A drama to admire
It's been a while since the ballet world last saw Marcelo Gomes on stage, and he definitely has been missed. On March 18 he came to Mariinsky to dance in "Giselle" alongside Yekaterina Osmolkina in yet another festival performance to celebrate Marius Petipa's bicentennial, and the whole ensemble would have made the maestro very proud.

Text by Yekaterina Baeva
Photo by Irina Tuminene
Mariinsky’s "Giselle" is one of the signature ballets of the company. Its plot and settings perfectly reflect the company’s delicate style and its trademark subtlety. There is a lot of nuanced drama in "Giselle", and last Sunday Mariinsky, which had been repeatedly complained of for lacking powerful characterization onstage, showed the audience its true power, in full swing.

Mariinsky’s power is sensitivity, its great concern for the emotional side of the story. This time everyone on stage of the historic building of the theater seemed mesmerized, dancing with precision, but as if in a mysterious daze. Ms Osmolkina is one of the company’s best Giselles. She is dainty and sweet, without being too sentimental. She possesses great Vaganova technique, her lines are truly beautiful and graceful. As a peasant girl, she is cheerful but not cheeky, she is very down to earth — yet she is very much in love. And who could blame her: her admirer for the night was irresistible.

Yekaterina Osmolkina and Marcelo Gomes
Photo — Irina Tuminene
Mr Gomes’s first steps on stage were a bit cautious but from the very first moments it could be seen clearly that this count is going to make a woman cry. Some portray Albrecht as a womanizer, an obnoxious self-centered Casanova who is just looking for a fun one night stand. Others depict him as a desperate young man who simply has to obey his father’s orders and marry this horrible noble woman. Mr Gomes’s Albrecht is neither, and this is such great news. He shows the audience a clever, sensible man in his prime. He is self-confident without being arrogant. He is obviously seasoned in the art of love but he has never had his heart broken. He is capable of love but he’s not actively seeking it. He is, in fact, the Mr Darcy of classical ballet, minus typically British reserve.
The first act of the performance was lively and nearly immaculate. Luminous Renata Shakirova shone in peasant pas de deux, partnered by a stately emerging dancer of Mariinsky Yevgeny Konovalov. Yuri Smekalov as Hans was more in love than jealous, and his insidiousness seemed to dissipate instantaneously when he saw Albrecht grieving over Giselle’s listless body. The whole death scene was very convincing and well-played. The audience was observed weeping together with both devastated men onstage.

The second act brought no consolation to poor remorseful Hans but the fate did smile a bit upon the yearning misfortunate count. He came to the cemetery thoughtful and in pain, and he was seen hallucinating about Giselle, touching the air very timidly and trying to seize the troubled ether.
Giselle was slipping through his fingers, and Mr Gomes did an amazing job helping Ms Osmolkina become a real specter, an illusion, a reminder of feelings once lost. Yekaterina Ivannikova as Myrtha, who is usually quite demanding and relentless, that night seemed more merciful, and one could only speculate why the Wilis didn’t let Hans go eventually. Their queen surely seemed inclined to do so. All in all, it was another interesting portrayal of a complex character role which most people take for granted.

The Mariinsky corps de ballet was at its best, and the whole tableaux, among all celebratory events, finally seemed worthy of the genius of storytelling, the one and only Marius Petipa. Pedantic as he was, he probably could have picked some flaws in it, whereas the audience should consider themselves lucky to have enjoyed a show like that.

Yekaterina Osmolkina and Marcelo Gomes
Photo — Irina Tuminene
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