The Tragic Heroine Throwdown is reaching its climax . . . Final 4 voting kicks off tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. on our blog and Facebook.  Meanwhile, it’s time to meet the second of our two fabulous team captains!

We asked two OBT staff members to weigh in with their perspective on these two heroines who have moved and inspired audiences through endless reinventions and recreations over hundreds of years.  Last Monday OBT Executive Director (and classically-trained singer) Diane Syrcle shared her stories about Carmen.  Today School of OBT Director Damara Bennett will take the plate for Team Giselle.  And the best part is, you don’t have to pick between one or the other, because we’re offering you a very special deal on a package for both shows – Petrouchka/Carmen in October and Giselle in February.  Starting at only $46, you can buy a Thursday night package for both shows (area 6 seats, not including handling charges, limit 4 per person).  This offer is available for one week only, June 13-17th, after the winner of the Tragic Heroine Throwdown is announced.  You can buy tickets online or through the box office.  $46 to see both these gorgeous heroines live?  You don’t want to miss this!

GISELLE

Team: “Sweethearts & Heroines”

Star of: Giselle (February 25 – March 3, 2012)

Created By: Composer Adolphe Adam & Choreographer Lola de Avila

Location: The Rhineland, in the Middle Ages

The ethereal, devoted Giselle is the heroine of Adolphe Adam’s Romantic ballet classic, first inspired by a work of the German lyric poet Heinrich Heine.  There’s a definite Brothers Grimm flavor to this tale, which is part love-conquers-all romance, part haunting ghost story.  Giselle is a fragile, innocent peasant girl who falls in love with a peasant boy who turns out to be a nobleman in disguise, not knowing that all the while another peasant boy named Hilarion is jealously in love with her.  Duke Albrecht is engaged to a princess, but he wants one last wild bachelor fling before he ties the knot, so he disguises himself as a farmer to sow some wild oats while he still can.  Giselle has no idea, and when the royal hunting party charges into town, and she learns that her love is not only an impostor but engaged to another woman, she dies of a broken heart.  You’d think that would be the end of the story, but no, this is where it gets GOOD, because this is where we meet the beautiful, bloodthirsty Wilis (who could definitely give our Carmen a run for her money).  The Wilis are the ghosts of virgins who died of love before their wedding day; led by Queen Myrtha, they haunt graves at night and exact their revenge on men by dancing them to death.  Giselle is their newest recruit, but she is too kindhearted, and her love is too strong, for her to give in to their thirst for vengeance, and her love rescues Albrecht from his grim fate at the Wilis’ hands.  Good triumphs over evil, the Wilis go back to their dark gloomy underworld, and Giselle rests in peace.

DAMARA TALKS GISELLE

What was your first-ever experience with Giselle?
As a student I learned the mad scene from Act 1. I was totally into it.

Have you ever danced Giselle?
Unfortunately, no.  It wasn’t in San Francisco Ballet’s rep at the time I was there.

Why do you think the ballet is so popular? 
This ballet is 130 years old and is just as popular today.  Audiences like to see new ballerinas perform, just like theatergoers like to see new interpretations of Hamlet. Audience members are always discovering something new.  One of history’s great Giselles, Alicia Markova, wrote: “Giselle, unique among the heroines of ballet, has attributes all of her own.  She cannot be brought to life without star quality in the ballerina.  Yet she herself is not a great star, but merely an unusual girl, very human nevertheless.  You would not meet a Swan Queen or a Bluebird Princess while out shopping or riding in a bus. Yet you might catch, on almost any street, a fleeting glimpse of Giselle.”

What makes Giselle an interesting character?
It calls for a greater emotional and dramatic depth than any other role.  Being a great dancer is not enough for this role – you also have to be totally convincing as a human being and then later as a supernatural one.  The mad scene (when Giselle learns of Albrecht’s engagement and her mind disintegrates) is one of the greatest moments in ballet, and one of the true tests of a great Giselle.  The role demands a wealth of human emotion, blended with strict technique.  Giselle demands the life-blood of an artist, and nothing else will move an audience to thoughts that outlast an evening at the ballet.

What do you hope our audiences take away from our production this season?
A truly moving experience at the ballet and a memory that will stay with them forever.

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