Giselle

GiselleMusic: Adolphe Adam.
Choreography: Jean Coralli, Jules Perrot, later revised by Marius Petipa.
Plot: Théophile Gautier, Vernoy de Saint-Georges.
Sets, costumes: Ciceri.

Premiered: on June 28, 1841 in Paris (Paris Opera).
Dancers at the premiere: Carlotta Grisi (Giselle), Lucien Petipa (Albrecht), Adèle Dumilâtre (Myrtha), Jean Coralli (Hilarion).



This ballet, which is the most famous ballet of the Romantic era, owed its creation to the French poet and writer Théophile Gautier. He wrote its plot after a German legend he had found in a book of the German poet Heinrich Heine, and was an admirer of Carlotta Grisi, a young Italian ballerina who was the pupil of the choreographer Jules Perrot. Giselle was a triumph, and Grisi became the new star of the Paris Opera.

It was danced in Russia as soon as 1842, and Perrot himself restaged in in Saint-Petersbourg a few years later, with the help of Marius Petipa. But it was dropped from the repertory in the countries of Western Europe a few decades later. It was only in 1910, when Diaghilev's Ballets Russes came to France, that it was danced again in France (this production had sets and costumes of Alexandre Benois, and the leading roles were danced by Vaslaw Nijinsky and Tamara Karsavina.)

The role of Giselle has been danced by many great ballerinas, some of the most praised ones were Olga Spessivtseva (who danced it with the Paris Opera Ballet in the 1930s with Serge Lifar), Alicia Markova, Anna Pavlova, Margot Fonteyn, Yvette Chauviré, Carla Fracci, Natalia Makarova, Natalia Bessmertnova, Noëlla Pontois, Ghislaine Thesmar...
And among the greatest Albrechts were Serge Lifar, Anton Dolin, Erik Bruhn, Rudolf Nureyev, Vladimir Vassiliev, Mikhail Baryschnikov, Cyril Atanassoff, Michaël Denard...

Summary of the plot:

Act I:
Giselle, a peasant girl, is in love with her neighbour Loys. But she doesn't know he's in fact Count Albrecht. Hilarion, a forester, loves her, but she disregards him. While she's celebrating the end of the grape harvest with the villagers, Hilarions manages to learn about Loys' real identity. A hunting party, led by the Duke of Courland and his daughter Bathilde (who happens to be Albrecht's future wife), arrives and are welcomed by the peasants. Just as Giselle is crowned as the Queen of the Village, Hilarion reveals her the truth about Loys/Albrecht. Giselle is so shocked that she loses her reason, tries to kill herself with his sword, and dies from the schock.

Act II:
In a dark night, Hilarion is near Giselle's grave. But the Wilis, who are the ghosts of young girls who died before their wedding day, and who avenge themselves by making the men they meet dancing to death, appear,lead by their Queen Myrtha, and Giselle becomes a Wilis too. Then comes Albrecht, bringing white lilies to Giselles's grave: Giselle appears to him. The Wilis chas Hilarion and make him daie, and next attempt to kill Albrecht, but Giselle asks Myrtha to save him. However, he starts dancing, and becomes more and more exhausted, but dawn breaks and the Wilis leave him alone.