Meet Giselle, a peasant girl from Rhineland. She lives in her little cottage together with her mom, and as anyone else in Rhineland, they are harvesting grapes in the spring. Giselle is a beautiful young lady, and is very popular among the wine-harvesting men, specially by a certain Hilarion. But her mother is strict, and doesn’t let Giselle just run around flirting all day. You see, Giselle has a heart condition. And her ever-loving mother does anything to prevent her from getting too upset, as it can be dangerous.

Giselle (Barbora Kaufmanová) picks the petals of a daisy to decide whether Albrect (Jan Krejčir) loves her or not. © Tamara Cerna SofiG. All rights reserved

Now, one day, Giselle meets this boy called Loyd. He is kind and sweet with her, and Giselle falls completely in love with him. While dancing with Loyd, Giselle picks the petals from a daisy-flower to decide whether he loves her or not. Even though the result is negative, Loyd quickly pulls out an extra petal while Giselle isn’t watching, and pam – the flower says he loves her. There you have for believing in superstition.

You see, what Giselle doesn’t know, is that Loyd is really a duke, and his name is not Loyd at all, but Albrecht, duke of Silesia. He is supposed to get married to a princess, and dressed up as a peasant for some last entertainment before his marriage (I guess as a kind of medieval version of a Bachelor’s party, although without all the drunken friends).

Hilarion, the wine-harvester who was especially attracted to Giselle, finds Albrect’s sword and cape hidden in his cottage (the story doesn’t say anything of what Hilarion was doing in Albrecht’s cottage in the first place – but he is later punished for his snooping around anyway), and put’s the threads together. But before he can warn poor Giselle, a noble hunting party is arriving their little town, and my-oh-my, amongst them is Bathilde, Albrecht’s fiance (you get where this is going?). As expected of them, the grape-harvesters sets up a celebration for the noblemen, and everything seems quite merry until Hilarion can’t take it anymore, and reveals Albrecht’s true identity by showing everyone his sword with his royal ingravements. Albrecht get’s quite an explanation problem, especially when it turns out, his fiance is there as well to confirm Hilarion’s allegations.

Giselle (Nikola Márová) collapses in Albrechts (Michael Štipa) hands. © Tamara Cerna SofiG. All rights reserved

The shock is just to much for a poor country-girl like Giselle, and she goes reaving mad. Although she takes Albrecht’s sword, and want to kill herself, what finally gets to her is her weak heart, giving up knowing that the man she loved is engaged to someone else. The first act ends with Giselle collapsing in front of all the shocked villagers.

The second act is set at night, at Giselle’s grave. Her spirit is summoned by a group of mean, female spirits called the Wilis. They are the ghosts of women betrayed by their loved one’s before their wedding day, and they are out for revenge. These are mean ghosts all right, and they mean business. When Hilarion arrives to mourn the death of poor Giselle, the Wilis makes him dance to the point of complete exhaustion, and then throw him to die in a nearby lake. Not long after, Albrecht arrives to the grave. The Wilis, lead by their queen Myrtha, sentences him to death as well. Albrecht is begging for forgiveness, but Myrtha refuses to listen. Giselle, though, still in love with him, protects him from the mean ghosts when they force him to dance.

Albrecht (Michael Štipa) dancing with the ghost of Giselle (Nikola Márová). © Tamara Cerna SofiG. All rights reserved

Day brakes, and the mean Wilis have to return to their graves. After a tear-breaking farewell, Giselle returns to her grave to rest in peace. By not succumbing to feeling of vengeance and hatred, she has freed herself from the curse of the Wilis. Albrect, on the other side, is left by the grave. Her love has saved him, but I’ll guess he have some soul searching to do before he seduces another peasant girl for fun…

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The performance Giselle also plays a central role in the SYTYCD-disease known as Revenging Wili disorder

Facts on Giselle:

  • Rated R for minor violence, long second act white-ballet and mean-ass Wilis.
  • Choreographed by Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot, revival by Marius Petipa
  • Music composed by Adolphe Adam
  • Premiered in Paris, the 28th of june 1841
  • The original cast was Carlotta Grisi as Giselle, and Lucien Petipa as Albrect.

all pictures are copyrighted by Tamara Černa as of 2010. All rights reserved