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Hair up or down, during the Mad Scene?

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#1 Lukayev



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Posted 29 April 2001 - 10:48 PM

I've seen more mad scenes where the hair was made to tumble down out of Giselle's bun, in all its unplaited, tangled glory. There are some where her hair is still left in its original place, not mussed up in the least bit. Now, I'm thinking that if a person's distraught, then the course of action that at least *I* would take would be to tug my hair and bellow out in a terrible, lion-like rage. Of course, these are the mid-1800's when Paris Opera presented it, right? I'm not too keen on chronological stuffs. So the ladies were probably taught to keep their emotions to themselves and simmer down until they were cool enough to forget the situation. I could be wrong, though. So if leaving the hair up was the original version, then I'm sort of for the 'keeping with the times' thing. But if Giselle just unleashed her long locks and strewed them about her face when she lay in a heap on the ground, then I think it would've added a bit more to the drama, regardless of production era.


#2 julip



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Posted 29 April 2001 - 11:18 PM

hair down. it adds to the terror.

#3 felursus


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Posted 29 April 2001 - 11:24 PM

Well, Luka, but Giselle has gone mad, so whatever the convention of the day was in terms of how a lady should behave in public, madness makes all bets off. I guess a lady out in public with her hair awry would be deemed to have either gone mad or to have had something terrible happen to her. In the nineteenth century young girls wore their hair down until they came of marriageable age. Putting one's hair up was a sign of maturity and of being of an age where a girl could expect men to show an interest in her.

MY gripe with Giselle's hair coming down is all the work that Berthe seems to have to do to help some dancers get all the pins out. Clearly the dancer has to do some work while she's offstage to make the whole thing look natural. Having Berthe act as a hair "undresser" looks messy. The neatest way is to take out most of the pins while the dancer is offstage before the finale. A strong thread can tie the necklace to a ribbon holding the hair, so that it comes off leaving the hair loose when the necklace is pulled off. You have to experiment to see what works best for your hair type. Obviously you have to give the IMPRESSION that Giselle's hairdo is unchanged up until she becomes distraught. :rolleyes:

#4 Alexandra


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Posted 30 April 2001 - 12:04 AM

There was a Roman custom (and perhaps Hellenic as well) that a woman would express grief with "disheveled hair," as well as rending her clothes and both were eagerly adopted in the Renaissance, I've read (think Lady Capulet on Tybalt's bier).

Hair down -- but please practice enough so that it comes down in one wild grab of a stragetically placed pin instead of wrestling with it, or having Mum desperately try to get it out of whatever it's stuck in, while pretending to comfort.

#5 leibling


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Posted 30 April 2001 - 10:52 AM

I liked the way Carla Fracci's hair was managed in the ABT video with Erik Bruhn. Her hair does not come down, but is definately disheveled by the end of the mad scene. It looks much more natural to me, as I have noticed on numerous videos how the mother is removing pins. It also does not quite seem logical that her hair would fall down as she throws herself onto the ground... if she fell as she were clutching her head, ripping her hair out or some other grevious action, then the undone hair would be ok. Too many times I have seen the intent to reach for the necklace to rip it off, and the hair comes out, too. Anyway, Fracci's hair is damaged by the removal of the necklace, then she continues to pull at it at logical moments through the mad scene. By the end some of it is up, some down, she doesn't seem to care. She is crazy by now, and I am sure that her hair is the last thing on her mind.

#6 Guest_Gypsy_*

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Posted 30 April 2001 - 02:43 PM

I have seen POB and Moscow perform this and I have to admit that POB did it best. Moscow's Berthe looked like she was plucking petals from Giselle's hair and saying "not yet not yet". Don't know how POB managed it but the change was instantaneous. Too bad their Giselle wasn't a little more "on" that night but her hair was perfect!

#7 CygneDanois



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Posted 30 April 2001 - 10:37 PM

I always thought Berthe was taking Giselle's hair down so she'd be more comfortable--sort of like loosening her stays (kind of like a corset), only you can't do that onstage, obviously.

#8 DancingDuck


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Posted 07 August 2003 - 08:21 AM

:sweating: The impression I get is that Giselle is going mad... soo she looks even more so when her hairs fallen out of place! :D

#9 carbro


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Posted 09 August 2003 - 01:21 AM

Disorder in and around Giselle's head? :)

I much prefer the Fracci method. I hate it when the hair becomes the star of the last third of Act I. We first see Giselle in a tight, neat, little bun. But at her last entrance, the bun is a little looser. Then there's the whole production of undoing it so that the hair falls. Too much unnecessary stage fuss distracting from the action, to my mind. :clapping:

#10 Mel Johnson

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Posted 09 August 2003 - 06:38 AM

It's a Romantic convention to show a formerly sane and reasonable person gone mad and in deshabille, for exactly the reason cited above. Think of Lucia di Lammermoor, when the title character goes off the deep end, murders her husband on their wedding night, and stalks the stage with a dagger, in her nightgown, and with her formerly dressed hair hanging loose. She relives past moments with the man she actually loves in the scene. A lot of similarities exist between the two "Mad Scenes".

#11 R S Edgecombe

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Posted 09 August 2003 - 08:42 AM

In addition to the Roman mourning custom that Alexandra mentions--Ovid mocks it in his lament for Corinna's parrot when the grieving birds tear out their feathers--one should also recall the behaviour of the Greek Maenads. Their wild and tangled hair signified mental derangement, and influenced operatic conventions even before the Romantic operas that Mel rightly connects with Giselle. (It's worth recalling that Adam and Donizetti shared lodgings in Paris.) Donizetti's master, Giovanni Mayr, wrote an opera entitled Medea in Corinto in 1813, and contemporary prints show Pasta with Giselle-like hair, dragging her children offstage to murder them. Earlier in the opera she had worn it in a chignon and further secured it with a tiara. Alexandra, do you know if there is any pictorial record of Noverre's Medea and Jason? I'm not sure if the libretto included the infanticidal episode, but, if it did, it would be interesting to see if Medea's hair was loosened for the occasion.

#12 Alexandra


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Posted 09 August 2003 - 09:11 AM

Rodney, I've seen some drawings from Noverre's ballet. I remember dishevelled hair, but not Giselle-like. More a messy wig with snakes coming out of it. But they made the point :)

One of the best books -- lots of drawings -- I know of pre-19th century ballet is Marian Hannah Winter's "The Pre-Romantic Ballet." VERY expensive and long out of print, but it might turn up on alibris, or another web site of that sort.

#13 Ari


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Posted 09 August 2003 - 11:46 AM

While there's an honorable Romantic tradition of loose hair signifying madness, I don't think it suits ballet, which is a much more contained, formal art than opera. When it's used in Giselle it is out of place in a way that goes beyond the dramatic; all of the sudden we're not in a ballet any more, and the hair, as carbro said, seems to take over the proceedings. Now, we're talking about current productions, which reflect the esthetics of the present day. It may well have fit in with the ballet esthetics (and different choreography) of the 1840s.

#14 Alexandra


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Posted 09 August 2003 - 12:07 PM

I think that's a good point, Ari -- it's all the fault of Realism, poison to ballet, IMO. I've read a quote from Carla Fracci saying that one must go mad prettily -- it's Romantic Ballet, not a madhouse. (I think that's why the 18th century Noverre had his dances in wigs, which are a stylization. Yes, they were a part of the costume of the age, but the whole age was a stylized one.

As for today -- it can work, but not when the dancer dancing "Giselle" falls sane and arises MAD. But that's just bad acting.

#15 mohnurka


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Posted 24 June 2004 - 07:36 AM

Leaving the hair up looks better IMO. Yes, taking them down creates the feeling of terror and madness, but it's a little too much for ballet. Plus, a great ballerina is able to create the feeling of madness/sadness/sorrow with her acting.

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