Fantastic ballet in two acts
by Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges,
Théophile Gautier and Jean Coralli


Production 2000

For Natasha Makarova,
unforgettable Giselle - with deepest thanks
for her generous artistic advice and inspiration
J. N.


  Adolphe Adam
Peasant Pas de deux
  Friedrich Burgmüller
  Jean Coralli
Jules Perrot
Marius Petipa
New Choreography
  John Neumeier
  Yannis Kokkos


The Hamburg Ballet, Hamburg, December 10, 2000


Original Cast    
  Elizabeth Loscavio
  Lloyd Riggins
  Heather Jurgensen
  Alison Kappes
  Carsten Jung
Peasant Pas de deux
  Silvia Azzoni
Alexandre Riabko
Zulma   Adéla Pollertová
Moyna   Silvia Azzoni
Berthe   Anna Grabka
Prince of Courland   Eduardo Bertini
Wilfrid   Andrzej Glosniak


Production 1983

  Klaus Hellenstein


The Hamburg Ballet, Hamburg, June 23, 1983


Original Cast    
  Lynne Charles
  Ivan Liska
  Colleen Scott
  Gigi Hyatt
  Gamal Gouda
Peasant Pas de deux
  Chantal Lefèvre
Jeffrey Kirk
Zulma   Robyn White
Moyna   Trinidad Vives
Berthe   Beatrice Cordua
Prince of Courland   Max Midinet
Wilfrid   Eduardo Bertini


On Tour
2014 Baden Baden


From the romantic-classical repertoire of the 19th century no ballet, apart from the danish Bournonville canon, has been handed down as choreographically complete as Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot's "Giselle" (1841). Such a successful mating of plot and steps, even for to-day's audiences, is in no small measure due to a libretto finely dramatised through the choreography. Giselle, thus stands separate from the three great Tchaikovsky ballets, where incompleteness and vagaries of plot prove problematic to a discerning dance public. The mythical "Swan Lake", the fairy-tale "Sleeping Beauty" and the bizarre "Nutcracker" demand to be re-thought on dramatic terms. The handed down parts of pure dance from these ballets (e.g. the 2nd white act of "Swan Lake"), which have made them the classics they have become, need to be bedded in a more or less new dramatic frame. In the case of "Giselle", there is surely no need of change expect, within the structure we now posses, to breathe new life and nature its dramatic strengths.

John Neumeier, June 1983


"The work is such a good one
that we always discover something in it
we hadn't seen before."
George Balanchine


"I know of no other ballet where the dance
conveys so perfectly the illusion of dramatic narration...
Dance is not here an exercise in acrobatic virtuosity,
but an expressive means:
the action is uniquely communicated
by the dancing, and thus acquires a force and
an intensity of emotion rarely equalled"
Serge Lifar



Act I
A village during the grape harvest

Duke Albert has developed an infatuation for the peasant girl Giselle. In order to meet her, he appears in front of the house where she lives with her blind mother Berthe. His friend Wilfrid, a member of the Prince of Courland's hunting party, tries in vain to persuade Albert to join the hunt. Sending Wilfrid away, Albert disguises himself as a peasant and hides his sword in the hut opposite Giselle's house. The gamekeeper Hilarion, who is in love with Giselle, watches as she meets Albert. He interrupts the rendez-vous and tries to dissuade Giselle from her interest in his rival. A group of winemakers pass by Berthe's house on the way to the grape harvest. Giselle dances with them. Berthe interrupts the dance, concerned about Giselle's poor health. Albert hears the call to hunt. Not wanting to be recognized, he mingles with the winemakers and disappears. The Prince of Courland appears with his hunting party, which also includes his daughter Bathilde, Albert's fiancée. They take their rest in front of Berthe's house. While Berthe tends to the guests, Giselle and Bathilde befriend each other. The Prince and Bathilde continue on with their hunting party. The villagers celebrate the wine festival. Albert returns and joins in the festivities, dancing with Giselle, who has been declared the queen of the grape harvest. Hilarion interrupts the celebrations: He has found Albert's rapier in the hut and shows it to Giselle as proof of Albert's true identity. Albert denies that the rapier is his, but Bathilde and her father, returning just at that moment, recognise Albert for who he really is. Giselle's world collapses, she dies of a broken heart.


Act II
Giselle's grave in a forest glade

During the twilight hours, Berthe, Bathilde and Hilarion mourn at Giselle's grave. It lies in a place where the Wilis meet at night. The Wilis are young brides who, betrayed by their lovers, died before their wedding and now arise as ghosts. They haunt and take revenge upon their betrayers, forcing any men who cross their path to dance themselves to death. Hilarion flees after witnessing the appearance of Myrtha, Queen of the Wilis, who summons the other Wilis. Giselle is called from her grave to join them. As the Wilis disappear, Albert arrives at Giselle's grave. Giselle appears to him, but constantly eludes him. In the meantime, the Wilis have discovered Hilarion and force him to dance until he dies of exhaustion. They then discover Albert. Wishing to protect him, Giselle places him behind the cross on her grave. But Myrtha orders Giselle to dance, to entice Albert away from the cross. However, Giselle‘s dance is one of love and forgiveness. Albert follows her and begins an increasingly ecstatic dance, before finally collapsing. The sound of the morning church bells from the village and the dawn's first light break the Wilis' power. They disappear, taking Giselle with them. Albert remains alone.




  • The original Paris production, "Giselle ou Les Willis", was last performed in 1868
  • "Giselle" was premiered with Fanny Elssler in Hamburg on October 23, 1843
  • The modern versions are based on the St. Petersburg tradition – mainly on Petipa's last production of 1884. It was this production which served as the basis for the production of the Diaghilev company, which brought the ballet back to Western Europe in 1911, with sets and costumes of Alexandre Benois, and the leading roles were danced by Vaslav Nijinsky and Tamara Karsavina
  • The ballet is still considered the very essence of the romantic ballet movement.
  • All the Grisi parts seem to have been choreographed by Jules Perrot
  • The peasant pas de deux has usually been inserted (music: Friedriech Burgmüller)
  • After the premiere in Paris the ballet was rapidly seen all over the World, first in London and Vienna (1842), Berlin and Milan (1943), Boston (1946), St. Petersburg (1848)
  • In 1887 Ludwig Minkus wrote the variation of the first act for Giselle, it was choreographed by Marius Petipa for Emme Bessone

The most famous" Giselle"

Anna Pawlowa  1910
Anna Pavlova
Tamara Karsavina it Vaslav Nijinsky   1910
Tamara Karsavina
Olga Spessiwzewa   1924
Olga Spessiwzewa
Galina Ulanowa   1932
Galina Ulanova
Alicia Markova   1934
Alicia Markova
Alicia Alonso   1946 /Foto: Seymour
Alicia Alonso
Yvette Chauviré   ca. 1950
Yvette Chauviré
Carla Fracci   1968 /Foto: Lelli & Mascotti
Carla Fracci
Natalia Makarova   1977
Natalia Makarova




Natalia Makarova

Natalia Romanovna Makarova was born in St. Petersburg on October 21, 1940. She studied at the Vaganova School. After graduating in 1959, she joined the Kirov Ballet where she rapidly rose to the rank of ballerina, and won the Gold Medal in Varna in 1965. When the Company was in London in 1970 she decided to stay in the West. In 1970 she joined American Ballet Theatre. Her association with The Royal Ballet began in 1972. Natalia Makarova has appeared as a guest artist with major ballet companies throughout the world. Was considered one of the best "Giselle" of the 1970s. Created role in Neumeier's Epilogue (1975), worked with Tudor, Balanchine, Robbins, Tetley and MacMillan.
Staged "La Bayadère" for American Ballet Theatre ("The Kingdom of the Shades" in 1974, the full version in 1980). Her production included for the first time since 1919 a reconstruction of the ballet's last act with Makarova's choreography after Marius Petipa. She is the author of "A Dance Autobiography" (1979). She worked for several television productions, among others the "Ballerina Series" for the BBC (1987). She made her musical comedy debut on Broadway and then in London in "On Your Toes" for which she won the Tony Award as "Best Actress in a Musical", the "Laurence Olivier Award" as well as seven additional awards.
Natalia Makarova's reunion with the Kirov Ballet took place in London on August 6, 1988 when she danced an excerpt from Swan Lake with the company. She also became the first ever Russian artistic exile to be invited back to dance in her native land. After nineteen years' absence, she performed once again on the Kirov stage on February 1, 1989.
In 1991, Natalia Makarova made her acting debut in the play "Tovarich" in England. In 1992, she returned to Russia as an actress where she performed in the play "Two for the Seesaw" in Moscow and St. Petersburg.


Adolphe Adam
French composer, born in Paris on July 24, 1803, died there on May 3, 1856. His father was Louis Adam (1758-1848), pianist, composer and piano teacher at the Paris Conservatoire. He composed 70 operas, 14 ballets and a number of piano pieces and songs. His most successful works are considered to be the operas "Le Postillon de Longjumeau" (1836), "Le Chalet" (1834) and the ballets "Giselle" (1841) by far his most popular work of any type, and "Le corsaire" (1856).


Jean Coralli
Italian dancer and choreographer, born in Paris on January 15, 1779, died there on May 1, 1854. He trained at the Paris Opera Ballet School. He danced and choreographed in Vienna, Milan, Lisbon, and Marseilles, before returning to Paris, in 1825, as choreographer for the Théâtre de la Porte Saint-Martin, he moved to the Opéra in 1831. His most important works in addition to Giselle, which he choreographed with Jules Perrot were "Le Diable Boiteux" (1836), "La Tarentule" (1839), and "La Péri" (1843). The greatest innovation apparent in his contribution to Giselle is in the use of the Corps as a participatory organism and not just as decoration. 


Jules Perrot
French dancer, choreographer and ballet master, born in Lyon on August 18, 1810, died in Paramé, France, on August 22, 1882. He studied with Auguste Vestris and Salvatore Vigan÷. After his début at the Paris Opera he became Taglioni's regular partner. Highly applauded for both his classical and his mime dancing, he was considered the greatest dancer of his time. After he left Paris he appeared in London and in Naples where in met Carlotta Grisi whom he trained and became her partner and lover. Since he frequently arranged her solos, his choreography is now believed to include that of her title role in Giselle. Jean Coralli, however, received all official credit for choreographing Giselle. From 1842 to 1848 Perrot worked in London where he choreographed the "Pas de Quatre", for Marie Taglioni, Carlotta Grisi, Lucile Grahn, and Fanny Cerrito. In 1848 Perrot became Ballet Master at the Imperial Theatre in St. Petersburg and also worked in Berlin, Warsaw, Brussels, Lyons and Paris. His most important ballets among others were "Le Nymphe et le Papillon" (Vienna, 1836), "Ondine" (London, 1843), "La Esmeralda" (London, 1844), "Faust" (Milan, 1848). Married to the Russian ballerina Capitoline Samovskaya.


Marius Petipa
French dancer, choreographer and ballet master, born in Marseilles on March 11, 1818, died in Gurzuf, Crimea on July 14, 1910. He began his dance training at the age of seven with his father, Jean Petipa, the French dancer and teacher. He made his debut in 1831 in his father's production of Gardel's "La Dansomanie". Became principal dancer in Nantes, choreographed his first ballet. Toured North America with his father. Studied with Auguste Vestris, became principal dancer in Bordeaux. In 1847 he was principal dancer in Paris and then in St. Petersburg where he was much acclaimed in such ballets as "Paquita", "Giselle", "La Péri", "Armida", "Catarina", "Le Délire d'un peintre", "Esmeralda", "Le Corsaire", and "Faust".

When Giselle was revived in 1850, Petipa made some changes in the Wilis scenes, which became the Grand Pas des Wilis of 1884. In 1854, he married Maria Sourovshchikova, a student in the graduating class of the Imperial School (Petipa's second marriage was to Lubova Leonidovna, a member of the Moscow Ballet, in 1882). In 1854 he became an instructor in the school, while continuing to dance and to restage ballets from the French repertoire. Jules Perrot assisted him for a while; then created his first ballet for St. Petersburg, "The Star of Granada" (1855). Appointed first ballet master there in 1862. His first really successful ballet was "La Fille du Pharaon" (1862). He choreographed about 50 ballets for the Imperial Theater in St. Petersburg and Moscow, including "Don Quixote" (1869), "La Camargo" (1872), "Bayaderka" (1877), "The Sleeping Beauty" (1890), "Cinderella" (with Cecchetti and Ivanov, 1893), "Swan Lake" (with Ivanov, 1895), "Raymonda" (1898) and his last ballet "The Magic Mirror" (1903). He also newly choreographed large sections of such successful contemporary ballet as "Le Corsaire" (1880), "Paquita" (1881), "Coppélia" (1884), "Esmeralda" (1886) and "La Sylphide" (1892). He collaborated closely with Tchaikovsky on the Nutcracker, but had to band over the first production to Ivanov in 1892, because of illness. Petipa was undoubtedly responsible for leading the Tsarist ballet, based upon the best traditions of the French and Italian school, to its magnificent climax.

Source: The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Ballet, Horst Koegler, Oxford University Press, London, 1982 




Has John Neumeier achieved the impossible? Has he reconciled both the conservative traditionalists and the progressive modernists in his new production of "Giselle"?... His new "Giselle" is a brilliant piece of modern stagecraft and a thrilling theatre experience, which lets me relish all its traditional choreographic jewellery, without compelling me to suspend my contemporary conscience... I can only state that on 26 January 2001, I experienced one of the greatest ballet events of my now 58 years of regular theatre-going.
Horst Koegler, Dance Now

He has great flair for reworking the classics, his latest Giselle reconciles traditional choreography, superbly danced, with a convincing new dramatic treatment.
John Percival, The Independent



1 intermission
2 hours 30 min.

Season 2016/2017

Hamburg State Opera
April 28, 30 (2x)
May 1, 3





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