Rosa

What happened to Giselle?

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I was wondering what happened to Giselle after Act 2. Was she still under Myrtha's power even though she had saved Albrecht? Did she take part in causing men to dance to their deaths? Did the Wilis still cause men to dance until they died or were they permanently defeated by Giselle's act of love?

What do you all think?

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the point of dancing with albrecht and keeping him from expiring means that giselle is no longer a wili herself. she returns to her grave, where she's meant to rest, no longer a member of the wili sisterhood.

you might like to look up THE BALLET CALLED GISELLE - by Cyril Beaumont or BEAUTIES OF THE OPERA AND BALLET, nicely illustrated explications of the plots and stories behind operas and ballets, popular in the 19th c.

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Several productions point up that she is no longer a wili by having the ballerina appear on a lift above the grave and ascend, presumably to heaven. She is forgiven her suicide. Remember, she's not buried in the churchyard, but deep in the woods, where the unshriven lie. Myrtha and the girls are left to do what they do best.

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. . . giselle is no longer a wili herself. . .
. . . she is no longer a wili . . .

Was she ever a full-fledged wili? I thought that Myrtha draws G from her grave to initiate her to wilidom, but by sparing Albrecht from death G likewise spares herself from an eternity with those mean girls. She never actually got into the clique.

And we thought high school was bad!

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I never knew Giselle wasn't a wili anymore at end. I always thought she stayed one. Thanks for the explanation rg and Mel.

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but by sparing Albrecht from death G likewise spares herself from an eternity with those mean girls. She never actually got into the clique.

And we thought high school was bad!

Ah -- the Wilis as the ultimate Mean Girls!

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She is forgiven her suicide.

Um...suicide? But what about the versions where Giselle doesn't stab herself because Hilarion pulls the sword away in time and she dies of her mysterious heart ailment instead? The Bolshoi's current version follows this pattern.

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Because Giselle has saved Albrecht, she has shown she is still capable of love, compassion, and forgiveness, so she descends to her grave, at peace with herself. Many productions have Giselle actually being lowered down into her grave at the end of the ballet.

But the point of the ballet remains the same -- Giselle has done what the other Wilis weren't capable of doing -- forgiving the men who did them wrong.

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It's one of the most enduring and beautiful things about the ballet - Albrecht's redemption is Giselle's salvation.

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2 questions and one point:

1) Question: Didn't the Roman Catholic Church , even in the 16th century, say that those who killed themselves whlile insane were not suicides in the sinful sense, and were therefore entitled to Church burial in consecrated ground?

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2) The theme of Giselle's redemption is often sabotaged by versions which have Giselle simply depart into the wings right before the end and Albrecht's tableau, usually (nowadays) disappearing behind her tombstone. Makarova was one Giselle who gave her backward bourrees a quality of tenderness, sadness, weariness, gentle triumph, that gave this version of the exit significance and even clousure. When she finally was absorbed into the shadows, there was the sense of something suddently and powerfully departed. The audience could feel this just as Albrecht does. We shared the sense of loss.

Of the 3 fine Giselles I saw at Miami this spring, only Haiyan Wu came close to the Makarova effect.

Many Giselles, and I don't include any of the Miami dancers in the following, just seem to wander off (however prettily). This draws the eye to Albrecht. But it also takes away from the larger spiritual implications of his situation and his final tableau.

As in so many things, the effectiveness of the story depends on how it's done.

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(3) Question: If we are supposed to focus on Albrecht's redemption (as opposed to just being saved from the willis), why the melancholy, even despairing look and pose, with head bent and eyes lowered, at the curtain? Have any Albrechts tried to suggest, along with their sadness, a sense of intense gratitude or even victory, which is what the concept of "redemption" implies?

How about a pose with head raised and eyes looking upwards, possibly towards the rising sun?

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There would be a very subtle -- but perceptible -- difference between a pose of grief and one of savoring the strange and tender life-changing encounter. Perhaps that got lost over the ages.

Or maybe it's just sheer fatigue that we often see. I hope not.

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I think this picture might be what you're looking for, bart.

I haven't seen the production, but I did read of Sylvie Guillem's production of Giselle, where her Giselle leaves with the Wilis at the end of the ballet. Which I think destroys Giselle's main message of redemption, forgiveness, and salvation.

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In the production filmed in Moscow with Malakhov, Albrecht's final pose is standing, holding up the flower Giselle gave him as a symbol of her forgiveness.

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2 questions and one point:

1) Question: Didn't the Roman Catholic Church , even in the 16th century, say that those who killed themselves whlile insane were not suicides in the sinful sense, and were therefore entitled to Church burial in consecrated ground?

The Catechism of the Council of Trent DID say that the insane were not responsible for their actions, including suicide, as sin. Giselle's problem is that she has a moment of lucidity before she drops dead. In another part of that same Catechism, it stated that your first duty, when lucid and on the point of death was to call for a priest to administer the sacrament of extreme unction. Now, this injunction calls for a lot of self-possession and self-awareness at a time when neither condition is likely. Remember that this ballet's libretto was written by Theophile Gautier, who followed the anti-clericalism of the French Romantics, and decried the narrow ways in which the church was interpreting and operating during the period before Vatican I. It is ironic that "narrow" has two synonyms: "nice" and "mean". In practice, if a person died without benefit of last rites, they were considered unshriven, and were not eligible to be buried in consecrated ground.

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(3) Question: If we are supposed to focus on Albrecht's redemption (as opposed to just being saved from the willis), why the melancholy, even despairing look and pose, with head bent and eyes lowered, at the curtain? Have any Albrechts tried to suggest, along with their sadness, a sense of intense gratitude or even victory, which is what the concept of "redemption" implies?

How about a pose with head raised and eyes looking upwards, possibly towards the rising sun?

In the original version in Paris, Wilfrid and Bathilde appear just before Giselle ascends, and act as witnesses to the miracle of a resurrection and ascension. The music in this version was much longer and more involved, and Giselle mimed to Albrecht, "There is your bride. Be good to one another." The faithful servant and the fiancée begin to take the shaken and chastened Albrecht from the stage when he falls back on the grave, weeping and pounding at the turf. (This on the "big music" used when they don't use the lento section usually played today.) Many of ABT's Albrechts used to use just the ending you propose. Petals used to fall from the flies, but they were sometimes a bit heavy for flower petals, leaving the audience with the impression that somebody up there was tossing flapjacks at Albrecht.

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here's what BEAUTIES OF THE OPERA AND THE BALLET (1845) notes:

"A faint glimmer of light broke across the eastern sky; the mists rolled off the valley; the horizon shewed a pale red, the harbinger of coming day, which, rapidly, increasing, tinged the surrounding clouds with a golden hue. The Wilis hastened to conceal themselves in their accustomed haunts, - the fissures of rocks, the hollows of trees, or crouched beneath the broad leaves of the water-lily. Albrecht is saved - Giselle sinks exhausted to the ground - flowers rise up and form a covering over her spot - while a pure transparent vapouren encompasses the spot. Her small white hand still shewed itself through the leafy covering, waving a last adieu to him she should never more behold. Then the hand disappeared , - the earth had reclaimed its own, to part with it no more. Almost distracted, Albrecht rushed towards the flowery bed; but in vain.

A rose gathered from the spot, hallowed by the sweet perfume of Giselle's innocent lips, was all that remained to remind Count Albrecht of his village love. Heart-stricken with grief and emotion, he fell ino the arms of Bathilde and Wilfrid, whose inquitude had led them to search him."

i have Lifar's book on GISELLE but don't know enough French to translate any related passages.

Beaumont's commentary on act 2 are in his words, if mem. serves and not a translation of an original libretto.

i've now located marion smith's translation of the 1841 libretto:

final two grafs:

"Giselle seems to tell her lover to give his heart and soul to this sweet young girl [bathilde]...it's her only wish, her last prayer, from her who can no longer live in this world, then, wishing him a sad and eternal adieu, she disappears in the midst of the flowery grasses which now completely engulf her.

"Albrecht rises heartbroken; but the Wili's command to him seems sacred...He gathers some of the flowers that cover Giselle, and lovingly presses them to his hear, to his lips. Weak and staggering, he falls into the arms of those who surround him, and reaches his hand to Bathilde!!!"

in previous GISELLE discussion i have noted that when balanchine assisted Dmitri Romanov w/ Ballet Theatre's staging of GISELLE he reinstated the bed-of-flowers final resting place for Giselle. The implication might be that when Albrecht places her weaking body not on the tomb where she is drawn at dawn but on the grassy spot from which the flowers spring. still the word Wili is used in Gauthier's libretto above to refer to Giselle in her flowery grave, so perhaps she is still a practicing Wili after all. i used to the presume otherwise but now, on the strength of the question starting this thread, i wonder...

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(3) Question: If we are supposed to focus on Albrecht's redemption (as opposed to just being saved from the willis), why the melancholy, even despairing look and pose, with head bent and eyes lowered, at the curtain? Have any Albrechts tried to suggest, along with their sadness, a sense of intense gratitude or even victory, which is what the concept of "redemption" implies?

How about a pose with head raised and eyes looking upwards, possibly towards the rising sun?

Please see Joan Acocella's New Yorker article (July 10, 2006) where she describes exactly that final tableau: ie. with Albrecht looking up into the light. I also remember him gently touching his fingers to his lips and then brushing the grave in a final caress/salute. (RIP?)

In the film "Dancers", I also loved how Ferri slowly lowered her hand towards Albrecht's face in a final fleeting caress that slips through his fingers as she is "pulled" back towards her grave.

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In the film "Dancers", I also loved how Ferri slowly lowered her hand towards Albrecht's face in a final fleeting caress that slips through his fingers as she is "pulled" back towards her grave.
Yes, that is a compelling gesture. I found emotion rising even as I read your post. Ferri is another of those dancers who doesn't stop acting at that point, but remains in transcendent character all the way off stage. :)

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I wish that I could recall where some of the improbable 19th century machines that were used for appearing and disappearing Wilis were pictured. They were relief cuts and were a lot of cranes and teeter-boards. rg, any recollection?

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In the film "Dancers", I also loved how Ferri slowly lowered her hand towards Albrecht's face in a final fleeting caress that slips through his fingers as she is "pulled" back towards her grave.

Yes, that is a compelling gesture. I found emotion rising even as I read your post. Ferri is another of those dancers who doesn't stop acting at that point, but remains in transcendent character all the way off stage. :dry:

Speaking of 'final exits'... There is a wonderful pic (by Jesus Vallinas at Fotoescena) of Tamara Rojo and Jose Manuel Carreno (both guesting with ENB in Barcelona Sept.06) at the grave as Giselle drops petals into his outstretched hand. Albrecht's face expresses it all too. A wonderful moment captured by a wonderful photographer. (Don't know if this post info is allowed by moderators--if not, I'll understand, but it is a good photo/moment captured.)

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Speaking of 'final exits'... There is a wonderful pic (by Jesus Vallinas at Fotoescena) of Tamara Rojo and Jose Manuel Carreno (both guesting with ENB in Barcelona Sept.06) at the grave as Giselle drops petals into his outstretched hand. Albrecht's face expresses it all too. A wonderful moment captured by a wonderful photographer. (Don't know if this post info is allowed by moderators--if not, I'll understand, but it is a good photo/moment captured.)

I have had no problem up to now to post or inform about articles or reports from other web pages so I take the initiative to link you to the shots 4mrdncr is talking about:

Tamara's Giselle with ENB in Barcelona by Fotoescena with these wonderful pictures of Jesús Vallinas

I hope there is no problem and that you also like them.

The pic 4mrdncr is talking about is just at the end.

Thank you very much 4mrdncr :)

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Based on Kent and Gomes's recent Giselle at Boca Raton Theater, I think Giselle took the eternal, peaceful rest, not interfered with by Myrtha any more.

- to me, the PdD of the second act seemed like a wedding of Giselle and Albrecht (compared to that PdD, the first act PdD looked like an engagement ceremony), so Giselle was no more a betrayed girl in a substantial meaning. When Giselle scattered lilies at the foot of Myrtha at the latter part of the second act, she seemed to say, "Look, Count the lilies. He loves me." And, further, "You have no reason to kill him, nor to control me."

- I think both Giselle and Albrecht did something in freeing Giselle from Myrtha/Wilis.

At first, Giselle didn't refuse to be a Wili because she became cold-hearted due to Albrecht's betrayal. However, her broken heart was healed by the fact that Albrecht came to visit her grave at night and, further, he was truly contrite when Giselle reminded him of what he did by scattering the flowers over him. Thus, she gained the strength to forgive and love him.

Even after that PdD, Giselle was still under the power of Myrtha in part, as she met the definition of a Wili technically. She needed to do more in order to be free from Myrtha, and she successfully passed the test by courageously confronting Myrtha, helping Albrecht dance until dawn - i.e., she actually did what the definition of love requires.

- Just before their eternal separation, Albrecht softly swung Giselle in the air, like rocking a cradle. I think that indicating Giselle was going to fall asleep forever, and Albrecht was whispering a saddest good night to her.

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