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Giselle in 19th Century Drama: An interesting find


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I was searching for Giselle in Google Books and I found two items that I found very interesting and rather amusing. Two nineteenth century dramas inspired by Giselle. They contain the general plot but diverge quite a bit. One is the script for a "dramatic spectacle" (Seems to be mainly a play but with danced and sung parts, Not sure what that is called) and the other an opera (not Le Villi, this one uses Giselle and Albrecht themselves.... sort of)


The dramatic spectacle is titled "Giselle, Or, The Phantom Night Dancers" by William Thomas Moncrieff and begins with the author's introduction and research on wilis. I have read reviews and discussions in various places where people feel that Hilarion was dealt an unjust hand. It seems that that is not a new opinion,  for in 1842 this author felt the same and ensured that Hilarion would be treated well in his version. There is also a part after where the ballet would end where Giselle is held prisoner by Myrtha. There are many differences from the ballet, the most notable ones being:

  • Hilarion is now the hero and Giselle's "One True Love":
    • They were engaged, but Giselle ditched him for Albrecht (Alois/Albert) and pretty bracelets.
    • In this play, the Giselle/Albert relationship is portrayed as the result of fickleness by both parties and it is Giselle that must be forgiven by Hilarion.
    • Albert rather calmly reconciles with Bathilde and Hilarion is saved by Giselle and chanting the name of St Walburg, who apparently really gives the Willis the willies!
  • The Willis are quite different.
    • The Willis are explicitly in league with the devil in this play and the reason  they kill men is to sacrifice their souls to pay a teind to the fiend, rather than just revenge.
    • They actually seem to be rather happy.
  • Remember the lovely couple of the Peasant pdd? In this play they die (and it is suggested that their souls are condemned). How very grim.
    • The woman, called Lotta, became a Wili and in a scene like ballet Hilarion's death scene, kills the man, called Caspar.
    • By doing this she seals her infernal deal and sacrifices the soul of the man she once loved. Who knew the Peasant pdd could become so dark?
  • The addition of a priest, Father Christoph who plays a major role in the story by:
    • Giving Giselle a holy relic rosary that prevents her from falling under the full power of the Willis.
    • Leading the rescue mission to save Giselle
    • Killing Myrtha
    • Presiding over Giselle and Hilarion's wedding, thus restoring order and saving Giselle's soul (I'm not sure if she was restored to life or if she returned to the grave but went to Heaven)

Interestingly enough there are additional Willis and regional dances in this play (Page 41)


The opera is "The Night Dancers" by George Sloane. it begins with Giselle preparing for her wedding to Albert and falling asleep. Hilarion is instead Fridolin and is not in love with Giselle but loves her cousin, Mary, instead. He still reveals Albert's deception and is drowned by Willis, though. The rest of the plot is much like the ballet, until the ending in which it is revealed to have all have been a dream. Giselle awakes, Fridolin is alive and Albert is neither a two-timer nor a duke. Giselle and Albert marry and all is well.


Just now I found what seems to be a parody of "The Night Dancers" opera. It is called "Giselle, or, the Sirens of Lotus Lake" and is by Henry J. Byron. It is a more comic version of the opera and ends the same, with it having been just a dream.

I would like to know what others think of these productions or if they have found anything similar. Thank you.

Edited by A1EV3
Added author's name and information about opera
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On 9/19/2019 at 6:47 AM, cargill said:

The author seems to have been quite successful, going by Wikipedia.  I loved the titles of his other works on the cover page!

Thank you for pointing that out, since I hadn't thought to look him up and he seems quite interesting. According to Wikipedia, "The Cataract of Ganges" featured horses and a waterfall. I'm not sure how they managed to get an on-stage waterfall but that would have been a dramatic spectacle indeed!

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