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When to see it

The Story

The peasant girl Giselle discovers the true identity of her lover Albrecht – and that he is promised to another.

Read more… (Contains spoilers)

Background

Giselle is the classic ballet of the Romantic era. It transformed the dance world when it was first performed in Paris in 1841 and remains at the centre of the classical repertory. Giselle’s essence has remained the same through many different productions in well over a century of continuous performance. Peter Wright’s production for The Royal Ballet is based on Marius Petipa’s classic version (after the original 1841 choreography by Jules Perrot and Jean Coralli), which was first staged in St Petersburg in 1884.

The role of Giselle provides the 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, ‘white’ act plunges the audience into an eerie moonlit forest haunted by the ethereal Wilis. With its combination of memorable story and exquisite choreography, Giselle is the perfect way to discover classical ballet.

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On Wikipedia

Carlotta Grisi in the first act of Giselle, .

(This article is about the ballet. For other uses, see Giselle (disambiguation). ) Giselle (French: Giselle, ou les Wilis) is a romantic ballet in two acts. It was first performed by the Ballet du Théâtre de l'Académie Royale de Musique at the Salle Le Peletier in Paris, France on Monday, 28 June 1841, with Italian ballerina Carlotta Grisi as Giselle. The ballet was an unqualified triumph. Giselle became hugely popular and was staged at once 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. 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 great love frees him from their grasp. Librettists Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges and Théophile Gautier took their inspiration for the plot from a prose passage about the Wilis in De l'Allemagne, by Heinrich Heine, and from a poem called "Fantômes" in Les Orientales by Victor Hugo. The prolific opera and ballet composer Adolphe Adam composed the music. Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot created the choreography. The role of Giselle was intended for Carlotta Grisi as her debut piece for the Paris public. She became the first to dance the role and was the only ballerina to dance it at the Opéra for many years.

Abstract taken from the Wikipedia article Giselle, available under a Creative Commons license.