Most recent performance
There are currently no scheduled performances of Giselle. It was last on stage 18 January—10 February 2014 as part of the Winter 2013/14 season.
Giselle, a peasant girl, has fallen in love with Count Albrecht, who has led her to believe that he is a villager named Loys. Her discovery of his true identity has devastating consequences.
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. The Royal Ballet’s production uses Marius Petipa’s classic version (after the original choreography by Jules Perrot and Jean Coralli), 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 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
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?
27 January 2014
Another chance to see the backstage films screened as part of our live cinema relay.
27 January 2014
Captivating choreography and gripping storytelling come together in a pivotal moment in ballet history.
25 January 2014
Digital Guide contains exclusive features, films and interviews to bring you closer to the production.
Giselle, or The Wilis (French: Giselle, ou Les Wilis) is a romantic ballet in two acts. Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges and Théophile Gautier wrote the libretto. They took their inspiration from a prose passage about the Wilis in Elementargeister 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. Carlotta Grisi was the first to dance the role of Giselle.The ballet is about a peasant girl named Giselle who dies of a broken heart 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 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 with both critics and the public. The ballet became hugely popular. It was staged across Europe, Russia, and the United States.The traditional choreography that has been passed down to the present day derives primarily from the revivals staged by Marius Petipa during the late 19th and early 20th centuries for the Imperial Ballet in St. Petersburg. Petipa's choreography from the Imperial Ballet's production was notated in the Stepanov method of choreographic notation in 1903 as Petipa himself took the great Anna Pavlova through rehearsals. Many years later, the Imperial Ballet's régisseur Nicholas Sergeyev would use this notation to stage Giselle throughout Europe, most notably for the Ballets Russes in 1910, the Paris Opéra Ballet in 1924 and, perhaps most importantly, for the Vic-Wells Ballet (precursor of the Royal Ballet in London) in 1934. It is from this 1934 staging that nearly all subsequent productions of Giselle are now based. Today the Imperial Ballet's choreographic notation of Giselle, along with notations for many ballets of the traditional classical repertory, are part of the Sergeyev Collection and preserved in the Harvard University Library theatre collection.In a departure from the traditional Giselle, Frederic Franklin restaged the ballet in 1988 as Creole Giselle for the Dance Theatre of Harlem. This adaptation set the ballet among the Creoles and African Americans in 1840s Louisiana.