do wilis have wings?or the spirit of Giselle?
Posted 23 August 2003 - 08:56 PM
Scroll down and you'll find a picture of Carlotta Grisi dancing Giselle. Click on the picture to see a larger one.
I was surprised to see that she had wings on her back. I haven't seen any Giselle with wings except for Ferri in the movie "Dancers" (I haven't seen that many though). Are wilis supposed to have wings?
Come to think of it, in "Dancers", only Giselle had wings, not the other wilis, not even Myrtha. Does this mean that Giselle is somehow different from the wilis?
Btw, this is my first post on the forum. So hello everyone!
Posted 24 August 2003 - 04:47 AM
Sorry I can't help you on the "wing issue".
Posted 24 August 2003 - 04:50 AM
There are several things going on with the iconography of the Romantic ballet. First, few photographs exist of the productions, second, the engravings and cuts meant to show the various ballets and dancers were often recycled interchangably one for another. I can hear the printer and the typesetter arguing now, "Hey, we gotta job here wants a picture of Grisi in the new ballet, and they want it yesterday." "But we don't got no pitcher of Carlotta in nothin'!" "Whaddaya got?" "Just an old plate of Taglioni as a sylphide." "OK, use that, just rub the ol' lady's face and hair off with a piece of lead and carve in Carlotta's" "OK!"
Short-cuts in printing aside, there might be an argument for Giselle to have wings and the other ghosts not. For one thing, she is a different sort from them, in terms of spirit. The others are all earth-creatures, rising from it and returning to it. Giselle herself is more of an air-spirit, still full of life, and even willing and able to disobey Myrtha. And hey, she's the star of the show!
Posted 24 August 2003 - 06:33 AM
In the original scenario, Giselle's wilihood was confirmed by a coronet of flowers with a star in the centre. In Petipa's redaction (which might take the detail over from Gautier and St Georges), she receives the gift of flight from Myrthe when she does the pirouette saute en attitude. Wings were probably eliminated in the 20th Century because they interfered with the line, but they were certainly there at the Paris premiere, and might well have been there in St Petersburg as well. Perhaps RG would be kind enough to look through his collection and let us know if he finds anything. I don't seem to have any Imperial Giselles in my books, and my pictures of Karsavina with Nijinsky in the ballet don't give a view of her back. I don't have a copy of Beaumont's study of Giselle, but that would be a very good place to get clarity on this matter.
Posted 24 August 2003 - 08:44 AM
Posted 24 August 2003 - 09:17 AM
Posted 24 August 2003 - 09:28 AM
Posted 24 August 2003 - 10:59 AM
Citrus, I am SO glad you asked this question because it's important to an understanding of the ballet. Thank you very much. It had never crossed my mind before, but I realise now that Carlotta could never have danced a pas de deux like the one in Petipa's Act II if she had those wings on her back. They would have crumpled up very inartistically in the developpe devant au corps cambre, and they would have broken against her partner's tunic in those lifts at the start of the A flat variation. I think they might be called dressage lifts--not sure of that. Any how, those ones that rise vertically from the floor against the male's torso. My guess is that Petipa probably shrank those wings to butterfly size. I have found in my Keith Money book on Fonteyn that she wore these stunted ones in 1967.
Bournonville's ballets give us a good idea of what French ballet was like in the 1820s, and probably still was like in the 1840s as well. There are few lifts--if any--in his pas de deux, and the male often dances as the mirror image of his partner. You might remember that in B's La Sylphide, James touches the sylph only once before he accidentally kills her, and that's in the supported penchee at the end of the ballabile. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that it was added after B's death, but even if it wasn't, the audience is meant to think that she is doing the arabesque without help because his hand is out of sight behind her skirt. The grand pas de deux in Giselle (A Flat), even though it's the kind of adagio that Petipa would come to clothe in sustained lifts for the dancers was, 1841, much more like the Kermesse in Bruges pas de deux, and indeed like the mirror pas de deux that Giselle and Albrecht still dance after first meeting in the forest (that stop-start G major gavotte in unusual 4/8 time). If Giselle had wings as big as a pterodactyl's, she would still be able to dance it without interfering with her partner!
Posted 24 August 2003 - 03:56 PM
R S Edgecombe, yes, that's the picture I was talking about. And I agree that Carlotta's wings would be rather inconvenient for partnering. Ferri's would be more practical. It didn't occur to me that this difference in costume may reflect a change in the choreography. Thank you for pointing it out.
And Giannina, thank you for the reminder. I'll go over to the Welcome forum to introduce myself.
Posted 24 August 2003 - 04:59 PM
R S Edgecombe, on Aug 24 2003, 02:59 PM, said:
Posted 24 August 2003 - 07:27 PM
Posted 25 August 2003 - 02:20 PM
Posted 25 August 2003 - 06:25 PM
in beaumont's balletcalledgiselle there are at least 10 illustrations showing wings on the wilis and/or giselle. these span period prints of the ballet's first era, into the earlier russian era w/ muravieva (complete w/ wings) through to the 20th century, notably olga spesivtseva.
funnily enough none of the photos of alicia markova shows her back, but in her book 'giselle and i' she says, if i rem. correctly that she never traveled w/ out a pair of giselle wings in her suitcase and said in that regard that it was imperative that giselle have wings.
the only sketch i've ever seen purporting to be from the original prod. of giselle is in lifar's 1942 book: GISELLE, APOTHEOSE DU BALLET ROMANTIQUE, and facing p. 126 in a sketch identified as "giselle [2e acte] costume de Wili; dessin anonyme (bibliotheque de l'opera)" there is a limply drawn female figure in a light ballet dress trimmed w/ what looks like a cross between thin seaweed and rick-rack, and she's sprouting two feathery wings, much more like those of cherub than a peacock-feathery sylph, but wings no less.
beaumont incidentally prescribes wings for giselle, myrtha and the wilis in his specifications for any production's costuming.
regarding butterfly vs moth wings, it struck me w/ some interest that in vera krasovskaya's biography of nijinsky, which i can read only in the english transation, but which i also have in russian, she insists, in trying to define nijinsky's debut role in the ballet interpolated into 'don giovanni' and referred to at the time as the ballet of the 'roses and the butterflies' that nijinsky, supposedly playing a butterfly in fact should have been identified as a moth. this leads me to believe that in russian in any case the moth might well be a male role while the butterfly might be thought of as a female one. still in petipa's 'les caprices du papillon' there were both male and female dancers cast as butterflies, tho' in the case of the original male lead, pavel gerdt, his character was listed as 'phoenix/butterfly' while varvara nikitina's character was simply: butterfly.
Posted 26 August 2003 - 02:35 AM
Posted 26 August 2003 - 02:56 AM
RG, are you implying that the moth is considered more macho in Russia because it is on the whole dowdier than the butterfly? If so, John Taras cocked a snook at this convention in Piege de lumiere.
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