By Ib Andersen after Jean Corrali and Jules Perrot
The dance of perfect unfulfilled love
Giselle, one of the most celebrated ballets of the classical repertoire, was first presented at the Opéra de Paris in June 1841. The story takes place in a Rhineland village. Giselle, a peasant girl, loves Albrecht, but she is unaware that he is a count and engaged to Bathilde, daughter of the Duke of Courtland. This has aroused the jealousy of the gamekeeper Hilarion, whose love for Giselle is unrequited. At a hunting party of the duke and his entourage, Hillarie reveals Albrecht’s true identity by showing Giselle his sword with a royal crest on it. The shock is too much for the fragile Giselle. She loses her mind and gives way to death. In the second act, the repentant Albrecht goes to pray at her tomb. Hilarion, who has preceded him, has been captured and has been thrown into the lake by the Wilis (the spirits of maidens who loved to dance but died before their wedding day). The Queen of the Wilis decrees that Albrecht must also die, but the spirit of Giselle appears to save him. Albrecht is condemned to dance himself to death but, with Giselle dancing with him, she is able to save him. The dawn comes and the Wilis must return to their graves and Albrecht is left weeping at Giselle’s grave.
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