Giselle on air

Last updated 12:00 05/12/2012

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The Royal New Zealand Ballet's production of Giselle will translate the 19th century romantic period tragedy to the silver screen and will be the company's first feature film, set to composer Adolphe Adam's original score, produced by Matthew Metcalfe (Dean Spanley, Love Birds), and directed by film-maker Toa Fraser (No 2, Dean Spanley).

Metcalfe had seen opera simulcast in a movie theatre and saw scope for a ballet production on the same scale, anchored around footage of live performances, with cinematography by Leon Narbey (Whale Rider).

But Giselle's directors are not content to simply plonk a camera in front of the stage.

With last week's Auckland performance shots wrapped, and scenes to be filmed without an audience in the week leading up to Christmas, Stiefel is looking forward to seeing the finished product.

"Toa Fraser is a fantastic director who knows theatre and film so he seems like an ideal conduit to bring dance and its theatricality and physicality within a theatre setting to life on the big screen," he says.

Giselle will star Prima Ballerina Gillian Murphy, Ethan Stiefel's fiancee and fellow star of the American Ballet Theatre.

"Gillian has, I think, what you call star power. That thing you can't put your finger on," he says.

The New Zealand Film Commission has invested in the production in association with the Royal New Zealand Ballet, DigiFilm and Rialto Distribution.

Fraser says the film will be premised on a fresh angle devised by Kobborg and Stiefel used in the live performances, of romantic lead Albrecht as an older man looking back on his life, filled with regret, enabling the film-makers to tell the story from a "subjective" angle.

Fraser and his camera crew will follow the ballet company on tour to Shanghai for the final sequences, and will also film parts with prima ballerina Murphy in New York.

He says he has welcomed the chance to immerse himself in the ballet world and to watch the dancers in action from rehearsal to curtain call.

"It is the athleticism of the dancers - the discipline is that little bit higher if not the same as some of the most elite sportspeople," Fraser says.

"The reason I wanted to do it is because I knew Ethan was involved. He has been very welcoming and it has been a great experience coming from different fields with respect for each other's disciplines and different backgrounds."

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