Alexandra

Question #11: Is Hilarion a good guy, or a bad guy?

46 posts in this topic

When I started going to the ballet, a caddish Albrecht and a good-hearted Hilarion were both enough of a novelty to warrant mention. Now, both are usual, the latter nearly standard.

In the Beaumont libretto, Hilarion is the villain. He's not an evil man, but an intelligent rather arrogant one (and coarse as well, but he's used to being Top Dog in that village). He acts in revenge because Giselle scorned him. I've seen interpretations where Hilarion thinks that if I only tell her the truth, then she'll love me. Not in the original. He wants to publicly humiliate her, it seems. He finds the sword and mantle and picks his moment to reveal them -- when everybody is there to watch, 36 seconds after Giselle is crowned Queen of the Harvest.

What interpretations have you seen? Do you like him as a hero or a villain?

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Ahem! Now see here! As the Sole Surviving Member of the Original Hilarion Defense League, I must of course take vigorous exception to any suggestion that Hilarion is anything less than a truly noble soul, cursed with a less-attractive container than his rival!

After all, doesn't he stand up for true National Loyalty in supporting the marriage of his Duke (Albrecht) to the daughter of the Duke next door(Bathilde)? Isn't he acting on behalf of Family Values by exposing a fraud (and an outsider, yet?) Isn't he generous(rabbits)? Isn't he spritually moved by Giselle's death to stand a vigil at her graveside? Isn't he the Boy next Door?

We figured out, we OHDL, a ballet to some of the "Mam'zelle Angot" score for Albrecht to get Carabosse, Giselle to get Dr. Coppélius, Myrtha to get Golfo(they were deliriously happy with one another) and Hilarion, who had spent most of his time up a tree to escape the tirading Wilis and some lost Polvetsians, got the Prettiest Girl In The Company, all courtesy of the Sugar Plum Fairy!

How we proposed to keep Civil War from breaking out over the PGITC company part, I don't think we ever resolved.

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Well, if you ask the folks at the Bolshoi, we all KNOW who they think the Real Good Guy is.

He didn't get the holographic sequins or the jaunty velvet beret, but he got that great green outfit and Those Boots to show off his beats......

[ 04-26-2001: Message edited by: Juliet ]

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Juliet, Wasn't the Bolshoi Hilarion dressed in mustard yellow with red trim (and a red Shriner's hat)? Whatever he was wearing, he was most definitely a central character, and got a dramatic suicide, not murder, when he hurled himself off the cliff like he thought he was Siegfried. This concept definitely did not work for me.

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Juliet has Production Amnesia.....

who had the green outfit and lots of extra dancing to do ? I thought it was Wilfrid who had the outfit like he came out of a crackerjack box.....

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Juliet, perhaps the man in green with lots of extra dancing was von Rothbart in ABT's new Swan Lake.

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You *are* silly. That was The Iguana.

I'll check. I could have sworn it was the Bolshoi production......not important, really--

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I don't think he is a good guy, though I cannot say he is exceptionally bad. He was selfish and violent in his love, at least to an ordinary degree, which might be enough reason for his death.

He seemed to expect Giselle to love him, at least partly because he was relatively wealthier and held a rather higher social position, which I imagine suffocated Giselle, who liked dancing, i.e., a girl who was not so interested in something practical and pragmatic and hated to be fettered by such things (I think she couldn't accept her actual social class). Or, simply because he loved her. When unanswered, his emotion revealed what it truly was - he, who actually loved himself, decided to ruin Giselle's love, and further, herself. Or, he was just foolish in believing that without Albrecht, Giselle would have loved him, which in turn also shows the degree of his love - a love for the then available one, not for the right one.

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Isn't the player known as Albrecht more the villian since he seems to run from town to town looking for a quick fix? I mean he even disguises himself and changes his name to Loys? Where is the honesty in that? So what he doesn't want to marry Bathilde, look at the controversy he created by coming across this cute little grape girl. Would Hilarion really have been "the bad guy" had Albrecht not shown up? I do not think so. Giselle may have just rejected him and she and he would have gone on their merry ways. But with the competition at hand with Albrecht showing up, I think it changed the playing field and Hilarion was trying to make things right by uncovering the truth about Loys!

I always love Hilarion better. I mean even his name is cooler and he gets to dress up like Robin Hood. You really can't beat that.

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And another thing...

Albrecht realizes what he has done in the opening of ACT II when he walks to the grave site. Is he sad that Giselle has died? Yes. But I think his true emotion is that he has led her to her death and he realizes the pain he has caused and feels guilt, not love.

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When I said to a certain ballerina that I consider Giselle a stupid girl, she couldn't stop laughing. I think she agreed.

One could consider Giselle a good natured but silly peasant girl that rebukes a perfectly good husband candidate to fall stupidly in love with a charming stranger. The rebuked solicitor realizes that the charming stranger is of high rank and, probably wants only to have a roll in the hay with Giselle, and forget her. So Hilarion decides to show Giselle the wrongness of her ways but, alas, he misjudges Giselle frailty and causes her death.

It could be considered also that the night of sex and prompt fleeing of her paramour will cause the death of Giselle.

And so, one may conclude that the evil one in this history is Albrecht. And then that stupid girl goes and saves the culprit from the gentle hands of Myrtha.

Women... :wallbash:

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In the Beaumont libretto, Hilarion is the villain. He's not an evil man, but an intelligent rather arrogant one (and coarse as well, but he's used to being Top Dog in that village). He acts in revenge because Giselle scored him.

The 1840s, wihen Giselle was created, was a time of revolution in Europe. But classical ballet has always been a remakablyi socially conservative art. So, I'm not surprised that the noble Albrecht would have been idealized while the peasant, Hilarion, even though clearly one step up from most of the others in the village, would have been an object of ambivalence, suspicion, and even dislike.

I don't think he is a good guy, though I cannot say he is exceptionally bad. He was selfish and violent in his love, at least to an ordinary degree, which might be enough reason for his death.

Thanks, Kyeong, for reviving this fascinating topic. I know from your posting elsewhere that you, like me, attended the recent Boca Ballet Theater performances of Giselle, with Marcelo Gomes as Albrecht and William Hoppe as Hilarion.

In that production, Hoppe struck me as one of the most genuinely "good" Hilarions I've ever seen.

Hoppe crafted a youthful and rather light character who is genuinely infatuated with Giselle and quite gracious about it. For example: his delight and spontaneity while presenting his gifts of food and flowers, or filling Giselle's mother's pitcher of water). He was (as usual) the only person in this daft little village to have doubts about the obviously elegant young man, attended by a rather grand servant, who had recently moved into town and seemed to be in the process of charming and seducing the naive Giselle.

This Hilarion's growing mistrust of Albrecht was touching.(It helps when you do the mime well, as Hoppe did.) He is not the brightest lightbulb in the world, so his miming of puzzlement and his attempts to solve the puzzle struck me as genuine and rather sweet.

His big scene -- the revelation that Albrecht is nobleman -- did not have the the feeling or force of an act of vengeance. He was, for me, the detective (young Sherlock?) out to astonish his neighbors with his discoveries and, at the same time, save Giselle from a fate worth than death.

This Hilarion was a well-meaning agent of Giselle's madness and death. It was Albrecht, however, and his deceptions that were the cause.

There are disadvantages as well as advantages to a "good" Hilarion.

The biggest loss to Act I is that Hilarion is more interesting if he conveys a sense of menace and makes you wonder how far he will go. (Some Hilarions have actually been so desperate that they are scary.)

One advantage to Act II, however, is that I found myself really caring about Hilarion's fate at the hand of the wilis, something I usually don't think about at all.

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...and also, let's not forget that the music for the Fugue of the Willis was left intact, without the now common cuts , so he had a lot of dancing to do in this scene. Indeed he looked tired and ready to collapse...

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Thanks for that information, Cristian. Now that you mention it, it did seem that those upward thrusts of the arm (fingers splayed) looked more realistic than is often the case. :wink:

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Imagine, if you will, that Giselle married Hilarion. I think she would have made the poor fellow's life miserable. Here was a girl who liked life's finer things. She was attracted to Albrecht because he had none of the rough edges of the village lads; also loved jewelry and fine clothing. She might have been another Emma Bovary :sweatingbullets: ---but then we would not have that great 2nd act.

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Don't think so, atm711.

First, a gamekeeper is a respected member of a small community such as Giselle's. So he could satisfy her possible desires for upward social mobility, and save her of the worst chores of a farm wife's life.

Second, there was no TV and no marketing in those times, so her knowledge of fine things would be limited: can you imagine a peasant girl asking for silk slippers, perfumed gloves, expensive jewelry, and the like? Game meat would be a fine thing in those times, and a gamekeeper would be able to provide. And Giselle does not know of the wealth of Albrecht when she falls in love with his pretty face. Albrecht has to hide most of his worldly manners in order to woo Giselle, actually.

Third, Giselle likes dancing. Going for the wages that most of today's ballerinas earn, seems that being able to dance is a reward by itself.

Fourth, Giselle bad health and 19th century healthcare. Probably she wouldn't survive the birth of her first child. No much time to make the life of a man a living hell in only 9 to 12 months.

But those are cold reasons and delving in them too much could ruin the pleasure of the ballet, so better make a suspension of disbelief (as HRC would say) and enjoy the Art.

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i keep remembering markova commenting that she had been told that giselle didn't like hilarion because he had a red beard.

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bart, thanks for remembering my review. As you said, I attended the recent Giselle performance by the Boca Raton Theater, which was very enjoyable, and made me think further seriously about the characters in Giselle. However, my interpretation doesn't have much to do with that specific production, rather I think it grew within my head;;; There was nothing in that production clearly indicating Hilarion's wealth or social position - which I learned from BT after the performance, and Hilarion in that production was not forceful or arrogant at all.

When Hilarion did three things - food, water, and flowers, as bart wrote, in the beginning of the first act in that production, I also thought, "He is the perfect candidate for husband (or, son-in-law) for Giselle (or, Giselle's mother)", especially when he put the flowers in the Giselle's house. I also liked his mime, when he mimicked Albrecht, trying to figure out who he is. He looked even cute at that moment. Simply, Hoppe nicely danced and acted, as I wrote in my review, and his Hilarion was a typically cheerful, but kinder than usual, guy. And, Kent's Giselle was gentle to him, let alone cold, throughout the first act.

So, I became more curious about why Giselle didn't love him and why he should die in the second act, under the assumption that everyone acts with some good reason. Well, I might have started from the consequence, looking for a good cause for it. That being said, I think, from Giselle's perspective, however silly she was (or not), she might have felt it coercive when someone she didn't like continuously demonstrated to her mother every kindness which she as well as her mother needed, while she knew he did such things because he loved her, she didn't have a thing for him and further there was no free lunch in the world (I think she should have said "no" to his kindness, from the first, and at this point, Giselle can be a bad girl, abusing Hilarion's kind heart).

I admit that it is possible to think Hilarion did all those things not expecting any reward, even emotionally. But, with the line of interpreting Albrecht a cad, Giselle a girl full of vanity, I think it also plausible to interpret Hilarion a guy who demanded a love in return for his kindness, making use of Giselle's poor home environment. Further, when I started from a good-hearted Hilarion, it was hard to find out a valid reason for Hilarion's death, and, in that case, the one and simple answer would be Giselle remained silly even after she died of Albrecht's betrayal. Though such unable-to-explain nature of the love may be the core of the romanticism the ballet Giselle is said to represent, in an effort to make Giselle's choice look more understandable, I chose to interpret Hilarion a bad guy from the first act, which makes enough sense to me, considering the possible dynamics among Giselle, Giselle's mother and him.

In fact, I haven't seen Giselle many times, and, out of my very few experiences, I haven't seen a bad Hilarion (more frankly, I haven't paid much attention to him so far). So, my opinion for a bad guy approach is weak in that I don't know how it will work in an actual performance. I simply think a good-guy Hilarion will be a great contrast with a cad Albrecht in the first act, indirectly sneering at the nobility system as well as pretty but silly Giselle (in this case, Hilarion may be able to get more sympathy from the audience and it becomes difficult to agree with his miserable death in the second act), and a bad-guy Hilarion makes Giselle's choice and the second-act story somewhat more understandable, giving more spotlight to the love between Giselle and Albrecht (in this case, I expect Albrecht will be the true lover from the beginning).

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I agree. I like my old fashioned Hilarion to be portrayed somehow as a sinister character...probably the guy who has been rejected by all the girls-Giselle included- and who lives some sort of miserable, lonely life-(he doesn't mingle that much with the rest of the happy villagers). One of the things I remember from Alonso's Hilarons was that he's even sort of physically abusive with Giselle when trying to drag her inside her cottage out of Loys' sight. Here he usually displayed some rough technique to grab her wrists, with Giselle clearly hurting when trying to get off him. That's why I was so surprised when I purchased the Bolshoi production with Bessmertnova/Lavrovsky to find the softer, more human approach with the food offerings, and even later on to find him dancing with the rest of the villagers to the Marche des vignerons. Hilarion also ought to be somehow physically unattractive-(loved Markova's story about the read beard. :P ).

I mean...if Hilarion is a guy with noble feelings, Albrecht is no longer a cad, Myrtha starts showing humanity because at the end she's just a victim, then we're left with a whole different ballet...! :excl:

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as a footnote to this topic, i'm posting this photocard of Gordon Hamilton, of whom i hadn't heard until i acquired this 'vivid' card.

post-848-063843100 1281754938_thumb.jpg

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as a footnote to this tread, i'm posting this photocard of Gordon Hamilton, of whom i hadn't heard until i acquired this 'vivid' card.

see...? THAT'S my man...! :clapping:

(great pic, rg! )

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:speechless-smiley-003: To borrow Cristian's term, that is indeed a "sinister" look. Wouldn't the villagers (all of whom seem to be bouncing happily through peasant life on large doses of amphetemines) be scared to death of him?

The photo suggests "Minion of the Wilies" rather than "Victim of the Wilis."

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according to P. Noble's BRITISH BALLET, the Australian-born Hamilton joined Sadler's Wells Ballet in 1941 where he remained until '46. From '46 to '47 he was with the Ballets des Champs-Elysées as principal dancer and assistant ballet master to Roland Petit. He rejoining Sadler's Wells in '47. The entry on him in this book (no actual publication date that is given but Margot Fonteyn's Forward is dated 1949) is rather long with a good number of roles listed, including Hilarion. The same photo of Hamilton as Hilarion is among the book's illustrations. British members might be able to somehow date this photo.

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I've always thought that Hilarion was a stalker like Albrecht; the difference being

that Albrecht is a royal.

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I've always thought that Hilarion was a stalker like Albrecht; the difference being

that Albrecht is a royal.

Ditto

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