Ballet in two acts
Libretto by Théophile Gaultier, Jules-Henri Vernois de Saint-Georges, Jean Coralli
Choreography by Jules Perrot, Jean Coralli, Marius Petipa revised version by Leonid Lavrovsky
Renewal - Nadezhda Fedorova
The ballet Giselle (the full name is Giselle, or Wilis, French Giselle, ou les Wilis) is perhaps the most romantic work of recent centuries.
Among the countless stories ever told in the language of dance, nothing more beautiful and sad has ever been created than this drama. Thanks to the charm of its plot and perfect choreography, this romantic masterpiece entered the classics of ballet and became, along with Swan Lake, the most famous and popular ballet in the world. It was in Giselle that ballet romanticism was finally established.
The dance in “Giselle” received a poetic spirituality. The solo “fantastic” parts included a variety of flights that create the impression of airiness of the characters. The heroines went up to pointe shoes. In “earthly”, non-fantastic images, the dance acquired a national character. A new type of ballet drama has been established in ballet, where dance serves not as an illustration of plot episodes, but becomes the main poetic means of expressing artistic content.
The eternal story of love, betrayal and repentance was first presented on June 28, 1841 at the Grand Opera in Paris, then called the Royal Academy of Music and Dance. The incredible success of the premiere determined the further fate of the ballet. Over the next eighteen years, the Paris Opera gave one hundred and fifty performances of Giselle, which invariably ended in endless applause from the audience, bringing the work more and more fame. We will never see how the great ballerina Carlotta Grisi danced. But we will never forget her, because two equally great people – the choreographer Jules Perrot and the poet Théophile Gaultier – were in love with Carlotta and created Giselle for her. This ballet, as the newspaper publishers later wrote, was created by several men in love with the aim of “serving as a showcase for the talents of one young ballerina.”
The plot that developed during the work on this ballet was no less entertaining than the ballet libretto. Ballerina Carlotta Grisi, whose real name was Caronne Adele Giuseppina Maria Grisi, was born in Italy in 1819. In 1834, in Naples, Carlotta met the talented and famous French dancer and choreographer Jules Perrot. Carlotta became a protégé of Jules Perrot, he trained and taught her, staged her choreographic numbers. Carlotta began performing under the name of Madame Perrault. In 1837, Perrault left the Grand Opera to pursue further Carlotta’s career and they began touring European theaters. At the same time, Adolphe Charles Adam, already a renowned composer, returned to Paris from Petersburg, where he followed Maria Taglioni, the famous French dancer who performed in Russia from 1837 to 1842. Having written the ballet The Sea Robber in St. Petersburg for Taglioni, in Paris, Adam began working on the ballet Giselle. The script was written by the French poet and novelist Théophile Gaultier according to an old Slavic legend reproduced by Heinrich Heine in his book On Germany. The legend spoke of the Wilis – girls who died of unhappy love on the eve of the wedding. At midnight the Wilis come out of their graves and dance.
A random traveler who meets them on the way is involved in a round dance in which the Wilis circle him until he falls dead. To give the action a generalized character, Gaultier deliberately mixed countries and titles: taking the scene to Thuringia, he made Albert the Duke of Silesian (he is called the Count in the later versions of the libretto), and the bride’s father was the Prince (in the later versions he is the Duke) of Courland. Théophile Gaultier treated, as they say, “with respect” to Jules Perrot and supported his candidacy to participate in the creation of the ballet. Perhaps partly because Gaultier himself was married to Carlotta Grisi’s own sister, Ernest. But he dedicated this ballet to Carlotta, hoping to win her heart. Gaultier was in love with Carlotta and wrote the libretto “with the soul of a poet in love.” The famous librettist, skillful author of many librettos, Jules-Henri Vernois de Saint-Georges, and Jean Coralli, who since 1831 became choreographer of the Grand Opera, took part in the work on Giselle. Jules Perrot continued to love Carlotta and did everything to turn her into a world-famous prima ballerina.
The whole part of Giselle, the whole drawing of the leading role was choreographically designed by Perrot, but his name was not even mentioned in the poster for the Paris premiere of the ballet. All the glory went to Coralli, who took advantage of the vague and “hidden” position of Perrot and appropriated all the authorship of the ballet’s choreography. The ballet’s success was tremendous, the audience literally shed tears over the story of the poor deceived girl. Critics have announced that Giselle is the greatest ballet of its time. They also immediately elevated Carlotta Grisi to star status. The part of Count Albert was performed by Lucien Petipa, the younger brother of Marius Petipa, the “father” of classical ballet. Currently, there is no longer any doubt as to who the authorship of the choreographic scenes in the ballet belongs to. This is the genius Jules Perrot. Coralli put on general dances. Having created the part of Giselle for Carlotta Grisi, Jules Perrot established ballet romanticism and finally elevated ballet into the same full-fledged genre of art as music and poetry. With this, he fulfilled his dream – the success of the ballet instantly strengthened Carlotta Grisi in the status of a world-class celebrity.
Soon after the premiere of the ballet, Jules Perrot left for England. In historical ballet memoirs, there is an opinion that this was caused not so much by the intrigues of Coralli as by the fact that Carlotta “showed favor to Gaultier in gratitude for the fame he helped her achieve.” According to other versions, she was carried away by the young handsome Lucien Petipa. Whatever it was, and whether 21-year-old Carlotta betrayed one man for the sake of another, but her mentor was always Jules Perrot, and she always remained a prima ballerina. All the latest achievements of French ballet were quickly transferred to the Russian stage. The ballet Giselle was staged in St. Petersburg in 1842, a year after the Paris premiere. It is still included in the repertoires of many musical theaters. The St. Petersburg production of the performance completed the trend that developed in the romantic ballet of Europe, when the dawn of the ballet theater as a musical one began to rise. The defining semantic source of the choreographic composition was music, and not just the literary script.
In his monograph, Yuri Slonimsky writes: “The French“ Giselle ”is a sentimental melodrama dedicated to the unhappy love of a grisette, a peyzan, of which there were many in those days. The misfortune that befell the heroine is an “accident”. Her feeling remains in the memory an attractive, curiously naive illusion. “Russian“ Giselle ”is a sublime drama of the heart. Here love is not an illusion, but a symbol of faith. ” At one time, the part of Giselle was danced by world-famous ballerinas: Anna Pavlova, Olga Spesivtseva, Elena Andreyanova, Vera Coralli, Galina Ulanova. Ulanova became the ancestor of a whole tradition, performing not just a ballet part, but a real dramatic role, in which, in addition to the impeccability of the technical performance of choreographic elements, special attention is paid to the acting talent of the ballet soloist. And the great Cuban ballerina Alicia Alonso was awarded the high title la bailarina absoluta for her performance of the part of Giselle.
he action takes place in Thuringia during the feudal era Mountain village in Thuringia. The peasants go to the grape harvest. Home of the peasant woman Bertha, a widow who lives here with her daughter Giselle. The hunters appear – Count Albert with a squire. Albert was ahead of the other participants in the hunt to meet a peasant girl he liked. The Count and his squire Wilfried enter the hunting lodge, and soon Albert comes out in peasant dress. Wilfried persuades the count to abandon his secret plans, but he resists. He points to Giselle’s house – the one with whom he is in love lives here. Albert declares his love to Giselle. Giselle half-jokingly expresses her mistrust of Albert’s love confessions. She picks the flower and wonders on its petals: “Loves – does not love.” Petal says – “does not love.”
Then Albert, secretly from her, picks off one petal and shows her that her fortune-telling was wrong. The love scene is interrupted by the forester Hans. Seeing Giselle with the Count, he warns the girl and asks her to reciprocate. An angry Albert drives him away. Giselle’s friends appear, they surround her and start dancing. Albert watches Giselle with admiration – her gaiety and liveliness are irresistible. Bertha, Giselle’s mother, comes out of the hut. She reminds the girl: she has a bad heart, she cannot dance. But Giselle is not afraid of anything, she is happy. The sound of a horn is suddenly heard. The participants of the hunt are approaching. Albert leaves in a hurry so that they won’t recognize him. Albert Bathilda’s bride and her father, the Duke of Courland, appear along with the hunters. Giselle examines the luxurious outfit of a noble lady with curiosity. Bathilda is fascinated by the beauty and innocence of the peasant woman. Bathilda gives Giselle a gold chain, which she accepts with embarrassment and delight. From the window of the hunting lodge, in which Albert was changing clothes, a forester gets out. In his hands is an expensive weapon, proving the high origin of the one who turned the head of Giselle, beloved by Hans.
The party begins, Albert is dancing with Giselle. Hans blows the horn, to the sounds of which hunters come with the Duke and Bathilda. The retinue greets the young duke respectfully, and the distinguished guests are also glad to see him. Albert walks up to Bathilda and kisses her hand. Giselle runs up to her and says that Albert has sworn loyalty to her, that he loves her. Angered by Giselle’s claims, Bathilda shows her her wedding ring – she is Albert’s fiancee. Giselle throws the presented chain at Bathilda’s feet and falls. Albert tries to explain himself to Giselle, but she no longer hears anything. She’s going crazy. In a dim consciousness, pictures of the recent past flicker: divination on petals, an oath, words of love, friends. Unable to withstand the shock, she dies.
In the moonlight, ghostly Wilis appear among the graves of the village cemetery. “Dressed in wedding dresses, crowned with flowers … the Wilis are irresistibly beautiful dancing in the light of the month, they dance more passionately and faster, the more they feel that the hour given to them for dancing is running out, and they must again descend into their ice-cold graves …” , – Heinrich Heine. Hans comes here. Mysterious sounds are heard, lights flash. Frightened Hans flees. The shadow that grows in his path is the mistress of the Wilis Mirta. The Wilis seem to bathe in the moonlight. At a sign from Mirta, they surround Giselle’s grave, preparing to meet their new friend. The ghostly figure of Giselle rises from the grave. Noise is heard. The Wilis disappear. Albert comes to the cemetery. He searches for Giselle’s grave. Albert is in deep thought and sorrow. Suddenly he notices the figure of Giselle. Not believing his eyes, he rushes to her. The vision disappears, then appears, and again, as it were, melts into thin air. The Wilis begin to pursue Albert and involve him in a dance. He falls at Myrtha’s feet, begging for salvation. But Mirta is relentless. Wanting to ruin Albert, she tries to drag him into a dance whirlwind, but Giselle appears and begins to dance instead of Albert to save him from death. The clock chimes. Six strikes – dawn. The Wilis lose their power and disappear. The light shadow of Giselle also disappears, but she will always live in Albert’s memory as an eternal regret for lost love, for a love that is stronger than death.