Music – Adolf Adan
The two-act ballet Giselle is a fantastic story created by three librettists, which Heinrich Heine retold.
“Giselle, or Vilisa” is a romantic ballet in two acts by the French composer Adolphe Adam on the libretto of Henri de Saint-Georges, Theophile Gautier and Jean Coralli after the story of Heinrich Heine, which he wrote in his turn according to an ancient Slavic legend.
Choreographers: Jean Coralli, Jules Perrot.
First performance: Paris Opera, June 28, 1841
The premiere of the two-act ballet Giselle was held on June 28, 1841 at the Royal Academy of Music in Paris with Carlotta Grisi in the title role.
The party of Albert was performed by Lucien Petipa, the mistress of Mirtha’s villis, Adele Dumilatre, and choreographer Jean Coralli played the role of Hilarion.
The staged part of the performance was created by Pierre Luc-Charles Siseri (set) and Paul Lormier (costume designer).
French patriotic hopes were fully justified. The success of the ballet was enormous. For another month only Giselle walked on the stage of the Paris Opera.
A total of 1841 held 26 submissions.
A peaceful hamlet inhabited by simple, artless people is steeped in sunshine.
A young peasant girl, Giselle, is rejoicing in the sun, the blue sky, the singing of the birds and, most of all, the blessing of pure and naive love that has lighted up her life. She is in love and believes that her love is mutual. The gamekeeper, aspiring to win Giselle’s love, tries in vain to convince her that her beloved Albrecht is not a common peasant, but a nobleman who is dishonestly giving himself out for one.
The gamekeeper steals into the cottage where Albert has stayed, and discovers a silver sword bearing a coat of arms. Now he knows for sure that Albert is hiding his noble identity. A bunch of noblemen with their posh escort stay over in the hamlet to rest after a hunt. The local peasants give them a warm and friendly welcome. Albrecht is confused by the accidental encounter. He tries to conceal his acquaintance with the visitors, especially so as he recognizes his fiancée Bathilde among them. The gamekeeper, however, exposes Albrecht by showing his sword. Giselle is out of her mind with shock over her sweetheart’s treachery. The pure and chaste world of her beliefs, aspirations and sentiments is ruined. She goes insane and dies.
A rural graveyard at night. The ghostly apparitions of the Wilis, brides who have died before their wedding day, emerge amongst the moonlit graves. “Dressed in bridal gowns and garlands of flowers…The irresistibly beautiful Wilis danced to the light of the moon. And as they felt the time given them for dancing was running out and that they had again to return to their icy graves, their dancing became more and more impassioned and rapid…”
The Wilis spot the gamekeeper. Anguished by remorse, he has come to visit Giselle’s grave. On the order of their merciless queen, Myrtha, the Wilis make him whirl with them in a phantom dance until he collapses to the ground dead.
Albrecht is unable to forget Giselle either. He also comes to the graveyard in the middle of the night in search of her grave. The Wilis instantly encircle him. Albrecht has been condemned to share the gamekeeper’s dreadful fate. But there appears the spirit of Giselle, whose selfless love is still alive, to help Albrecht endure and save him from the raging Wilis.
With the first glimpses of dawn the white apparitions of the Wilis fade away. So does the gentle spirit of Giselle. But the memory of her will linger with Albrecht as an everlasting sorrow for a lost love, the one that is stronger than death.