The bewitching smiles of the dancing, white-faced nymphs called Wilis are nearly impossible to resist on a moonlit night. Any man unlucky enough to be caught up in their madness, however, must dance himself to death.
Giselle, a masterpiece of the Romantic ballet, is based on legends of Wilis, the spirits of young women who have died before their wedding days. It has continued to be performed since its hit debut in the 19th century.
The story traces the tragic fate of the heroine Giselle, who becomes one of these Wilis of legend after being betrayed by a man with whom she had exchanged vows of love. Even after being transformed into a magical being, however, she stays true to her love and protects the man who betrayed her from the others of her kind. Viewers will enjoy the stark contrast between the dramatic yet realistic unfoldings of Act I and the ethereal, mystical other realm of Act II. The otherworldly beauty and sensitivity of Giselle, who grows throughout the two acts, transcends time to capture the hearts of all who see the performance.
This production of Giselle is produced by Peter Wright, the leading authority on classical ballet in the UK. Some of the more characteristic features of his production include a consistent and particularly British theatricality, as well as an exacting attention to detail. Revisions to certain details of the plot add dramatic depth to the story, making its developments more convincing to a modern audience: Among other twists, in this production, Giselle dies by suicide and not of a weak heart, and the depiction of Giselle's mother Berthe hints at the mystery of Giselle's birth.
This piece, which demands highly expressive dancing and acting, has become a touchstone for dancers, providing the opportunity for many to make a splendid display of their prowess as performers. The combinations of Royal Ballet stars in this production have no doubt added a brand new page to the history of the company.
Giselle, a village girl, falls in love with a Duke named Albrecht, who has disguised himself as a villager. The girl's mother, Berthe, warns her, telling her of the ghosts of young women abandoned by their husbands just before their weddings who have died to become Wilis. Just around this time, a group of nobles visit Giselle's village. Giselle serves a beautiful noblewoman called Bathilde, who is in fact Albrecht's fiancÃ©e. Hilarion, a gamekeeper who is also in love with Giselle, becomes suspicious of his rival for Giselle's affection, and eventually he reveals Albrecht's true identity in front of everyone. The shock sends Giselle into madness, and she takes her own life with Albrecht's sword.
At night, Hilarion and Albrecht both visit her grave in the forest. She has become a Wili. The Wilis force Hilarion to dance and then kill him. They then set upon Albrecht as their next target. Giselle protects him desperately, and in time the Wilis' magic weakens and dawn breaks.