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


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#16 sunday

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Posted 13 August 2010 - 12:43 PM

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.

#17 Mme. Hermine

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Posted 13 August 2010 - 01:01 PM

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

#18 Kyeong

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Posted 13 August 2010 - 02:15 PM

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).

#19 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 13 August 2010 - 06:03 PM

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:

#20 rg

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Posted 13 August 2010 - 07:02 PM

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.

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#21 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 13 August 2010 - 09:01 PM

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! )

#22 bart

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Posted 14 August 2010 - 06:59 AM

: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."

#23 rg

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Posted 14 August 2010 - 07:56 AM

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.

#24 Cygnet

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Posted 18 August 2010 - 12:32 PM

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

#25 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 18 August 2010 - 12:54 PM

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


Ditto

#26 Mashinka

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Posted 19 August 2010 - 02:18 AM

Hilarion is definitely a stalker but I don't think Albrecht is as I tend to see him as similar to Mr Marlow in Goldsmith's play She Stoops to Conquer: at ease only with lower class women. As aristocrats in the past were raised entirely by servants, often meeting with their parents only for very short periods each day it wouldn't be that much of a surprise to see Albrecht attracted to the kind of girl he is most familiar with. Getting too friendly with a servant at home might cause a bit of a scandal resulting in the girl being sent away, but a pretty face in a village some way from the castle (better still, his fiancees castle) would satisfy his inclinations perfectly.

At one time Hilarions always looked a bit rough or even significantly older than Giselle but that isn't so often the case now. As a rule of thumb Albrecht should always be better looking and possess a gentler manner than Hilarion otherwise you can spend the entire ballet puzzling over Giselle's choice. Anyone that ever saw Gediminas Taranda's Hilarion will know exactly what I mean.

#27 leonid17

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Posted 19 August 2010 - 09:37 AM

Hilarion is definitely a stalker but I don't think Albrecht is as I tend to see him as similar to Mr Marlow in Goldsmith's play She Stoops to Conquer: at ease only with lower class women. As aristocrats in the past were raised entirely by servants, often meeting with their parents only for very short periods each day it wouldn't be that much of a surprise to see Albrecht attracted to the kind of girl he is most familiar with. Getting too friendly with a servant at home might cause a bit of a scandal resulting in the girl being sent away, but a pretty face in a village some way from the castle (better still, his fiancees castle) would satisfy his inclinations perfectly.

At one time Hilarions always looked a bit rough or even significantly older than Giselle but that isn't so often the case now. As a rule of thumb Albrecht should always be better looking and possess a gentler manner than Hilarion otherwise you can spend the entire ballet puzzling over Giselle's choice. Anyone that ever saw Gediminas Taranda's Hilarion will know exactly what I mean.


You are correct that the performing tradition of Hilarion was that he was cast as of an older generation and dressed like a peasant woodsman or game keeper.

The First Giselle was Carlotta Grisi aged 22, Albert was played by Jules Perrot(not my idea of a handsome Count)aged 26 and Jean Coralli as Hilarion was 62 years of age. Perhaps it is the age of this Hilarion that gives the meaning that here was a much older man obsessed with a young girl, which she in turn, finds him morally and physically repugnant.

#28 innopac

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Posted 19 August 2010 - 01:42 PM

A friend has just written:

"That is certainly not the way Hilarion is interpreted today. With the original interpretation, it would be a lot easier to have more sympathy for Albrecht. However, he knows he can never marry that girl. To promise her marriage is immoral. A flirtation would have been okay, but to swear! Consequently, he has to lose our sympathy. Yes, it is true that men of higher class often took advantage of women, usually servants in the household. However, that does not excuse Albrecht in my mind. He may well have been attracted to the girl, he may even have thought he loved her, but he certainly knew he could never marry her."

#29 Helene

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Posted 19 August 2010 - 01:49 PM

I'm not surprised about the traditional age discrepancy. In many of the comedies, a young girl is about to be matched up by her parent(s) to a wealthy older man who gets his. (I just watched "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg for the first time last night, where the ancient story is played out, although Marc Michel is in his 30's and is easy on the eyes.) In every production I've seen, even where Hilarion is young, he's clearly lobbying Giselle's mother, to show that he's steady, respectful to the adults, and can provide a good living, whereas, Albrecht, who knows who his people are and where his pocket change comes from?

#30 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 19 August 2010 - 02:42 PM

I just watched "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg for the first time last night, where the ancient story is played out, although Marc Michel is in his 30's and is easy on the eyes


Oh, Helene-(and excuse me for going a little :off topic: )-, but you just watched my very "first-(and greatest)-love" in therms of filmography... :wub: :wub: :wub: :wub:

...but back to Hilarion...


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