Giselle Synopsis

Larissa Ponomarenko as Giselle in Act I of Giselle. Photo by Gene Schiavone.

Larissa Ponomarenko as Giselle

Photo credit: Gene Schiavone

This is the story of Giselle, a lovely peasant girl with a weak heart and a passion for dancing. 

Larissa Ponomarenko as Giselle (Act I)

Photo credit: Gene Schiavone

Kathleen Breen Combes as Myrtha, Queen of the Wilis in Giselle (Act II)

Photo credit: Gene Schiavone

Larissa Ponomarenko as Giselle (Act I)

Photo credit: Gene Schiavone

Kathleen Breen Combes as Myrtha, Queen of the Wilis in Giselle (Act II)

Photo credit: Gene Schiavone

Act I

Giselle begins in the Rhine valley in medieval Germany on a crisp autumn day during the village wine festival. Albrecht of Silesia, a count disguised as a peasant farmer named Loys, comes to court Giselle at the cottage she shares with her mother, Berthe. Giselle, unaware of his true identity, initially resists his advances. He persuades her to trust his pledge of eternal love. Albrecht and Giselle dance and she plucks the petals from a daisy to divine his sincerity. Hilarion, a gamekeeper who is also in love with Giselle, challenges Albrecht to a fight and tries to warn Giselle that there is something suspicious about Albrecht, but she refuses to believe him. Giselle and Albrecht are met by friends and villagers on their way from the vineyards, and all join in a dance until Berthe warns Giselle against exerting herself, afraid that her daughter’s heart will give out. She tells Giselle and the villagers the story of the Wilis, spirits of betrothed young women who have died from grief after being betrayed by unfaithful lovers. Berthe leads a reluctant Giselle indoors, and Albrecht takes his leave.

Horns sound in the distance, signaling the imminent arrival of a hunting party, led by the Duke of Courland and his daughter Bathilde, who is engaged to Albrecht. Bathilde learns that Giselle, too, is engaged, and charmed by the girl, gives her a necklace, unaware that they are betrothed to the same man. Giselle, in gratitude for the gift, asks her friends to join her in dancing a pas de deux to entertain the hunting party. The merriment is brought to a halt by Hilarion who, having investigated Albrecht’s cottage, now brandishes the nobleman’s horn and sword. When Giselle learns the truth of Albrecht’s deception, she is distraught and attempts to kill herself with his sword. She goes mad with despair. Her weak heart gives out and she dies.

Erica Cornejo as Giselle stands over Nelson Madrigal as Albrecht in Act II of Giselle. Photo by Rosalie O'Connor

Erica Cornejo as Giselle and Nelson Madrigal as Albrecht in Giselle (Act II)

Photo credit: Rosalie O'Connor

Act II

Hilarion comes to grieve at Giselle’s grave, but leaves when he senses the presence of Wilis. These malicious, nocturnal creatures are ruled by their queen, Myrtha, and seek revenge by forcing any man who crosses their path between midnight and dawn to dance to his death. The Wilis gather this night to prepare to initiate Giselle into their ranks.

Albrecht, full of remorse, comes to mourn at Giselle’s grave. To his astonishment, her ghost appears before him and he follows her deeper into the forest. The Wilis find Hilarion roaming the forest and show him no mercy. After forcing him to dance until he is fatally exhausted, Myrtha commands the Wilis to drown Hilarion in the nearby lake. When Albrecht returns, the Wilis surround him and try to doom him to the same fate as Hilarion. Giselle pleads with Myrtha to spare him, but the Queen cannot be swayed and commands her and the Wilis to dance with Albrecht until he dies. Giselle dances with Albrecht through the night to help him stay alive until the first light of dawn, when the Wilis lose their power. Albrecht collapses from exhaustion, just as the darkness of the forest is broken by the first light of dawn. The Wilis are banished and Giselle returns to the earth. As her love has transcended death, her spirit has now been freed from the power of the Wilis. Now alone in deep reflection, Albrecht is overcome and humbled by the generosity of her forgiveness and selfless love.

The illusion we create is intended to deepen your understanding of reality.

Mikko Nissinen, Artistic Director
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