Alexandra

Giselle Question #1: Is Albrecht a cad?

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Does Albrecht really love Giselle? You can answer this question by telling us about productions you've seen (video counts) AND/OR what your ideal Albrecht should be. Also, if anyone knows where in history Albrecht-the-Cad came in, please let us know.

[ 04-16-2001: Message edited by: alexandra ]

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I don't think it's any particular production, but yes, I do think Albrecht's a cad. The DEGREE of "cadness" (to coin a new word) can vary, but I think that clearly he's attracted to the pretty village maiden, but he certainly isn't going to give up his social status for her - he doesn't tell Batilde to go take a hike, because now he's in love with Giselle. Some dancers have made him a little more caring than others - he may never really intend to MARRY Giselle, but he'd set her up in a nice cottage and look after her. Maybe he even thought of having a "fake" marriage. Being the prince, I guess he could have arranged anything. Then he could have fun with Giselle in the village and keep Bathilde safe in the castle. Certainly Albrecht is a spoiled royal who has always had his own way. He's made Wilfred REALLY nervous this time though. I always get the impression that poor Wilfred has had to cover up for Albrecht on more than one occasion: who has set up the cottage? Exactly who/what is Albrecht posing as? He's clearly seen Giselle before the beginning of Act I.

On the other hand, after Giselle dies, I guess he really is remorseful for his behavior and is willing to take responsibility for what he has done (he COULD have listened to Wilfred and have got away before the Wilis showed up. So he had a suicidal ideation at that time.

There used to be a version (Russian???) in which Giselle promoted a reconciliation between Bathilde and Albrecht. (" - And if you have a girl, name it after me"????)

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I know I have told this before, but the most powerful Albrecht I was was Nureyev towards the end of his dancing career. He was completely contemptuous of Giselle, laughing at her beind her back, just playing along. When Hilarion grabs her, he just turns his back, not even trying to protect her. Clearly a heartless rake, who perfectly happy to kiss Bathilde's hand. During Giselle's mad scene, he just stood there stony faced, angry that this little nothing would embarass him. He didn't even reach towards her as she ran to him just before she died. Then when she lay on the ground, it all came tumbling in on him, and he realized what he had lost.

Nureyev just bent down and touched the hem of her dress in a daze, no melodramatics, no "acting", just the most profound grief.

I think it takes an older dancer to carry off this approach, but I have seen others as well. Desmond Kelly, with the Royal Ballet in the early 70's, was wonderful at it. At the very beginning, when Wilfred is trying to convince him that he is wrong, Kelly just kissed his lips, as in "Oh, la, la". And I remember Robert Hill at ABT sort of automatically giving Giselle's friends the once over.

Though certainly naive Albrechts in love with Giselle but too heedless to think of the consequences work very well too. Malakhov gives it that approach, and so does Corella, which suits them very well.

Albrecht is such an interesting role. I suspect it had deepened over the history of the ballet.

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I got very used to Albrechts who were young and heedlessly in love and then I saw Nureyev's -- towards the end of his career -- which I remember much as Cargill describes it. He was tremendous -- really overpowering. I admit I don't remember quite that degree of coldness (laughing at Giselle), but sheer arrogance and self-absorbtion certainly...and absolute unwillingness to acknowledge Giselle in any way once he was caught. Until she actually collapsed. It added greatly to the depth of the entire drama.

The two performances I saw (Festival Ballet in D.C.) he did exit the stage at the end of act I with a kind of aristocratic flourish, but it was clear that he carried the weight of what he had done with him. (My recollection is that after the first terrible realization he went into a kind of rage and swept off stage with his cape waving behind him.) By the close of act II as he fell to his knees and the light of dawn struck his face, one felt an entire lifetime of knowledge, grief, and remorse had passed before one's eyes. Nureyev had the most extraordinary expression of wonder and realization (call it self-realization) on his face. An awe inspiring performance. Since seeing it, I have always found the more tender, loving Albrecht approach less interesting. I recognize, of course, that it suits certain dancers better, but the ballet itself becomes more complex if the Albrecht grows in self-knowledge -- if Giselle's forgiveness makes him into a different person. (Even that forgiveness itself becomes more meaningful -- because more difficult -- if Albrecht is something more than another victim of circumstance.)

Felursus: I thought the original production of Giselle (w. Grisi etc.) concluded with Albrecht returning to a forgiving Bathilde's arms.

[ 04-16-2001: Message edited by: Drew ]

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I think it depends on who is cast as Albrecht.

I just watched a videotape of Henning Kronstam coaching Lloyd Riggins and Heidi Ryom in the Royal Danish Ballet's production of Giselle. The coaching and acting is beautifully solid, but the filming can be unintentionally hilarious, as if the filmaker had watched one Bergman flick too many and couldn't decide if she wanted to make a documentary or Winter Light

That being said, watch the coaching (when the camera doesn't obligingly pan to the floor, feet or a bust of Bournonville at a crucial moment. The one that made Manhattnik and I fall out of our chairs happened as soon as Mette-Ida Kirk began her first solo as Myrtha. The camera panned to a meaningful and emotional shot of the back of an opaque flat and stayed there for 20 seconds.)

Anyway :), the coaching. At one point Kronstam does the first scene with Ryom and it is fascinating to watch the older man versus the younger. Kronstam isn't a cad; you get the sense of his ardor for Giselle, but you also get the sense from his self-confidence and ease in navigating the courtship that he's running the show. Riggins couldn't do this if he tried, he's just too young and callow. Kronstam explains to both Riggins and Ryom the narrative, fleshing out the story with inner detail, and showing them exactly how he wanted to do it (you can see just how well this approach works with Ryom. Her mad scene is great theater, and she is dutifully doing every gesture he taught her.) Riggins is following Kronstam's lead as well, but there's a real noticeable change in how the same gestures and direction look on an older, weighted man or a younger man. Riggins had the physical bulk, but not the gravity Kronstam did. I think that's a function of age.

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That video grows on you, Leigh. It is incredibly disjointed -- they dance scenes to the wrong music, sometimes to bits of Mozart's "Don Juan," etc. -- but I learned a lot about the (former) Royal Danish Ballet from it. (Riggins was 19 when that was shot in 1990, I should add.) The video is called "Of Dreams and Discipline" by one of Denmark's leading filmmakers, Anne Wivel (Ulrik's mother) and is commercially available in Europe, both in Danish and English-subtitled versions. Much of the dialogue is in English. It won two European film awards in the early '90s. (Kronstam found the voiceover dialogue false and didn't want to do it, but the filmmaker insisted on leaving it in, and his choice was to do it himself or have someone else's voice dubbed in.)

I am glad you guys got to see Mette-Ida's Myrthe, though :)

I've never been clear when the Albrecht-as-cad interpretation came in. In the original libretto, Albrecht loves her -- they don't delve very deeply into how Bathilde fits into that picture, but he does love her and Hilarion is the "vile knave" who ruins everything for Albrecht.

I'd love to know how Lifar and Youskevitch played it -- as two of the great mid-century Albrechts -- and how the character evolved in Russia, as well. Like Mary, I was very taken by Nureyev's cad, and thought it made Albrecht's redemption and repentance quite stark.

Kronstam always tried to find an interpretation for his character that used everything in a ballet, and work with those elements until he'd figured out how to do it so that there would be no dangling loose ends he'd have to ignore (friends of Bruhn's say that Bruhn did just the opposite, coming up with the interpretation that he believed right for the ballet and cutting anything that got in the way). Kronstam said that he thought Albrecht was sincerely in love, that Giselle was his way to "escape from all the insincerity of his life up there [the castle]" He described the first act as "a flirt that goes bad," meaning that Albrecht didn't mean to cause harm. I would imagine he played it as heedless and irresponsible when he was younger and taking a calculated risk when he was older. He said he never thought the cad version made sense for him.

Dowell and Baryshnikov also did the "really in love" approach. Baryshnikov added -- brought in? -- a nice touch, I thought, by going up to Giselle's door, stopping to think for a minute, then starting to knock -- obviously he's going to tell her -- when the hunting party starts to clomp in. A contemporary rather than Romantic touch, but it fits with his character.

One of the things I've always loved about Giselle is how porous it is. (To get all my Kronstam/Giselle stories in in one post, I asked him if he thought Albrecht could have ever returned to Bathilde at the end, as he did in the original version, and he said, "No, because I don't think he was a cold person.") It should be difficult to have both the sincere, naive lover and the contemptible cad both work, but different dancers have proven that it's possible.

[ 04-16-2001: Message edited by: alexandra ]

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I certainly wasn't alive to see the original version! However I could SWEAR that I actually saw a version where Bathilde appears at the end and Giselle promoted a reconciliation. I've just seen so many versions that I can't remember WHO! (My brains come out of the last millenium if not from two centuries ago!)

I think Albrecht COULD go back to Bathilde, not because he loves her, but because it's his royal duty to marry and have children. Bathilde isn't a bad person - she's quite generous in giving away a valuable necklace to Giselle. Most nobles wouldn't DREAM of giving something so valuable to a mere peasant girl. I think there was a moment of "sisterhood" between them - when they saw each other just as young women engaged to be married.

Nureyev's Albrecht-as-total-cad interpretation certainly grew over the years. His Albrecht was much more interested in and involved with Giselle when he danced with Fonteyn. He DID play him as someone who never for a moment forgot he was a royal, however. He was very autocratic with Wilfred and Hilarion - and it was clear that it was his Albrecht's BEHAVIOR that caused suspicion in the mind of Hilarion.

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felursus, when Ashton was director of the Royal Ballet he staged a version (with Karsavina's advice) that restored the original ending. According to David Vaughan's book, it was not successful. I also think that Mary Skeaping's production (which also restored the Wili's fugue) had Bathilde come back at the end. Even though I saw the latter (though not the former) I can't remember it--I counted the other night, and I've seen 24 productions live, several more on video, and then read about a lot of others, and they do tend to blur after awhile.

If I'm remembering correctly (and I may not be) I thought that one of the many things I liked about Nureyev's Albrecht was that he didn't reach for the sword to respond to Hilarion's knife -- but, as you said, showed who he was by his nobility of manner.

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Karen Kain, in a mini-interview with the Edmonton Journal, said:

"For the ballet to make sense, I believe he has to be genuinely in love with her. We're moved when he comes to her grave. And Giselle has this passion of her convictions, her love.

I think the reason the ballet is still around is that it's a story about love that is greater than the separation of death."

http://www.canada.com/edmontonjournal/news...k=10751&p=2

That's very much in line with Vasiliev's interpretation.

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Thanks, Helene, for reviving this thread. From the article you linked:

The most debated questions about this plot line are: Is Albrecht simply a two-faced jerk who went slumming among the peasants, took advantage of Giselle's innocence, then cruelly betrayed her? And if so, why does Giselle love him enough to rise from the dead?

I wonder whether the choices are quite as simple and far-apart as the article presents them. "Love" takes many forms, and different kinds of love develop on their own, often twisted, paths.

I know I have told this before, but the most powerful Albrecht I was was Nureyev towards the end of his dancing career. He was completely contemptuous of Giselle, laughing at her beind her back, just playing along. When Hilarion grabs her, he just turns his back, not even trying to protect her. Clearly a heartless rake, who perfectly happy to kiss Bathilde's hand. During Giselle's mad scene, he just stood there stony faced, angry that this little nothing would embarass him. He didn't even reach towards her as she ran to him just before she died. Then when she lay on the ground, it all came tumbling in on him, and he realized what he had lost.

Nureyev just bent down and touched the hem of her dress in a daze, no melodramatics, no "acting", just the most profound grief.

I, too, have memories of this interpretation. It is indeed powerful. And, with Nureyev, it worked. One reason was that it stunned.

I wonder, though, whether "cad" or "caddish" -- let alone "two-faced jerk," as the article has it -- are the correct terms. There are connotations of superficiality, triviality, along with the callousness and manipulativeness.

Nureyev seemed to be striving for -- or to genuinely believe in the existence of -- something deeper.

As a dancer, Nureyev returned several times to noble characters who cannot (or cannot imagine) compromise with the real world and who live in a kind of proud apartness from those around them. Aristocrats. Artists. Even his Pierrot seems to experience his victimhood as a kind of noblity.

In the Giselles we are speaking of, it is as though Albrecht is dancing in his own personal bubble of aristocratic self-regard. For him, the village is a playground; the girl is there to be enjoyed, which is what simple, pretty village girls are for; the mothers are minor roadblocks to be circumvented; peasants like Hilarion, even if they become threatening, are almost beneath notice. He is not a dishonest person who knows better. He is something who genuinely -- and tragically -- believes this is how a nobleman is supposed to act. What happens in Act I subverts and attacks those assumptions, leading to the collapse that cargill describes.

As in the stories of the saints, the most memorable conversion experiences involve people who are supremely, arrogantly, blindly involved in self. This makes their fall -- and consequent redemption -- even more dramatic. The idea of reducing this, as Kain suggests, to

a story about love that is greater than the separation of death.
is possibly to trivialize it.

What do the rest of you think? And what about that idea of giving Bathilde a happy ending?

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If you can find a recording of the original score, you will find that there's a definite change in lietmotiv that brings on Wilfrid and Bathilde, who have apparently been beating the bushes all night, trying to find Albrecht. The transformation dawn music continues after this short burst, and there is some considerable time involved before the allegro/forte coda to the act. Although Gautier was part of the anti-clerical movement in Parisian intelligentsia, he certainly went through some contortions to make sure that there is 1) plenty of time for Giselle to effect a reconciliation between Albrecht and Bathilde, and 2) that there are at least two witnesses to a miracle (doubtless to be placed before the Sacred Congregation on the Causes of Saints). If it wasn't Gautier or Vernoy de Saint-George, who also didn't like the Church, then it may have been Coralli or Perrot.

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Mel, if there is time in the music to bring back Bathilde, what do you think about it as an artistic choice?

It seems cluttered to me. One does wonder what happened to her, but another marriage would probably have been arranged. And she still had the ring! Bringing her back, to me, would be only a little more meaningful than bringing back Siegfried's mother. I get the theology, but not the dramaturgy.

If I'm remembering correctly (and I may not be) I thought that one of the many things I liked about Nureyev's Albrecht was that he didn't reach for the sword to respond to Hilarion's knife -- but, as you said, showed who he was by his nobility of manner.
I also wish I could remember. Can anyone help?

What you describe, Alexandra, would be consistent with Albrecht's world-view as a medieval nobleman. A peasant, even an upper peasant employed by the nobility, was described by some as almost another species. The thought of gaining an upper hand by fighting with a sword -- duelling being a prerogative of nobles -- would be beneath someone like Albrecht.

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It's a possibility with only limited chances of probability, as the original scoring for that part is not available to most orchestras, and I have no idea of how to get it. I personally like it as a choice, but it has limited prospects of execution. If you haven't heard it, the music does go on for some considerable stage time. In some modern productions of this ballet, lily petals fall from the flies, suggesting that Giselle has gone to heaven, or to the more literal-minded, that some stagehand is up on the bridge eating a sandwich, and the lettuce has fallen out. The blocking for this scene exists nowhere, so we can't know how the final few minutes actually appeared onstage. Some productions used to have her appear significantly above the gravesite, and moving upward on a lift. At least that made some sense to me. Giselle has gone from a suicide's grave (she's not buried in the churchyard {consecrated ground}, she's out in the woods) to the personal judgment of God as Saved in defiance of the laws of Men. We've seen something disturbingly like this in our own time in the outpouring of sympathy for the late Princess Diana, and a corresponding respect, and even the beginnings of actual public affection for Prince Charles. Sometimes, it almost seemed as if there were an active invisible agency attending details of the ceremonies. Her coffin was covered by the Prince of Wales' banner because that was the only flag on board the aircraft that brought the corpse back to England! And Charles was still married to her in the canon law of the Church of England, so his demeanor throughout displayed nothing but the most fitting widower's grief. There is still the suggestion of the "man saved by the woman he scorned" in some present blockings of the final parts of the ballet, where Albrecht looks up to the heavens, as if to look toward where Giselle has gone.

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I like the idea of Bathilde reappearing if she is really in love with Albrecht, rather than taking a 'You must marry me because of this ring' approach and hauling him off. If she and Wilfried have been out all night it makes sense that she has decided that she does love Albrecht after all - courtly ladies do not wander the forests at night (except in ABT's Swan Lake, apparently). It would make her a more 3D character than just a betrayed lady in a pretty dress, and would also contribute to the idea of love in the ballet as a whole.

Of course, this would soup up the ballet no end. Overkill, perhaps? :)

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Sir Anton Dolin first told me about this longer ending, and expressed a wish to be able to try it out, and he'd studied the ballet longer than anyone at the time. Violette Verdy's excellent translation of the libretto gives us something of the action that was expected, in that Wilfrid and Bathilde and the hunters appear at the appointed place in the music, but fall to their knees upon witnessing the miracle happening before their eyes. The squire and the Princess bring Albrecht away from the grave, but he rushes back to it, distraught, throwing himself upon the earth, weeping uncontrollably. Bathilde cradles him in her arms, trying to soothe him as the curtain falls. Makes Bathilde into a pretty nice woman throughout the story.

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If I'm remembering correctly (and I may not be) I thought that one of the many things I liked about Nureyev's Albrecht was that he didn't reach for the sword to respond to Hilarion's knife -- but, as you said, showed who he was by his nobility of manner.
I also wish I could remember. Can anyone help?

What you describe, Alexandra, would be consistent with Albrecht's world-view as a medieval nobleman. A peasant, even an upper peasant employed by the nobility, was described by some as almost another species. The thought of gaining an upper hand by fighting with a sword -- duelling being a prerogative of nobles -- would be beneath someone like Albrecht.

The scene in Delouche's documentary on Moniques Lourdieres in which Vladimir Vasiliev coaches her in Giselle is one of my all-time favorite things in ballet, and while they don't rehearse Albrecht's reaction to Hilarion, there's a priceless moment in the scene they do rehearse which is a precurser: Giselle sits on the bench and looks away shyly. Vasiliev approaches her like a prince, and realizes this is a give-away. In a split second he does this little slouch and turns from Prince to a reglar' guy. (You can almost see him snapping his finger, like a Jet.)

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Does Albrecht really love Giselle? You can answer this question by telling us about productions you've seen (video counts) AND/OR what your ideal Albrecht should be.

I've seen many different approaches to this characters. According to the one that i grew up with, Mme. Alonso's :) , Albretch's feelings builds up as the first acts goes on, to the point when one feels that the simple identity/flirt game have progressed towards something more complex. Also, is interesting to add that in the cuban production,(see Alonso/Vasiliev as reference), Albrecht tries to run out of the village at the realization that he has been caught up on his lie, (who knows, maybe he would later return and give some explanations to Giselle), but he gets abruptely intercepted every time he tries to run out to a wing by the court members, who enter by every angle all bowing at his sight...THEN, he saddly kind of give up, to the realization that his real fiancee is right there, and his fate has been decided already, but he does it clearly frustrated and not in the openly fresh-remorsless attitude a la Nureyev. Also, after Giselle's death, he doesn't run away,like Nureyev does, but he just can't hold his pain and his newly found love feelings for her,(too late!) and kneel down on the ground crying while desperately kissing her feet in front of Bathilde and everybody else...That, for me, is the confirmation that he has loved her, even if it's been for a few minuts/hours...In other productions, it looks to me as infatuation...

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I just came across this fascinating discussion and thought I could add one small piece of information - Igor Youskevitch (since he was mentioned a few posts ago) discussed his interpetation of Albrecht at some length with Barbara Newman for his interview in her wonderful book of interviews Striking a Balance (Limelight 1992). He recalls learning the role from Serge Lifar, who (like Anton Dolin) showed Albrecht as in love with Giselle "and what happens is just an accident." Youskevitch said that after thinking about this:

"I realized that of course it cannot be that way, because the action of the story indicates deceit of a certain kind. Obviously Albrecht came with a specific goal in mind. He was a nobleman, probably the landlord of everything around, and it's far-fetched that he had really honorable intentions. Eventually I settled on the idea that Albrecht was really a wolf. He fell in love with a little peasant girl, and he was just going about it as any red-blooded male would, without thinking too much of the consequences or about his fiancee. It was a kind of flirtation on the side, which in his mind would not affect his marriage in any way."

He adds that when the court shows up "he's upset, he doesn't know what to do, and he just decides to tell some kind of a story and cover up, hoping Giselle will not react." Giselle's death causes an attack of "mild hysterics" and in Act II "his realization that he loved Giselle much more than he expected is supposed to come through more."

He discusses many interesting details, such as having Albrecht watch Giselle's physique when she's plucking the flower because "it's not an innocent, idealistic love, but that he's really trying to make her."

He also has a fascinating comment on Baryshnikov's dancing in Act II, which he felt was too contemporary and out of place, that it "leaves no room for emotional involvement. It's so technical that you cannot make it expressive."

This book also includes an equally enlightening interview with Alicia Alonso on the ballet.

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Thanks for reviving this thread, popularlibrary. I remember several interesting talks about 'Giselle' in 'Striking a Balance,' which is such a wonderful book. I think Youskevitch is right - given the class barriers of the time, there is no way that Albrecht's intentions can be 'good' - he's a cad, the question is, is he only a cad? And how do his feelings change over the course of the ballet?

He discusses many interesting details, such as having Albrecht watch Giselle's physique when she's plucking the flower because "it's not an innocent, idealistic love, but that he's really trying to make her."

I think that's one scene that can be played different ways - Albrecht is in love, he's not in love, he's in love but doesn't know it yet, etc.

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In another thread, smokeyjoe asked in response by my post about the Dutch National Ballet "Giselle" video:

The production takes the point of view that Albrecht loves Giselle truly-madly-deeply, and, poor, misunderstood chap, he would have cleared up everything if she hadn't died, or, to be more accurate, he hadn't killed her first, and in this vein, Jozef Varga was very affecting in the second act.

What is your opinion on Albrecht's role in Giselle is he a sinner or a person looking for escape when forced to marry cause of his status?

Does he really fall in love or he only feels bad cause of the tragical outcome of his actions? When is the moment when he realizes how he feels about her if he does love her? Do you think this story is still actual today? Love, tragedy, social differences, arranged marriage etc.?

In this thread there hasn't been any argument that the Romantic tradition requires a single "right" answer that would drive Giselle's behavior in the second act. Taking class into consideration, which is part of the tradition, doesn't dictate one approach over another, but regardless of his intention or feelings, Giselle will save him in Act II, and the Romantic tradition finds him worthy of salvation.

Because of that, I don't think it matters how Albrecht feels about Giselle in Act I or what he was going to tell her when. Although had he been given a chance to explain, how he could spin it to her to make him look any better than a selfish escapist beats me, but then I'm not someone who would readily accept "I had to act unethically because I could not control myself." (Albrecht doesn't work very well on project managers.) I don't have much sympathy for anyone who holds the power and uses it to manipulate the situation, much like the protagonist Erland in "A Rational Solution", a movie from Sweden I saw yesterday at the Seattle International Film Festival. (The women remain alive.) The bottom line is that his "me, me, me" behavior towards her, whatever the cause or rationalization, causes her to die of a condition he knows about.

I think the story is still actual today, aside from the Wilis part. Formal arranged marriage is still prevalent for a billion people in the world spread over many countries, and as prevalent are class, religious, and ethnic pressures to marry a certain way. People can make up virtual identities at will. People will want what they want when they want it, and if they have the power and wherewithal to get it, they often will. That doesn't make Act I Albrecht any better a human being.

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I came across this great discussion here and remembered reading Baryshnikov's account of how he came to play Albrecht as someone who is genuinely in love so I went to look it up (in "Baryshnikov at Work", with Charles France, 1978). He gives this history of 'Albrecht the cad' in Russia:

The traditions, both physical and dramatic, in the way Albrecht is played are very strong in the Soviet Union. Two great interpretations of Albrecht - that of Konstantin Sergeyev at the Kirov and that of Alexei Yermolayev at the Bolshoi - established a standard from as far back as the 1930's. If Sergeyev's Albrecht was the more elegant and poetic and Yermolayev's the more ferocious, they both shared one quality that is basic to all Soviet interpretations: Albrecht is an aristocrat. His primary concern is his social position, and his love for Giselle is at best a somewhat serious bagatelle. Albrecht is by implication or intention a cad, and therefore a limited character. His social position and noble bearing are the most important aspects in the standard interpretation of the role.

There were two well-known exceptions to this standardization: the performance by Nikita Dalgushin, a very talented and gifted dancer from the Kirov (who incidentally made a double debut with Natalia Makarova), and by Rudolph Nureyev, who made his debut with Irina Kolpakova. Both interpretations departed significantly from the usual. Unfortunately, by the time I came along these two dancers were no longer with the company. My own models - Yuri Soloviev, Sergei Vikulov, Vladilen Semyonov, all gifted dancers - were still very much in the Sergeyev mold.

So, so far as he knows, the cad interpretation goes back to at least the 30's, and the 'Albrecht is really in love' interpretation is something that he had to come up with himself as a way of making himself believable in the role, given his youth and the skepticism about him as a danseur noble in the Kirov system at the time. Does anyone know if he was he the first (at least in living memory) to dance the role that way, or were there others outside of the Soviet Union who were playing it like that before the 70's?

Of course, he later changed his mind and played the cad version himself when he was older - which seems to fit with Leigh Witchel's observations about watching Kronstam's attempts to coach a young Lloyd Riggins :

Riggins is following Kronstam's lead as well, but there's a real noticeable change in how the same gestures and direction look on an older, weighted man or a younger man. Riggins had the physical bulk, but not the gravity Kronstam did. I think that's a function of age.

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I’m a novice ballet watcher and have only seen 3 Giselles on DVD and unfortunately never a live performance. Early in Act 1, all 3 of my Albrechts - Bujones, Kobborg and Vargas, each backs away from Giselle and puts his hand over his heart and then raises two fingers in swearing his love for Giselle. None of them points to his ring finger as mentioning marriage. I get the impression that Albrecht has no thought of marrying Giselle. It is just a flirtation or an expectant affair on his part. She is a naïve young girl who jumps to the conclusion that love and marriage are inseparable. I wonder if Albrecht has mentioned marriage to Giselle by pointing to the ring finger in other performances that I have not yet seen. If he has then is an even bigger cad.

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Does Albrecht really love Giselle? You can answer this question by telling us about productions you've seen (video counts) AND/OR what your ideal Albrecht should be. Also, if anyone knows where in history Albrecht-the-Cad came in, please let us know.

[ 04-16-2001: Message edited by: alexandra ]

First, thank you so much for this post. I have been obsessed with this topic for months. I have wondered whether Albrecht visited Giselle's grave in Act II as a result of his guilt or his love. I did not believe that he loved her at first, but have come to believe he may have developed or realized a form of love for her after he felt loss and/or remorse. Of course, he felt attraction for her in Act I, but I am unsure whether he felt deep affection. I think the issue is not just one of being a cad or not, but rather, one of age and maturity, of learning consequences, of evaluating expectations and social limitations, of developing empathy and compassion.

I agree with the discussion above regarding class and status. (Prince Siegfried's youthful rejection of his duty to marry, and his treatment of the peasant girls in Act I, informs my interpretation of Albrecht's immaturity, his sense of entitlement, and his view of peasants as playthings.) However, I do not think class alone explains his motivations or conduct. Often people perceive marriage to be a potential prison, and abandon their fiances; this occurs regardless of whether they are entrapped by duties to marry based on class, politics, economics, or parents forcing arranged marriages. In all societies, men with limited intentions, who are selfish or young or who have not thought through the consequences of their actions, have caused pain, madness (how could he do this, why did he say this, did he mean it, is he the person he appeared to be, etc.), and even death of innocent, naive girls whom they have rejected (e.g., through suicide, or giving up, or succumbing to an illness, or dying of a broken heart). The focus on class to the exclusion of other factors makes sense primarily in a political setting (e.g., the Soviet era interpretations, or historical analyses), and it certainly explains the conduct here, but human emotions, behavior, impulses, and other motivations can produce this result even when class differences are absent.

Last week, I posted in another forum that Alistair Macauley, when reviewing the recent Kirov/Mariinsky production of "Giselle" at the Kennedy Center, wrote that the company performed a production in which Bathilde returned in Act II in the 1970s. Maybe a video recording of this exists.

I think to consider Bathilde "nice" is a bit facile. She also must consider class issues, and her social and economic realities. She may not have loved Albrecht, or expected him to be faithful. If she did not marry him, after his dalliance, she may not have any other options, as well. (The willis are abandoned brides, so maybe those left at the altar become unmarriable.) She has to evaluate her own survival. If she forgave him, this may have been due to love (which may include an ability and willingness to forgive), maturity, expectations (was she told by her mother that men cheat or that the noble take what they want from the peasantry?), understanding his position (she was moved by Giselle's beauty and innocence enough to give her something of value), or learning to adjust her expectations in light of her recognition of his love or his nature. She may think that what he has to offer her in marriage is enough, however limited it may be. She may also return to him with an intention to have revenge and force him to live up to his promise and live in a loveless marriage, or with an intention to force a marriage to save her socially or economically, or an intention to live as previously expected, as a wife in a court of concubines.

I find it believable that Giselle could forgive him, and that she could hope that he goes on to live a fulfilling life without crippling guilt and remorse, and therefore, she may take steps to intervene to prevent his death and/or return him to Bathilde. This is an unconditional, generous love. Many women, who think Albrecht is a cad with limitations as a human being and undeserving of redemption, might not forgive him, but then, why would they value and adore a romantic ballet that tells a story of enduring love that survives death? For those who believe Albrecht is a limited character, who is a cad incapable of growth, are you saying this great tale of love involves only a selfless Giselle's love? Or are you saying that he has learned his lesson, and discovered his love after her death, and therefore, love can survive?

Recently, I posted about a "Giselle" production being shown in Canada that describes the ballet as one about revenge. Does anyone understand the story to be about revenge?

Myrtha and her willis seek revenge and death as punishment, but that is not the focus of the drama between the protagonists, so about whom would this refer? This interpretation seems to apply if Giselle saved Albrecht rather than letting him join her in death, to make him live on, to suffer a life of guilt or to live imprisoned in a loveless marriage with an angry, bitter, humiliated, and vengeful Bathilde. I find this hard to believe, but possible.

Alternatively, Albrecht's guilt could cause him to go mad, or live a life of suffering, or to lose his carefree, entitled way of living, taking what he wants without regard to consequences. In this way, a sort of justice and revenge could be attained. For this to be a consequence of love and/or mercy would be great irony, and deeply saddening. If he lives a more caring, empathetic, and/or loyal life, as a result, then maybe this would be understandable.

Another interpretation I have considered is that Myrtha is the ghost or alter ego of Bathilde, whose bethrothed abandoned her, and humiliated her, and this is why she demands death for faithless, wayward fiances with her army of willis. This is another way the tale could be one of revenge. Giselle rejects this, however, and the young peasant surpasses the benevolent, enlightened noble.

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THe Romantic movement, of which Giselle is a sterling example, was a revival of the Romantic traditions of the middle ages -- the romances of Arthurian legend, tRISTAN AND iSOLDE, THE TROUBADOURS,

oops caps lock --

Point is, in THAT tradition love nad marriage were mutually exclusive. Lancelot loves King Arthur's wife, who loves him in return; Tristan loves Isolde, who is King Mark's wife but loves him in return. In NONE of these stories would it be acceptable at all for hte lovers to be married.... she is his mistress, and he languishes for love, praying that she will "grant merci" --

This has probably been said before -- probably by Mel -- but may be worth saying again.

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Not meaning to go sidetracked with the discussion of Albrecht's character... but I always thought Bathilde's social status/class is above Albrecht's, just from the way she came out of Giselle's little house, and questioned Albrecht on the why and how and what, how she would expect Albrecht to place a kiss on her hand, and how she turned and walked away from Albrecht after the hell broke loose and Giselle went mad. My thinking is if Albrecht didn't tell her about Giselle on purpose, for the risk of losing his social status or the marriage arrangement, that would be hinting that he was going to "marry up" himself.

Not sure if I'm the only one reading her character this way, but if it's true, would that mean her marriage to Albrecht was officially void, and at the end Albrecht lost both women, and, possibly though we would never know, lost his social status and/or wealth as well?

If he was aware of the potential loss of his status, that would mean he was already a calculated person, what he didn't take into consideration is that someone could die from a broken heart.

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