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Ballet in two acts with choreography by Coralli and Perrot, libretto by Vernoy de Saint-Georges, Gautier, and Coralli, music by Adam, sets by Pierre Ciceri, and costumes by Paul Lormier. Premiered 28 Jun. 1841 at the Paris Opera, with Grisi (Giselle), Lucien Petipa (Albrecht), Adèle Dumilâtre (Myrtha). The most famous of all Romantic ballets, it is now in the repertoire of virtually every classical company in the world. Set in Germany's Rhine Valley, it was inspired by a story by Heinrich Heine, and tells the tragedy of the innocent peasant girl Giselle in love with the philandering Count Albrecht, who is betrothed to Bathilde, herself the daughter of a Duke. Albrecht's pursuit of Giselle provokes the jealous gamekeeper Hilarion to expose the former's true identity, an act which drives Giselle to madness and, eventually, death. The second act takes place within the moonlit domain of the Wilis, vengeful spirits of brides who died before their wedding day. Led by their queen, Myrtha, the Wilis seek to kill all men who wander into their world. Hilarion is their first prey, but Albrecht is saved from death by the intervention of Giselle who, even after death, remains faithful to him. When dawn breaks the Wilis return to their graves and Albrecht is left alone with the knowledge that he has lost his true love. With its evocation of the supernatural, its portrait of eternal love, and its exploration of the duality of the body and the spirit, Giselle is often considered the quintessential Romantic ballet. Following its Paris premiere productions of the ballet were rapidly staged elsewhere: London, St Petersburg, and Vienna (1942), Berlin and Milan (1843), and Boston (1846). The title role became the testing ground for leading ballerinas, from Carlotta Grisi, who originated the role in Paris, to Fanny Elssler who danced it in London, to Alicia Alonso, Carla Fracci, Alicia Markova, and Galina Ulanova more than a century later. The original Paris production survived until 1868; but almost all subsequent stagings have been based on Petipa's St Petersburg productions (the last of which was in 1884). Diaghilev's Ballets Russes reintroduced Giselle into western Europe in 1910 with a new staging by Fokine starring Karsavina but during the next 100 years alongside many traditional productions of Giselle the ballet has also attracted radical re-interpretation. Some versions, like the Dance Theatre of Harlem's, have relocated the libretto and choreography to a new time and setting—here the Louisiana swamps. Others have entirely re-written the material, like Mats Ek's production for the Cullberg Ballet, set in a lunatic asylum and Michael Keegan-Dolan's modern Irish version for Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre.

Subjects: Performing artsDance

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