Giselle, Ballet by Adolphe-Charles Adam
The story of the fragile, naïve, and heartbroken girl Giselle has inspired many Romantic composers, but none staged it more beautifully than the Frenchman Adolphe Adam. The ballet’s effortless combination of pastoral and otherworldly scenes and the emotion-laden score made it an instant classic. Ever since its debut performances by the ballet company of Théâtre de l'Académie royale de musique, today’s Opéra national de Paris, at the Salle Le Peletier in Paris on 28 June 1841, Adam’s Giselle has been an indelible part of the standard repertoire. Audiences around the world have fretted over the seduction, abandonment, and demise of the young peasant girl. This season, guests of Teatro dell’Opera di Roma in Rome will dive into that tragic, romantic story, too.
The original choreography of Giselle was the work of Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot, though the latter was never officially credited even though Giselle’s expressive dance routines were allegedly his work. Decades after the ballet’s premiere, Russian ballet masters Marius Petipa and Anton Dolin contributed their amendments to the original choreography and created another storytelling element to the on-stage action. Adam’s score is uniquely embedded into the narrative, and the music acts as another powerful storytelling device.
Giselle’s storyline has two principal sources: Heinrich Heine’s story of the Wilis in De l’Allemagne and the poem ‘Fantômes’ by Victor Hugo. Based on these two great sources, Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges and Théophile Gautier crafted the plot of the ballet. The young and innocent peasant girl Giselle falls in love with the serial womaniser Albrecht who predictably takes advantage of her and disappears. Unable to deal with the heartbreak, she fades fast and passes away. The Wilis, vengeful ghosts of wronged women, bring her back from the grave as a ghost and chase after Albrecht to exact their cruel punishment on him: a group dance with him that ends when he dies of exhaustion. Will Giselle’s kind heart save Albrecht from this painful death? Audiences at Teatro Costanzi are in for a thrill.