St Petersburg, Mariinsky Theatre

Giselle

Fantasy ballet in two acts

Performers

Conductor:

Alexei Repnikov

Credits

Music by Adolphe Adam
Libretto by Vernoy de Saint-Georges, Théophile Gautier and Jean Coralli
Choreography by Jean Coralli, Jules Perrot and Marius Petipa

Staged by Eldar Aliev
Set design by Igor Ivanov
Costume design by Irina Press
Production reconstruction consultant: Yuri Slonimsky

SYNOPSIS

Act I

Count Albrecht, in love with the peasant girl Giselle, keeps his noble status a secret from her. Giselle’s other admirer Hans, a woodsman, tries to warn her that Albrecht is not who he claims to be, but Giselle doesn’t want to hear him. Left alone, Hans enters the hunter’s cottage and removes Albrecht’s sword with bears his noble coat of arms.

The sounds of a horn announce the arrival of a hunting party, amongst whom the Count’s betrothed – Bathilde and her father. They stop to seek rest in the village. The Count’s fiancée, charmed by Giselle’s innocence and beauty, gives the girl an expensive necklace. The hunting party retires and the peasants begin a celebration of their own to mark the harvest. At the height of the festivities Hans appears. He accuses Albrecht of lying and shows the Count’s sword as proof. Giselle refuses to believe it. Then Hans blows the hunting horn and before the embarrassed Count his fiancée appears. Giselle is in despair. She loses her reason and dies.

Act II

It is midnight. Hans has come to Giselle’s grave. The Wilis appear – the ghosts of brides who died before their weddings – and frighten him. They emerge from their graves with a passion to dance the way they could not when still alive and anyone who happens to be in the graveyard at the time must dance till they drop dead. Myrtha, the Queen of the Wilis, summons Giselle’s soul from her tomb and initiates her into their order. Count Albrecht comes to his beloved’s grave. His grief and despair touch Giselle. She forgives Albrecht.

The Wilis force Hans to dance until he is exhausted and, spinning round, throw him into the lake. The same fate awaits Albrecht. Myrtha forces him to dance. Giselle begs Myrtha to set Albrecht free but Myrtha is unmoved. Dawn breaks. With the rise of the sun the Wilis lose their power. Albrecht is saved. Giselle bids farewell to her beloved – this time forever...

ABOUT THE PRODUCTION

Giselle is one of the first and the most beautiful French romantic ballets. It is based on quite a popular story of that time – a story about an aristocrat deceiving a poor girl who dies and returns from heavens to her unfaithful lover as a mythical creature (a similar theme was used in Mermaid by Alexander Dargomyzhsky and Undine by Albert Lortzing). But Giselle gained its unfading fame not only due to the popular romantic motif of the two worlds, the way the authors implemented the idea was unique.

Giselle was brought to life by the famous Italian ballerina Carlotta Grisi. Even the story of making this ballet masterpiece is like a captivating novel. Teophile Gautier, a French poet, was bewitched by the beautiful Italian ballet dancer. Together with Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges and Jean Coralli they wrote the libretto of Giselle. Adolf Adam who adored ballerinas created an incredibly exquisite and ethereal music score with dramatic themes portraying characters and a through-line development of the story. But the key figure of this artistic alliance was choreographer Jules Perrot. Being a student of the famous god of dance Auguste Vestris, Perrot coached young Carlotta Gisi and choreographed her part in the ballet. This role absorbed all new elements of a swiftly developing dance technique, reaching the highest levels of mastery. That’s why today this role is still a dream role for all prima-ballerinas, sometimes a fatal dream as it turned out for Olga Spessivtseva who was possessed with the mania of Giselle.

In the Romanticism era the art of ballet was called an art of flying. Jules Perrot, taking the legendary elevation technique from his teacher Auguste Vestris, taught it to his gifted students Marie Taglioni Carlotta Grisi. It was then ballerinas got on pointes which allowed them to be more authentic in portraying mythical unearthly creatures (that’s why modern ballerinas performing Giselle often use two pairs of pointes – one pair for the common girl from the first act, and a different one for the mythical creature from the second act).

The history of production of Giselle is also quite intriguing. The original version of the ballet that was triumphantly performed in the best theatres of that time, stayed in the Marrinsky repertoire due to Marius Petipa. It was Petipa who managed to preserve Perrot’s version inspired by Carlotta Grisi, he who worshipped female beauty on stage mounting the prima-ballerina in the chorus like a diamond. By the beginning of the twentieth century this version of the ballet was lost for France and then made its glorifying return to Paris with Anna Pavlova performing the leading role. Today Mariinsky Theatre’s Giselle is considered a model and sets a reference for other theatres.

Nadezhda Koulygina

 


World premiere: 28 June 1841, Théâtre de l´Académie Royal de Musique, Paris
Premiere in St Petersburg: 18 December 1842, Bolshoi Theatre
Premiere Marius Petipa´s version: 5 February 1884, Bolshoi Theatre, St Petersburg
Premiere in Vladivostok: 23 October 2015, Primorsky Theatre of Opera and ballet

Running time 2 hours 10 minutes
The performance has one interval

Age category 6+

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