When to see it
Giselle, a peasant girl, has fallen in love with Count Albrecht, who has told her he is a villager named Loys. Her discovery of his true identity has devastating consequences.
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Giselle is the quintessential Romantic ballet. It transformed the dance world when it was first performed in Paris in 1841 and remains at the centre of the classical repertory. Although the choreography and designs have undergone many changes over the years, the essence of Giselle remains the same. Peter Wright’s production for The Royal Ballet is based on Marius Petipa’s classic version (after original choreography by Jules Perrot and Jean Coralli), which was first staged in St Petersburg in 1884.
The role of Giselle provides a dancer with many technical and dramatic challenges, from the character’s early love to her poignant descent into madness and her final gesture of forgiveness from beyond the grave. The first act of the ballet is filled with historical detail and rustic colour. By contrast, the second act (known as the White Act) plunges the audience into an eerie moonlit forest haunted by the ethereal Wilis – vengeful spirits of young brides who died before their wedding day. With its combination of memorable story and exquisite choreography, Giselle is the perfect way to discover classical ballet.
News and features
27 January 2016
You don't need a performance ticket to attend a pre-show talk, meaning that exploring productions is even easier than before.
15 April 2015
Live Cinema Season 2015/16 includes 6 Royal Opera and 6 Royal Ballet productions screened live in cinemas across the world.
5 February 2015
These expert dancer-actors are as important to the drama as the leading lady.
25 November 2014
Much more than just a bit of local colour, national dances were key to the development of ballet throughout the 19th century.
8 August 2014
Order Peter Wright’s production starring Natalia Osipova and Carlos Acosta now, and receive a discount.
27 January 2014
What did you think of the live cinema relay of The Royal Ballet's production starring Carlos Acosta and Natalia Osipova?
Giselle, or The Wilis (French: Giselle, ou Les Wilis) is a romantic ballet in two acts with a libretto by Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges and Théophile Gautier. They took their inspiration from a prose passage about the Wilis by Heinrich Heine, and from a poem about a girl who dies after an all-night ball called "Fantômes" in Les Orientales by Victor Hugo. Adolphe Adam composed the music; Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot composed the choreography. The role of Giselle was intended for the Italian ballerina Carlotta Grisi as her debut piece for the Paris public, and she became the first to dance the role. The ballet is about a peasant girl named Giselle who dies of a heart failure after discovering her lover is betrothed to another. The Wilis, a group of supernatural women who dance men to death, summon Giselle from her grave. They target her lover for death, but Giselle's great love frees him from their grasp. Giselle was first performed by the Ballet du Théâtre de l'Académie Royale de Musique at the Salle Le Peletier in Paris, France, on Sunday 28 June 1841. The opening night was a triumph for both critics and the public. The ballet became hugely popular. It was staged across Europe, Russia, and the United States almost immediately after its debut.