The History ~ Since its premiere in 1841, Giselle has become one of the most popular ballets of all time and is considered ballet’s great tragedy. Giselle represents the greatest achievement of ballet’s Romantic era. After it fell out of repertory at the Paris Opera, it returned to the West via Russia and had been handed down through generations of artists. Giselle continues to enthrall audiences today, 170 years after its triumphant premiere.

Featured photo: Poster from 1842 Giselle premiere.

The Story ~ Giselle tells the story of a young peasant girl seduced and betrayed by a nobleman. Dying of a broken heart, Giselle joins the ranks of the supernatural Wilis: women scorned before their wedding day and doomed to rise from the grave and take revenge for eternity.

Carlotta Grisi as Giselle in Giselle Act II.

Sources ~ These include an 1842 manuscript rehearsal score, made the year after Giselle‘s premiere, that perfectly links action with music; a Parisian notation score from the 1860s that reads like a brilliant screenplay; and a Russian notation score from the turn of the century, from which nearly every modern production can be traced. Taken together, these sources bring us closer to that first Giselle and the intentions of the creators.

A World Premiere Staging ~ Recent findings have allowed Pacific Northwest Ballet to get a closer look at early productions of Giselle and understand even more clearly why this ballet above all others resonated so strongly with audiences of its time. Artistic Director Peter Boal has assembled a team of artists and researchers to take these exciting sources and develop a new staging of Giselle, bringing yesteryear forward to the present in a fresh and rich production.

June 3-12, 2011
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Featured photo: PNB corps de ballet dancer Amanda Clark doing a photo shoot for PNB’s world premiere staging of Giselle June 3-12. 2011. Photo © Phil Thompson.