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Question #8: Is Giselle a virgin?


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#1 Alexandra

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Posted 19 April 2001 - 09:30 AM

There's an article by John Mueller (who was the source of ballet films before the days of video, a political science professor with an interest in the ballet) in Ballet Review long ago with this title. As I remember it (and it was one of the very first ballet articles I read, so I may have blurred the details) he postulated that the reason for Giselle's extreme reaction to Albrecht's betrayal was that she was pregnant (presumably by him.)

Now, personally, I don't buy this. I think he felt that the mad scene needed more explanation than "Oh, you cad, I'll now go mad." I don't think it does.

Some productions make it clear that Giselle is sexually innocent -- in one that I thought was particularly well thought-out, the attraction for Albrecht is because he's gentlemanly, i.e., blows kisses and doesn't touch her, unlike Hilarion, a more physically demonstrative, rougher fellow. She is supposed to be very young, but I'm not sure what ballet Silesian peasants were doing in those days. It was probably OK to mess around, with the expectation that if a little accident happened, the fellow would marry you or everyone would stone him to death.

How long have Giselle and Albrecht known each other? What is the nature of their relationship? Do we need to know?

#2 Mme. Hermine

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Posted 19 April 2001 - 10:10 AM

personally i think she has to be a virgin; she's even too shy to let him sit properly next to her! :rolleyes:

#3 atm711

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Posted 19 April 2001 - 10:15 AM

Perhaps John Mueller had Lynn Seymour's Giselle in mind when he made his accusations. In the video with Nureyev they appear to be pretty familiar with each other.

#4 Nanatchka

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Posted 19 April 2001 - 12:05 PM

Gee, Alexandra, that's going to catch on. She's pregnant, and in the second act he gets stoned, as in pelted with rocks, not as in indulging in recreational drugs.But to answer the question-- She can have a broken heart either way, can't she? It depends on what kind of cad you want to make Albrecht. In re John Mueller: he is also THE expert on Fred and Ginger.

#5 CygneDanois

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Posted 19 April 2001 - 09:54 PM

Of course she's a virgin; it was 1840!

It is quite a shock to realize that the person one has been in love with for quite some time is a completely different person who is engaged to someone else. Add a weak heart, the fact that she's been dancing all day in spite of her mother's warnings, the excitement of a royal hunting party, and I think that the final realization that Albrecht really truly isn't a peasant named Loys would be the last straw.

#6 dirac

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Posted 20 April 2001 - 02:19 AM

Yes, it was the 19th century, but these are the peasant classes we're talking about. "Droit du seigneur" was still very much around, for one thing, not that Albrecht is the type who'd exercise it, and also virginity wasn't quite the big deal among the lower orders that it was for the middle and upper classes. In England, for example, it was considered a good idea for a country couple to have a bun in the oven by the time the wedding day rolled around -- you were going to need kids, after all, to help around the farm.

Mueller is certainly correct that pregnancy or merely a fate worse than death is superior as a motive, but I don't think we need it. In 19th century opera, heroines went mad on much flimsier pretexts.

Parenthetically, with all due respect to John Mueller, I think Arlene Croce holds pride of place in Fred-and-Ginger studies. As a student of Astaire's career in toto, however, Mueller gets the prize, and I'd like to take the opportunity to plug his great book, "Astaire Dancing." :)


:)

#7 Ann

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Posted 20 April 2001 - 03:01 AM

"In England, for example, it was considered a good idea for a country couple to have a bun in the oven by the time the wedding day rolled around."

Dirac - I'm curious. Where did you read this?

#8 Helena

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Posted 20 April 2001 - 06:03 AM

I have also heard this, although I couldn't give you a reference. Not only in England, either, but in rural communities all over Europe, and for the economic reasons given by dirac.

#9 Alexandra

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Posted 20 April 2001 - 09:56 AM

I've read it too, but so long ago and so often I can't cite a source. I do think it was in all rural communities -- not that that would have much to do with the libretto of "Giselle," as these were middle-class fantasy peasants. (In Denmark there's a saying, "The first child can take any time, the second one takes nine months.")

I read a short story once -- popular fiction in a book on Victorian pornography -- that reminded me of Albrecht. (Albrecht, Le Cad would have exercised droit de seigneur, I think.) A young scion of the upper classes, down from Oxford for the holidays, was walking through the countryside, saw a girl he liked, and had her. When it was over, she cried. He was stunned. "It never occurred to me they had feelings," he wrote, "they" meaning country folk, not females. Changed his life.

(I vote for Giselle being a virgin. Even peasant girls are virgins at some point.)

#10 CygneDanois

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Posted 20 April 2001 - 10:09 AM

What I mean is that if Giselle had not been a virgin, she wouldn't have been allowed on the stage of the Paris Opéra in 1840.

#11 Alexandra

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Posted 20 April 2001 - 10:28 AM

Now THAT'S an interesting point, Cygne Danois. One of the Danish stories is that there was a ballet -- it may have been "Giselle" -- that was not allowed because the Crown Prince kept a mistress and everybody knew it, but it wasn't allowed to be shown on stage.

I think they couldn't have shown that Giselle was not a virgin, but I think it may have been left to your imagination.

#12 felursus

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Posted 21 April 2001 - 01:02 AM

I vote for virgin. I think Giselle originally thought her "fate" would be to marry good 'ole reliable Hilarion. Then up shows Loys, a young, handsome, romantic type. A little out of the ordinary (i.e. she hadn't grown up with him being around all the time), ergo MOST attractive PLUS he's attracted to her, so she's flattered. For all we know, she'd been promised to Hilarion since birth. How boring! :)

#13 Andrei

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Posted 21 April 2001 - 02:45 PM

This is the third time when Albrecht sees Giselle. First time he saw her from carriage when she came out of the church. Second time happened when he changed his dress and came to the same church to look at her. She noticed the handsome stranger and probably they share few words or may be not(well, the mother was around). Albrecht followed them to their house, saw the empty hut across and order to Wilfrid to buy it (Wifrid got a key). And now we have the beginning of act one. (At least in my interpretation :rolleyes: ).
Of course she is virgin or Albrecht will not come next time !

[ 04-21-2001: Message edited by: Andrei ]

#14 Victoria Leigh

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Posted 21 April 2001 - 03:36 PM

That scenario works really well for me, Andrei! :) And I absolutely agree that she is a virgin!


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