Original Choreography: Jean Coralli & Jules Perrot
Musical Score: Adolphe Adam
Based on: Heinrich Heine's "De lÁllemagne" and Victor Hugo's "Les Orientales"
Giselle Plot & Roles
*Classical ballets have evolved over time, lending themselves to different interpretations as choreographers and directors create works that reflect their visions of the story. The following is intended to provide general information; for details on different versions, click on each of the Giselle performances below.
PRINCIPAL CHARACTERS IN GISELLE (in alphabetical order)
Albrecht: Count of Silesia, Betrothed to Bathilde, Love of Giselle
Bathilde: Betrothed to Albrecht
Berthe: Mother to Giselle
Giselle: A peasant girl, Love of Albrecht, Love of Hilarion
Hilarion: A gamekeeper
Myrtha: Queen of the Wilis
⊙ ACT I: A VILLAGE IN THE GERMAN RHINELAND
On an autumn day, a peasant girl named Giselle – who loves to dance but suffers from a weak heart condition – is pursued by Albrecht, the Count of Silesia; she is unaware of his noble status as he disguises himself as a peasant and thus sees no harm in their flirtation. She initially denies his advances but upon plucking the petals of a daisy, his love for her is confirmed. The gamekeeper Hilarion is suspicious of Albrecht and tries to warn Giselle, with whom he is also in love. She ignores his warnings while he continues to investigate.
The villagers are visited by the Duke of Courland and his daughter Bathilde who is betrothed to Albrecht. When it is realized that both young ladies are engaged to the same man and that indeed Albrecht is a nobleman, Giselle is heartbroken. She attempts to kill herself with Albrecht’s sword but upon failing, goes mad. This frenzy of despair is too much for the girl’s heart and she dies.
⊙ ACT II: THE FOREST
Between midnight and dawn, the Wilis of the forest – led by their Queen Myrtha – appear to avenge the grief they suffered while alive from the betrayal of men they had loved. They force any man who enters their territory to dance until their death. Hilarion comes to mourn Giselle and is victim to the Wilis’ malice.
When Albrecht enters the realm, Giselle pleads with Myrtha to forgive him. She denies the young girl’s request and orders her along with the other Wilis to dance with him until his death. Giselle manages to keep him alive until the light of dawn, thus sparing him the same fate as Hilarion.
★ INTERESTING FACT ★ Adolphe Adam, the composer of GISELLE’s score, is reported to have written the music in about two months! His use of leitmotifs for the principal characters as well as for the famous “he loves me, he loves me not” flower test that Giselle uses in Act I helps the audience recognize recurring themes. Representative of the relationship between Giselle and Albrecht, this letimotif is repeated throughout the ballet in different ways, helping to convey the characters’ emotions to the viewer.