Choreography: Devon Carney after Marius Petipa, Jean Coralli, and Jules Perrot
Music: Adolphe Adam
A VILLAGE SOMEWHERE IN THE RHINE VALLEY OF GERMANY
As dawn begins to break, Albrécht, Duke of Silesia, and Wilfred, his squire, enter the village unobserved and enter their temporary residence. Hilarion, the village gamekeeper, returns from his early morning duties and pauses at the home of Giselle, with whom he is in love.
Villagers pass by on their way to the vineyards, where they will harvest the last of the grapes before the Wine Festival. Everyone goes their way and Albrécht, now disguised as a peasant by the name of Loys, enters to call on Giselle, but not before Wilfred expresses his reservations. Wilfred is dismissed and Albrécht knocks on the door of Giselle’s cottage. Giselle and Loys express their love for each other with much tender and joyous dancing.
Hilarion, seeing this going on from a distance, interrupts them to remind Giselle that he, not Loys, genuinely loves her. Tensions rise, a fight ensues and Hilarion draws his hunting knife at which Loys instinctively reaches for his sword which is not there. This action on Loys’ part deepens Hilarion’s suspicions concerning him. Hilarion departs.
Then, Giselle’s friends and the village peasants enter with their last harvest, and dancing resumes until Giselle’s mother, Berthe, comes out looking for Giselle. She proceeds to find her and remind Giselle of her weak constitution. Berthe, being of a superstitious nature, tells her daughter and all the others of an old tale of young fianced women who die before their wedding day and rise again between midnight and dawn to dance as the dreaded Wilis. These Wilis vengefully trap any man who enters their forest realm forcing them to mercilessly dance to their tragic death. Giselle chooses not to listen to her mother and rejoins Loys. At Berthe’s insistence, Giselle must retire to her home to rest. Wilfred enters to secretly warn Albrécht of the hunting party that is approaching and encourages him to make a quick exit into the forest so that he will not be discovered in his peasant clothes. Hilarion, disheartened by all that has occurred, begins to plot his revenge upon the one who is known as Loys, who has taken his love away from him. First, he must find some evidence that will prove beyond a doubt that Loys is not who he says he is. Hilarion proceeds to forcibly enter Loys’ cottage. The royal hunting party, in search of refreshments, arrives in the village with the Prince of Courland and his daughter Bathilde who is betrothed to Albrécht. Bathilde takes an interest in Giselle and gives her a beautiful necklace in honor of her upcoming marriage to Loys not knowing that this is the same man to whom she is engaged. A pas de deux, danced by two peasants, is presented to the Prince and Bathilde as a thank you for their generosity. At the conclusion, Berthe invites them to rest in her home. Hilarion, seeing that no one is around comes out of Loys’ house with the incriminating evidence he needs to expose his lie. The entire village comes out to call on Giselle so that she can be crowned Queen of the Vintage and a celebratory dance follows. Then, just at the opportune moment, Hilarion reveals to Giselle the deception that Loys has been party to. Giselle, having an already weak heart, loses her mind over this crushing revelation and dies of a broken heart.
GISELLE’S GRAVE IN A DARK SECLUDED AREA OF THE FOREST
Hilarion arrives to keep vigil by Giselle’s grave, which lies deep in the forest on unconsecrated ground. It is midnight, the hour when the Wilis materialize. Hilarion flees in terror when confronted by these apparitions. Myrtha, their queen, now arrives from the marshes and summons her Wilis. She draws Giselle from her grave to be initiated into their rites. The Wilis disperse as Albrécht approaches, searching for Giselle’s grave. He lays flowers at the cross and when Giselle’s spirit appears to him, he follows it into the forest. Hilarion, now pursued by the Wilis, returns and is forced into an endless dance. Exhausted, he is driven into the lake where he drowns. The Wilis now seek out Albrécht and when Myrtha commands him to dance, Giselle urges him to the safety of the cross, but he is powerless when Myrtha orders Giselle to entice him away by dancing with him. Giselle tries to sustain him, but as the night wears on he becomes weaker and weaker. Just as he is about to die dawn breaks. Daylight destroys the Wilis’ power and the ghostly dancers fade away. Giselle, whose love has transcended death, returns to her grave, her spirit freed from the power of the Wilis, leaving Albrécht sorrowful and alone.
Ballet Premiere: June 28, 1841, Salle Le Peletier, Paris France.
Kansas City Ballet Premiere: March 13, 2015, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts