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Question #9: Who is Giselle's florist?


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#16 Andrei

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Posted 21 April 2001 - 03:13 PM

Some Albrechts come to grave with white roses as for wedding ...

#17 Mel Johnson

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Posted 21 April 2001 - 04:56 PM

Also very appropriate; white roses in the 19th-century "Language of Flowers" are emblematic of pure or sacred love. I guess a lot of this discussion will depend on the designer, and what s/he feels is appropriate vegetation. It is to be hoped that a little homework would be done, in such a case! ;)

#18 doug

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Posted 21 April 2001 - 05:49 PM

Sorry to join in so late in the game - forgive any repetitions. The libretto, at the beginning of Act II, also mentions birch trees, aspens and weeping willows. Myrtha leaps around from willow branches to flowers (unspecified!). Albrecht hide behind a weeping willow while Hilarion is killed.

Re the daisy/daisies in Act I: not to confuse the issue further, but the libretto states, "She [Giselle] picks some daisies [Elle cueille des marguerites], and strips away the petals, to assure herself of Loys's love.--The test succeeds, and she falls into her beloved's arms."

The libretto also states that, at the end of the ballet, Albrecht "carries her in his arms far from her tomb and puts her down on a knoll, amidst a clump of [again unspecified :cool:] flowers." The Stepanov notations of Giselle, which date from probably 1903-5ish, also indicate this action.

#19 Mel Johnson

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Posted 21 April 2001 - 07:30 PM

Birches are nice and ghostly; and aspens are renowned for their "quaking". Birches also like it damp, and so establish the wet hems that are supposed to be the giveaway of a Wili!

#20 Estelle

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Posted 24 April 2001 - 10:38 AM

Originally posted by doug:

Re the daisy/daisies in Act I: not to confuse the issue further, but the libretto states, "She [Giselle] picks some daisies [Elle cueille des marguerites], and strips away the petals, to assure herself of Loys's love.--The test succeeds, and she falls into her beloved's arms."


There is a small difference between that original libretto and Gautier's text about it in 1844: in the later text, Gautier writes that at first the test fails, so Giselle becomes very sad, but Albrecht does the test again, and it works.

#21 Alexandra

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Posted 24 April 2001 - 12:12 PM

The original Giselle seems to be much more interesting -- wants to play, not work; rejects a suitable suitor because he's not cute enough; cheats at petal plucking. Having Giselle pull off that extra petal that wasn't supposed to be there anyway, really, rings very true, and serves as a build up for the mad scene. Her whole character is that she can't deal with reality -- or doesn't want to.

There's an interesting parallel with La Sylphide. In the Gautier version of the libretto, it's James who captures the butterfly and the Sylph who makes him free it -- very consistent with the notion that it is the Sylph who is the creature of nature, and James the interloper. Bournonville changed this (well, nobody's perfect :) ) so that it's the Sylph who captures the butterfly and James -- the thinking being -- bids her release it. I wonder when Giselle's character changed? Did subsequent ballerinas -- wanting to be a real "heroine" -- sentimentalize Giselle, turning from a Rhine Valley Girl into a tubercular pale and saintly lass with a weak brain as well as heart (a very late Victorian notion)? Or did later Albrechts steal the flower scene? (There is a line in the Beaumont version that says something like, Albrecht arranges the flower so that things come out right, so this may have been a slip between libretto and stage, as well.)

#22 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 24 April 2001 - 12:32 PM

I'm confused. As I interpret the quote from the libretto, Giselle does the "Loves me, Loves me not" game with the daisy, plucking petals, but I don't see where it implies that she removes a petal to change the outcome. What am I missing?

#23 Alexandra

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Posted 24 April 2001 - 02:03 PM

I may have been reading too much into it -- or just read Estelle's post too quickly. I saw the "stripped away" and jumped to the conclusion that Giselle was doing something naughty. ;) Sorry!

[ 04-24-2001: Message edited by: alexandra ]

#24 Estelle

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Posted 24 April 2001 - 05:45 PM

Yes, in the original libretto, Giselle just did the test normally (without cheating).

Also, it seems to me that the original libretto already was quite sentimental: Giselle's mother definitely insists on her "weak hart" and there's something like "the doctor said it might be fatal someday"... Also in a scene just after or before the daisies moment, she insists that if someday he left her, it would definitely kill her.

One detail about the lilies: when a funeral ceremony was organized for Nureyev at the Paris Opera, there were white lilies on his coffin. It surely was a reference to "Giselle"...

#25 Alexandra

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Posted 24 April 2001 - 07:28 PM

Where Beaumont got his libretto, I don't know, but it doesn't mention a weak heart. (Bournonville thought Giselle was sentimental from the beginning, unlike his own ballet poems :) )

I don't doubt that the lillies for Nureyev were related to Giselle, but aren't lillies appropriate for funerals generally? I have mental image of dozens of movies that have funerals and funeral parlors in them, and that image includes vases and vases of white flowers. Of course, I am barely literate where flowers are concerned. Once you get past the rose and the violet, I'm in trouble :)

I think the flowers were used for storytelling -- the lillies were a tangible sign that Albrecht was very sorry, and a tangible way for Giselle to see that, and then to communicate with him, forgiving him.

A silly question about the daisies. When I was a child, I used to pour over books about names, and I remember that "Daisy" was a nickname for "Margaret," but there was never an explanation given. Now, in English, we call "daisy" what in French is "marguerite." Does anyone know the reason for this?

#26 liebs

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Posted 24 April 2001 - 11:02 PM

In Little Women, Meg or Margaret(the eldest sister)has a daughter who is also named Margaret and nicknamed Daisy. Apparently, this was once very common.

#27 cargill

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Posted 25 April 2001 - 08:23 AM

It seems to me that some of the flower and plant imagery in Giselle is tied in with the whole idea of nature as a very powerful force. Even in the 19th century in the cities (where of course ballet was done), people were more dependant on nature than we, with our efficient food delivery systems, are. One bad harvest, and the towns would suffer.

The idea that nature is a power to be recconded with and often dangerous (rather than a vacation destination) is in quite of few of the classics, I think. Swan Lake, of course, where forests had strange beings. And originally Rothbart was an owl. And Sleeping Beauty, with the Lilac Fairy as a real power.

All the plants in Giselle make a pretty stage picture, of course, but I think underneath there is some sense that nature is controlling their lives, not a very 20th (or 21st) century attitude.


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