By: Ana Tique
The story of Giselle has been gracing stages all over the world for almost two centuries. The romantic ballet, written by French composer Adolphe Adam, was first performed in 1841 in Paris. Some 177 years later, by the hand of none other than the renowned Italian Teatro alla Scalla Ballet Company, this haunting tale unfolds on the main stage of the Macau Cultural Centre.
Teatro alla Scalla Ballet Company itself boasts a glorious past that precedes the tale; although it was officially founded after the theatre’s inauguration in 1778, its history goes back to the Renaissance courts of Italy. As time went by, the company further elevated its status, featuring the best names of the 20th Century dance scene, and including in its repertoire both classical ballets and more modern pieces, including Swan Lake, Excelsior and Carmen to name but a few. Choreographers such as Roland Petit and Maurice Béjart plus several legendary stars have joined the corpo di ballo over the years. The mythical company remains one of the most acclaimed on earth, and still calls the world’s most celebrated musical theatre – Teatro La Scala in Milan – home.
Love or Death
A beautiful piece in two acts, Giselle is the epitome of romantic ballet, meant to be staged as a fascinating dream of tulle, mystical creatures, passion and betrayal. It recounts the story of Giselle, a young peasant girl who dies of a broken heart when she finds that her lover, the young nobleman Albrecht, is betrothed to Bathilde, the daughter of a duke.
The discovery causes Giselle to descend into madness, ultimately collapsing into Albrecht’s arms. She is then summoned from the grave by the Wilis – a group of ghostly women who dance men to death. The Wilis are the spirits of virgin girls who died before they married – and their strength stoically builds up to a crescendo as the story unfolds, creating one of the most recognisable ballet scenes in history as they control the stage with their long tulle dresses in synchronised movements.
Having joined this ghostly legion of maidens haunting the forests, Giselle is faced with the impasse of vengeance versus forgiveness, and takes on the ultimate act of love by not only forgiving but saving her beloved from the Wilis’ vindictive spirits before finally vanishing with the first rays of dawn.
Originally created for Italian ballerina Carlotta Grisi for her Paris debut, and performed by the Ballet du Théâtre de l’Académie Royale de Musique in 1841, Giselle was an immediate success, becoming hugely popular and staged across Europe and the United States. For many years, Carlotta was the only ballerina to dance it at the Opéra. The story of Giselle, created by librettists Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges and Théophile Gautier was inspired by a prose passage about the Wilis in De l’Allemagne by Heinrich Heine, and from a poem entitled Fantômes in Les Orientales by Victor Hugo.
La Scala’s revival of the unforgettable original choreography by Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot takes us back to the Romantic roots of the renowned Milanese ballet of the 1800’s. Giselle is a ballet of contrasting atmospheres that flows effortlessly between a bright world and a terrible, dark kingdom inhabited by the spirits of unloved women. Now it is Macau’s turn to witness La Scala’s fine cast bringing to life one of the most emblematic classic ballets in four different sessions.
From September 7th to September 9th in the Macau Cultural Centre, ballet enthusiasts can indulge themselves in a memorable masterpiece.