Giselle, or The Wilis is a classic romantic ballet, composed by Adolphe Adam in 1841. The ballet became hugely popular almost immediately after its debut. It was staged across Europe, Russia, and the United States and gained great success. Giselle still remains one of the most staged classic ballet performances all over the world.
The ballet is about a peasant girl named Giselle who dies of a heart failure after discovering her lover is betrothed to another. The Wilis, a group of supernatural women who dance men to death, summon Giselle from her grave. They target her lover for death, but Giselle's great love frees him from their grasp.
Giselle was first performed at the Salle Le Peletier in Paris on Sunday 28 June 1841. The choreographers of the production were Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot. On the stage of the Paris Opera Ballet "Giselle" stood at 18,150 performances (compared to the previously most famous ballet "La Sylphide" - was presented 59 times in 12 years.
In Russia Giselle was first performed at the Bolshoi Theatre, St. Petersburg, on 18 December 1842. In the 1880s, Ballet Master Marius Petipa made many changes to the Perrot production. His Version became basis for most of modern-days Giselle performances.
Giselle, or The Wilis survived for more than a century without any significant changes since Maruis Petipa’s times and nowadays is being staged all over the world.
Today in 2023 in St.Petersburg Giselle ballet is staged in all the major ballet theatres: Mariinsky Theatre, Mikhailovsky Theatre, Hermitage Theatre, Alexandrinsky Theatre, Aurora Ballet Hall and Russian Classical Ballet Palace.
The Mariinsky Theatre is a historic stage, where Giselle or The Wilis by Marius Petipa, was premiered in Russia on 5 February 1884. The meaning of Mariinsky Theatre for russian ballet history and for Giselle performance can not be underestimated. The first, the best and the greatest - the most suitable characteristics for Mariinsky Theatre and it’s Giselle performance, directed by Maestro Valery Gergiev.
If one is lucky enough to buy a couple of tickets to Giselle or The Wilis ballet in Mariinsky Theatre - he can truly be sure, he will have a life-time experience. Unfortunately, Giselle or The Wilis ballet in Mariinsky Theatre is staged only a dozen times a year, and huge ammount of best-view and good-view tickets immediately goes to black market resellers, where they are sold at least two times more expensive.
The Mikhailovsky Theatre is one of Russia's oldest opera and ballet houses. It was founded in 1833 and is situated in a historical building on the Arts Square in St. Petersburg. The current production of Giselle or The Wilis by Nikita Dolgushin after Jean Coralli, Jules Perrot and Marius Petipa, staged in Mikhailovsky Theatre was premiered on 3 November 2007.
Nikita Dolgushin inspired the creation of the ballet and delicately united dance and mime. He revealed the essence of the romantic ballet, the story of Giselle is told in the language of ballet classicism. Together with Viacheslav Okunev, who designed the epitome of romantic settings, Dolgushin made a production that was described by a British critic ‘an exemplary Giselle’.
The Hermitage theatre is known by the most intimate version of Giselle. The theatre used to be family theater of the royal family. Giselle in the Hermitage theatre is more romantic than anywhere else. While the original choreography is conserved, the Hermitage version of the famous Giselle has notable touch of the Russian ballet school.
The Hermitage theatre is quite small and Giselle is very popular among locals, so advance bookings are highly recommended if you wish to buy the best tickets for Giselle or The Wilis ballet in the Hermitage theatre.
Giselle or The Wilis in the Alexandrinsky theatre is always classical one, with excellent decorations and famous dancers. The version of Giselle in Alexandrinsky is romantic one. There are quite many performances of Giselle in the Alexandrinsky theatre during the Summer season, offering many available tickets for Giselle ballet during the high season.
Aurora ballet hall is not centrally located, however the place is quite convenient. The building of the concert hall is quite modern. It does not have atmosphere of an ancient theatre, but the ballet itself is good. Giselle or The Wilis in the Aurora Ballet Hall has a touch of Russian modernism. The ballet-hall, offering excellent views of the Neva river, is quite spacious, so for those who need, so if you want to buy last-minute ticket for Giselle or The Wilis ballet in St. Petersburg, Aurora ballet hall might be an option.
Giselle in The Russian Classical Ballet Palace, which is located at the Arts square, where the majority of the Russian ballets were born, is definitely good choice for those, who prefer Russian classical ballet as is. The performanсe of Giselle or The Wilis in the Russian Classical Ballet Palace is always an event for true ballet lovers.
While there are quite many Giselle performances in St. Petersburg ballet theatres, one have to admit, that Mariinsky and Mikhailovsky theatre do not offer enough classical performances. For example, Giselle ballet in Mariinsky and Mikhailovsky theatres is staged only several times a year and the tickets are sold out quite fast.
Hermitage Theatre and Russian Classical Ballet Palace, however, offer Giselle performances on regular basis. One can choose good-view seats and buy tickets for the dates when he or she will be in St. Petersburg.
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This is the first and the original version of Giselle, one of the first performances in Paris.
Village in the mountains, surrounded by the forests and vineyards. Bertha and her daughter Giselle live in the farmhouse. Farmers are going to gather grapes. The girls are welcoming their friend Giselle.
The forester Hans appears. He wants to break the happiness of Giselle and the guy, living at the hunting box. Hans disappears, count Albert in the peasant dress and his squire Wilfred are leaving the hunting box. Albert came to the date with Giselle. Wilfred tries to talk him out of the date, but Albert disagrees, knock at the door and hides. Giselle exits her house, sees nobody and wants to go back. Albert appears, touches Giselle’s hand. Their dance turns to the love scene. Suddenly Hans appears. He assures Giselle in his love, but Albert kicks him away.
Giselle’s friends return from the vineyards. They are dancing altogether, and Albert dances with them with pleasure.
Bertha goes out the farmhouse and stops the dances. She reminds Giselle, that she can not dance so much, as she has heart illness.
Hans returns. Wounded by Giselle’s refusal, he decides to reveal Albert’s secret and enters his house. The hunting party is getting back with the Duke and his daughter Batilda, Albert’s bride.
Tired by the hunting, they decide to have a rest. The Duke asks Bertha and Giselle to bring them some drinks. Batilda is charmed by Giselle’s beauty and presets her the necklace. Noble guests go to have a rest. Suddenly Hans appears, holding the count’s sword – evidence of Albert’s noble origins.
The farmers are celebrating the harvest. During the celebrations Hans appears and shows everybody Albert’s sword. Giselle ask the explanation. Albert starts fighting with Hans, but Wilfred stops him. Hans bugles. Batilda with the escort appears. She is surprised to see Albert in peasant dress. Albert kisses her hand.
Giselle understands that she was decepted by oaths of love. Batilda shows her wedding ring – she is Albert’s bride. Shocked Giselle remembers all the oaths, words of love, dances and dies.
The Wilis see the forester, who came to Giselle’s tomb, exhausted by the conscience. They are circling him in the magic dance until the death by their mistress Mirtha order.
Albert also comes to Giselle’s tomb during the night. The Willis surround him, the faith of the forester threatens Albert, but the shadow of Giselle, who conserved her love to Albert, appears, and saves Albert from the Wilis’ anger.
The Wilis disappear with the first rays of the sun. So does Giselle’s shadow, but she will survive in the memory of Albert, remembering him about lost love, which was stronger than the death.