Giselle: A Romantic Ballet

A Romantic Favorite

ballet dancers performing on stage

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Considered one of the great Romantic ballets, Giselle was first performed in Paris in 1841. Originally choreographed by Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot, the modern production seen today was choreographed by Marius Petipa for the Imperial Ballet. It is a very popular ballet, known for being passionate and traditionally romantic in nature. Learn more about this French ballet.

Plot Summary of Giselle

As the ballet begins, a nobleman named Albrecht is busily wooing a young, beautiful peasant girl named Giselle. Albrecht leads the young maiden to believe that he is a farmer named Loys. Giselle falls in love with the man, unaware that he is already betrothed to Bathilde, daughter of the Duke. She agrees to marry the man, despite the romantic advancements of another peasant, Hilarion, who suspects that Albrecht is an imposter. Giselle wants badly to dance, but her mother warns her that she has a weak heart.

A prince and his entourage are soon announced by a hunting horn. When the prince's daughter realizes that she and Giselle are both engaged, she gives her a gold necklace. Hilarion tells Giselle that Albrecht has been deceiving her, that he is actually a nobleman. Bathilde quickly reveals to Giselle that Albrecht is indeed her fiance. Horrified and weak, Giselle goes mad and dies of a broken heart. That's where the ballet gets emotional.

The second act of the ballet takes place in a forest beside Giselle's grave. The Queen of the ghostly Wilis, virgins who have died of unrequited love, calls upon them to accept Giselle as one of their own. When Hilarion stops by, the Wilis make him dance to his death. But when Albrecht arrives, Giselle (now a Wili herself) dances with him until the Wilis' power is lost, when the clock strikes four. Realizing that Giselle has saved him, Albrecht cries at her grave.

Artistic Expression of Giselle

The ballet's music was written by Adolphe Adam, who was a well-known ballet and opera music writer in France. The music was written in a style known as cantilena, which is a very popular style. Additions to the music were added as the play evolved. Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot, who were a couple, choreographed the original version of the ballet. Since it's original production, the choreography has also changed and parts were cut.

Interesting Facts About the Ballet 'Giselle'

The role of Giselle is one of the most sought-after in ballet. To win the role, a ballerina must have near perfect technique, outstanding grace, and great drama skills. The dancer needs to be effective at miming, as that comprises much of the production.

Giselle revolves around the themes of love, forest spirits, forces of nature, and death. The second act of the ballet, in which everyone is wearing white, is known as the "white act."