La Scala Ballet's Giselle

Roberto Bolle in La Scala's Giselle. Photos by Marco Brescia and Rudy Amisano Bookmark & Share

All About the Boy

Ballet superstar Roberto Bolle makes his Center debut in Giselle with La Scala Ballet

By Joseph Carman

Roberto Bolle, Italy's premier male ballet superstar, has wowed audiences from Tokyo to London for more than two decades. Now it's time for Segerstrom Center for the Arts to feature his Orange County debut. On July 28, Bolle will dance the role of Albrecht in Milan's La Scala Ballet production of Giselle, partnering the stellar ballerina Misty Copeland, no less, in the title role. In two subsequent performances The Royal Ballet's beloved ballerina Marianela Núñez will dance Giselle with Bolle.

La Scala Ballet

With his Adonis-like physique, classically handsome features and statuesque height, Bolle has been featured on the covers of Vanity Fair, Esquire and Glamour magazines, as well as in advertising campaigns for Salvatore Ferragamo and Gap. But, as the Los Angeles Times points out, "He is also the real deal: A tall, supremely elegant dancer with exceptional line, harmonious plastique and partnering skills that have kept him in demand among leading ballerinas worldwide."

The La Scala Ballet Company performs the traditional Jean Coralli/Jules Perrot choreography of this quintessentially romantic ballet of the 19th century. This revival of Giselle was staged by the late French prima ballerina Yvette Chauviré of the Paris Opera Ballet. The Mikhailovsky Orchestra will perform Adolphe Adam's score live. The story of a young village girl who dies from a broken heart when jilted by Albrecht, and who forgives him in the afterlife, ranks as one of the most perfect ballets of all time—a dramatic knockout that adheres faithfully to the time-honored art of ballet.

"Albrecht is a role that I've done many times in my career, beginning when I was 21," says Bolle, who is now 42. "Albrecht lives in a superficial world and doesn't know what true love is until he discovers Giselle's pure love. That is the main theme for this character: to discover the honesty, force and strength of love. In the second act, he shows regret and pain for everything he has done and didn't understand before."

La Scala Ballet

July's Center performances featuring Bolle will also mark the first time he has danced Giselle with both Copeland and Núñez. The performance also claims the distinction of showcasing Copeland's West Coast debut as Giselle. "I am very happy to make my debut there with such great ballerinas," says Bolle. He has only danced with Copeland once before, in performances of Romeo and Juliet at La Scala last January. "I really like Misty because she's a really honest and beautiful person and a wonderful dancer who's real onstage, as in life," he says. "She's a huge star dancing a role that is almost new for her."

Bolle says he has also always admired Núñez's extraordinary qualities as a dancer, and he has partnered her numerous times before in classics such as The Nutcracker and The Sleeping Beauty. "I like her personality, which is very warm and natural," says Bolle in a telephone conversation from London, on a break from rehearsing for guest appearances with the Royal Ballet. "These will be two very different performances with these two ballerinas. There is a new chemistry with every partner."

La Scala Ballet

Born in Casale Monferrato in the Piedmont Region of Italy, Bolle was accepted as a student at La Scala Theatre's ballet school at the age of 11. In 1996, at age 20, he was promoted to principal dancer at La Scala after a watershed performance of Romeo and Juliet. Since then he has performed as a guest artist with The Royal Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, National Ballet of Canada, Stuttgart Ballet, Berlin State Opera and many other international ballet troupes.

Bolle is revered for his ability to make virtuoso movements look effortless. "It looks very easy, but there is really hard work behind it," he says with a laugh. "You have to have a lot of discipline to succeed and to maintain a high level for so many years. It's very demanding, to always be at your top in every situation, with each company, traveling with different ballets."

Partnering, however, has always come easily to the gallant 6' 2" premiere danseur. "I'm tall and quite strong, and I like the ballerinas to feel very secure and comfortable with me," he says. "I try my best to put them in the most comfortable position. They must look marvelous, because they are what the public looks at first. I always try my best to make their job easier in a way."

The eminent Italian ballerina Alessandra Ferri has praised Bolle: ""He's a perfect partner," she says. "He's so strong—it's a pleasure. You can really abandon yourself. He's the strongest person I have ever danced with. For a woman, to be in his arms is very reassuring."

La Scala Ballet

Bolle has acted as a cultural ambassador for Italy through his consistent artistry and dedication. "Italy is well-known for its art and beauty, and ballet is one of the most important arts," says Bolle. "It's a big responsibility to be an ambassador for this Italian art form around the world. Italy needs this kind of ambassador because of its history and traditions."

Since 1999, Bolle has also served as a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF. Over the years, he has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for education and health projects in Sudan, where he has visited schools and hospitals.

"I'm very excited about coming to Segerstrom Center," says Bolle. "I'm glad I found this time when I can come and perform for the public. I think it's important to give everything possible with all my heart to the public in terms of emotion, technique and artistry."

Joseph Carman frequently writes about dance for Center publications.


Dates: July 28 – 30, 2017
Tickets: $29 and up
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The Center's International Dance Series is made possible by:
Audrey Steele Burnand Endowed Fund for International Dance
The Segerstrom Foundation Endowment for Great Performances

With special underwriting from:
Harry and Diane Johnson
Mr. and Mrs. George Schreyer

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