dancing both excellent. Her Giselle enters from a cottage, bounding with enthusiasm for life, love, and dancing. This ebullience makes her downfall even more poignant. As her faithless lover Albrecht, Jerome Tisserand makes a very fine debut in the role, building on his innate poise to flesh out his character. His remorse in the second act, when Albrecht comes to mourn at Giselle’s grave, is direct and affecting. Carrie Imler, who excels at roles that require both lightness and strength, is an excellent Myrtha, the queen of the dead. Veiled and dressed in palest grey, she makes her entrance like the vengeful ghost of Miss Havisham.
The alternating casts include some stellar performances, especially Carla Körbes’ incandescent Giselle, Leta Biasucci and Jonathan Porretta in the virtuosic peasant pas de deux, and a truly effective James Moore as Hilarion (Albrecht’s rival for Giselle). Moore brings real emotional depth to his mime passages, connecting them to the more abstract dancing to make a full character.
Giselle closes the PNB season on an exceptionally high note. They’ll celebrate this, and recognize Nakamura’s 17 years with the company, at Sunday’s encore program.