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Giselle from Hell


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Eugene Berman's costumes were used for a 50's Ballet Theatre Giselle. I don't remember any "folk" costumes--but the whole production was in shades of blue and black...In the 2nd Act the Wilis long tarletans were shades of blues, going into black.

What I do remember from that production was Nora Kaye as Giselle---Now, there was a "Giselle From Hell"

[This message has been edited by atm711 (edited February 26, 2001).]

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No, they were more reminiscent of shrouds.....very effective, if very different.

Berman was such a theatrical Theatrical designer....but I recall that many people did not care for their Wilis looking like real dead girls.

At least he didn't put holographic sequins on every available costume, unlike Some Companies we know.....

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I remember "Giselle's Revenge" very well. For those of you who never saw it, it ends with Albrecht having been lured into the coffin and Giselle sitting on the lid. Quite Freudian.

I also rather like the idea of Myrtha as Albrecht's mother. Albrecht's father was a philanderer too - leading to Myrtha's death. She's out for revenge - like father like son: If she can kill off Albrecht she messes up the princely succession. Perhaps there's a daughter in the wings who can take over (if there's no Salic law in effect in the kingdom). Viva equal rights for women!

Speaking of production "oddities" I remember the staging Stuttgart had when they first came to the Met. The Wilis were all lying on the floor (on one of the elevators of the Met stage). Through lots of dry ice they ascended to stage level. They were covered in shrouds - one for each half of the stage - that were pulled off into the wings. This produced a lot of giggles in the audience.

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I am reminded here

of Starr Danias touring in Act II (Victorianish costumes) Giselle, it was really pretty vile, but on to something I will make up:


The Villagers are Irish Step Dancers, and do various Riverdance routines. Ditto for the Wilis.The score is the Riverdance Album, or of its kind, but played "live" on a huge pumped up sound system. None of this--dance or music-- is at all authentic; it must be glossy and charmless. Also, the music must be very loud. Meanwhile, the story stays the same, and Giselle is still a ballerina. However, instead a flower Does He Love Me? number, she does a little Shamrock Dance. Just for variety, Myrtha wears a Flamenco Outfit and character shoes, and does a nasty little Spanish dance. (Or you can combine the items in the thread, and make them all step dancing lesbian drug addicts. What about a transexual Hilarion?)


LEATHER GISELLE, also known as L'il Giselle

Bondage. Motorcycles. Guns. Club scene. Puff Daddy Albrecht. G.Lopez Bathilde. L'il Kim Giselle. Music is Rap.

I just remembered that I saw a Romeo and Juliet that had a German Shepard on a Watch Tower. I am not making this up.Whenever we have a thread like this, I worry that someone will read it and do it, but really, they already have....I mean, how about we make Mytha a Giant Lizard....

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Again, it's a fantastic thread, and your correspondents have outdone themselves... I've emailed the link to countless friends...

SOmebody mentioned obliquely the Preljocaj ROmeo and Juliet with the Doberman. I went and reread the review I wrote of that -- it ran in the Daily Californian, Berkeley, in 1995; I still have it on disk, and have pasted it in below.

If you'd like you may post this as is or edit it to suit or not use it at all -- it's not really in keeping with the thread, but it's a fairly detailed account of a production many people may not have seen...

ALl the best,


Ballet from Hell


Paul PArish

the Lyons Opera Ballet is back, and not since they danced their wonderful Cinderella here in 1988 has the Zellerbach Hall stage been so transformed. Their orchestra filled the pit and spilled over onto the apron, where kettle drums and batteries of percussion instruments covered the proscenium piers and made the bunker-like walls of Verona seem to grow right out of the building. The whole stage was exposed, all the way to the back doors and all the way up to the rafters, where the lighting instruments shone like stars in the night sky.

We were, it turned out, trapped in this arena and in for a beating; from the slow rise of the dove grey curtain till its fall on the image pictured above (see photo), there was no intermission, and no escaping this brilliantly choreographed S&M scene. ALthough all my friends loved it, Angelin Preljocaj's ROmeo and Juliet literally made me sick.

The Lyons Opera House is one of the most dynamic arts institutions in Europe, and their appearances here have been long-anticipated highlights of the United Nations arts festival (which celebrates the signing of the U. N. Charter in San Francisco fifty years ago this month.)

This Romeo and Juliet, which many people find a stirring tribute to the suffering in the former Yugoslavia (Prelcocaj is from that region), is running in repertory with two operas (The Love for Three Oranges and Madama Butterfly), and a mixed dance bill, which opens in Zellerbach tonight and features the hot American choreographers Bill T Jones, Susan Marshall, and Stephen Petronio. It's altogether a very impressive offering.

People who like this R&J say it reflects the grim world of today. I think that's confused; in grim times, you protect the things you love and resist the brutes. What kind of Romeo and Juliet is it in which Tybalt doesn't get killed? Preljocaj has imposed a concept and cut away a great deal that doesn't fit. Half the music is gone, all the parents, Juliet's nurse, the duke, most of the story. (Romeo isn't even there when Tybalt kills Mercutio; so Romeo's not banished, and two ludicrous duennas catch Romeo and Juliet screwing, since he doesn't have to flee. But she takes the potion anyway. Go figure.)

Worse, Preljocaj has left the characters with no intelligence or greatness of heart. It's as if he'd dissevered everything above the cerebellum and left us only reptilian-stem behavior.

WHat's undeniably fascinating is the way the dancers move. Juliet's first solo is dazlingly constructed -- small swivels make huge differences, you see her from marvellous angles, the light just flashes off her. You want to know more (though you never get it).

THe preening macho thugs probably come off best. Prokofieff's score can get ugly when it needs to, and Prelcocaj finds large, sudden, technically stunning moves for them. Tybalt is brilliantly characterised. So are Romeo and his sidekicks -- in fact, their dance is a joy, like a trio of kids on skateboards. It's virtuosic, high-spirited, the hardest steps in the book tossed off in the spirit of people who own nothing in life but the bodies they live in and get high on their own co-ordination.

THe ball scene is even amusingly nasty, like a Michael Jackson video. Preljocaj didn't lose me till the balcony scene, which is bitterly disappointing. THis is radiant music -- but Preljocaj's cleverness doesn't cokme close to meeting the expressive demands of the music. They could be any kids stumbling through a great ****. It's downhill from there. At the end, Tybalt is patrolling the ramparts with a Doberman. The Doberman, and all the dancers, performed magnificently.

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And in a whole other different direction there's Act II with the Willies (mispelled on purpose to take on a literal meaning)hopping across the stage in cowboy boots wearing red beards and braids carrying guitars. Red, white & blue bandannas cover them instead of the misty shrouds. The music is, of course, 'Blue Eyes Cryin' in the Rain' or 'Crazy (for loving you)'

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I like liebling’s idea of Wall Street wilis. Here’s how the story goes:

Albrecht is a star Wall Street analyst who has a mansion in the Hamptons as his summer home. Giselle has a family farm where she and her family grow heirloom tomatoes and organic baby greens for the local trendy restaurants. Hilarion, who has a crush on her, is a farmer for a local vineyard.

Giselle meets Albrecht while she's selling her fresh organic produce at a green market. They immediately fall in love. Hilarion, either out of jealousy or instinct, warns her that Albrecht not to be trusted. One day Albrecht tells her of a tremendous investment opportunity, she loves and trusts him so much that she mortgages her family farm and asks him to invest for her. So he invests all her and her family savings in Enron.

While Enron stock keeps nose-diving, Albrecht assures Giselle the stock will make a big comeback. The day Enron files for bankruptcy protection, she rushes to his Wall Street corner office only to find him kissing Bathilde. Balthilde proceeds to tell Giselle that they’re engaged. Being betrayed by Albrecht and her life saving’s down the drain, she rushes out of the office running around Wall Street. He goes after her and finds her on top of Federal Hall’s tall and steep stairs right across from the New York Stock Exchange and she throws herself down the stairs and dies.

Few days later around midnight, Hilarion goes to steps of Federal Hall to lay down some flowers and candles only to be confronted by the Wall Street wilis. It turns out Myrtha, the head wilis was a victim of the 1929 market collapse, several wilis were victims of saving and loan scandal in the 80’s, some were victims of Michael Milken’s junk bond scandal, some of penny stock schemes, some of the dot com bubble burst.

The wilis forces Hilarion to dance. Just before he runs of breath he fells into an uncovered manhole and breaks his neck. It all looks like an accident.

An hour later, after a long day of work, Albrecht comes out of his office building and as he walks in front of Federal Hall, he’s confronted by the wilies…… You all know how the rest of the story goes.

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I agree, mussel -- very brilliant. And, unfortunately, very stageable! Watch for it soon.

Henrik, we're not suggesting that any of these productions are a good idea. We've had a lot of past discussions about bad productions that rework the classics, some of them along these lines, and this thread is devoted to thinking up some of the worst possible things that might happen to "Giselle." I don't think any of us WANT them to happen smile.gif

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plot suggestion from a friend:


In this version Hilarion should have a fight with

Albrecht and have Albrecht fall into a pile of dog doodoo, which is no longer being cleaned off the streets of NY because the mayor has made cutbacks in the sanitation services. Albrecht is on his way to an important board meeting.

Because he has to arrive covered in muck, his next big deal, in which he has invested all his Enron earnings (he got out in time), falls through, and he winds up on the dole - and being given the run-around by the DSS - which is

staffed by Wilis.

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Let's hit closer to home, shall we?

Giselle is an up-and-coming pupil at the La Sublimova School of Ballet. Alas, she has a weak heart, perhaps compounded by an eating disorder.

Hilarion is an older cohort of Giselle's, one of those guys who seems to have a career mostly because he's a guy and can partner.

Berthe is torn between wanting Giselle to win many competitions, and wanting her not to die from dancing.

Albrecht is the son of the artistic director of one of the big local ballet companies, who's decided to go slumming by taking classes at La Sublimova's somewhat rundown academy in a seedy part of town (probably because he's already cut a swath through the local talent at Daddy's company and school). So Daddy is the Duke of Courland, and Bathilde is the Big Ballet Company's reigning diva, for whom Daddy has brought up Junior to be the pefect partner.

I'll leave the details to the reader's imagination (such as Act II taking place in "a room with a mirror"), except to say that the Wilis would be the spirits of all those hardworking corps gals who never got promoted because they refused to put out, or, worse, because they didn't refuse. I picture a corps of Wilis dressed as Big Swans, Marzipan Shephardesses, Coppelia's friends, the girl in Blue from Dances at a Gathering, various and sundry versions of the Balanchine-black-leotard-and-white-tights uniform, the Three Fates from La Valse, those also-ran muses from Apollo, that poor, uncredited gal who fills in at the finale of Western Symphony for the lead in the long-discarded Scherzo, and, of course, Moyna and Zulma. Myrtha would be dressed as Gamzatti, or, perhaps, Mercedes.

[ February 26, 2002, 11:36 PM: Message edited by: Manhattnik ]

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To continue on with the Wall Street Wilis with a twist of art imitating life imitating art, a ballet within a ballet:

Myrtha and the wilis think Albrecht got off too easily. In an attempt to humiliate Albrecht, they make him dance in front of a Very Important Potential Client, thinking that’d baffle the client.

It backfires.

Unbeknown to the wilies, that Very Important Potential Client turns out to be Kevin Mackenzie, who is considering having Albrecht manage ABT’s endowment, which was recently enriched by a huge donation from Alberto Vilar. Mr. Mackenzie is so impressed with Albrecht’s dancing that not only seals the deal, he even invites Albrecht for an audition for the role of Albright in a new production of “Giselle” which is set in modern day Wall Street. Albrecht accepts the invitation.

Realizing that he can’t dance without the magical power of the wilies, he makes a deal with them where he’ll pay up all their losses plus interest to their families and descendants. He’ll also make substantial periodic donations to their favorite charity, Women Against Two-Timers or WATTs (ironically which is exactly what Enron used to produce.)

With the help of the wilis, he lands the part of Albright.

So on the Met stage, there’d be 2 sets of wilis. One from Wall Street helping Albrecht dance, the other from ABT corps playing the Wall Street wilis.

Not only the Wall Street wilis turn Albrecht into an overnight sensation, their magical power spills over to other dancers too. The new production is a tremendous success; the house is full night after night.

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While some of these scenarios are excellent -- I'm particularly partial to Mussel's Wall Street Willies and Manhattnik's dance school angle -- let's think outside the box here. This is the 21st century. Tampering with libretti is so yesterday. It's about the steps.

Let's face it. What "Giselle" needs is more dancing for male soloists. Who cares if the corps is male? Let the girls do the dirty work. We need men who turn, leap, turn, leap and turn, leap, and turn.

With that in mind, I've made just a change or two to "Giselle" -- nothing to upset the purists -- that will bring "Giselle" smack up to date. Hilarion will have four more solos, Courland, Wilfrid and Bert (Giselle's Dad) will be dancing roles. Because today's dancers do not want to be hidebound by set choreography, they may choose their own solos -- we suggest something from "Spartacus," perhaps, or "The Golden Age". While each solo MUST contain either 32 grands pirouettes a la seconde OR thrice round the stage with jetes en tournant, the rest of the variation -- the filler, if you will -- is up to the discretion of the danseur.

These dances will replace all of the mime scenes. There's lots of room. Only a few bars of Drigo will need to be interpolated. Wilfrid and Albrecht can do a pas de deux at the beginning of the ballet where they usually chat about clothes and swords. The pas de deux will demonstrate the difference in status between the two men, as well as Albrecht's wanderlust and yearning for adventure. Courland's solo can fit nicely into the space where Bathilde and Giselle have that silly conversation about clothes and jewels and how she just loves to sew. (Have you never noticed how much superficial chatter there is in this ballet?) It will show his dominance, his masculinity, and be a social commentary on the times. A clever Hilarion will be able to insinuate himself in just about any scene. A leap here, a turn there -- remember, a true danseur never walks -- he'll be all over the place in no time. Albrecht, to show his restlessness, his wanderlust and, if I haven't mentioned it, his yearning for adventure, will, from time to time, circle the stage in a series of brises. While Bert, of course, will do a fierce and anguished solo to demonstrate what will happen to Giselle if she persists on dancing on the Sabbath, cutting grape picking, and lusting after handsome strangers.

The peasant pas de deux will be replaced by the Dance of the Twelve Swains, each, armed with (and eventually stomping on) bunches of grapes, outdoing the other trying to convince Giselle that THEY should crown her as queen of the harvest.

The biggest change will be in the mad scene. We've had enough of Giselle by now, and Albrecht needs some more stage time. I think this should be Albrecht's scene. Giselle, tired from so much dancing, will fall asleep, and have "Giselle's Dream." Maybe we could put in the mirror pas de deux from Onegin, where Giselle imagines what it would be like if Albrecht really loved her, but Bathilde persists in walking through the dream, like the White Lady in Raymonda. Albrecht would, of course, have to show why he was worthy of such love. 64 pirouettes a la seconde, I think, 32 in each direction, then a few stag leaps ending with the dismount from Spartacus (Act I) to the knee. THAT should finish Giselle off. She dies in her sleep.

In the second act, I'd flesh out the underchoreographed dance of the gamblers. They stagger around the stage trying to both chase and evade the firefly Wilis who flit by occasionally. After that, to preserve choreographic integrity, I'd simply suggest adding a few repeats. First Hilarion, then Albrecht, would dance Giselle's solos (after Giselle, of course. We mustn't forget her!) It is crucial to preserve class differences here in the interests of versimilitude: Hilarion gets the barrel turns and scissors kicks, Albrecht is restricted to jetes en tournant and may NOT, no matter what the provocation, kick himself in the back of the head during jumps.

Hilarion's death scene needs to be much longer. At least two solos, maybe three. Perhaps the tavern solo Baryshnikov put in Don Q -- he could grab the branches from Myrthe as props. Or the pistols from Corsaire (or is that the same solo?) Yes, the pistols, definitely. He'd consider suicide, but then think better of it and do grand pirouettes a la seconde until he dies.

The original ending would have to be restored, of course. Bathilde and Wilfrid would come in, and Wilfrid and Albrecht could have one final Joyful and Triumphant Dance of Reunion. Starting from opposite corners of the stage, they could circle it six times with turning jumps interspersed with quadruple pirouettes before meeting in the middle and, face to face, perform grands pirouettes a la seconde in tandem WITH a progressively deeper back bend. (that's to show remorse)

There. That was easy.

[ March 10, 2002, 10:09 AM: Message edited by: alexandra ]

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Hmmm. Whatever could have served as your inspiration for this brilliant recension of Giselle?

It could only be improved, in my estimation, by building on the idea (was it Berman's costumes) of having the Wilis appear in different national dresses. So when it comes time to dance Albrecht or Hilarion to death, out will step, say, the Spanish wili, the familiar opening notes of the Don Q pas will well up from the orchestra pit, and, well, you get the idea.


American wili : Stars and Stripes pdd

Russian wili: Tchai Pas

Another Russian wili: Black Swan

Yet Another Russian wili : Spring Waters

French wili: Esmerelda

Another American Wili : excerpts from Rubies (Rubies as the entire second act?)

Danish wili : Flower Festival

Swiss wili : William Tell pdd

Hungarian Wili : something or other from Raymonda

English wili : cockerel's dance from Fille (oops, how did that get in there?)

To finish Albrecth off, they'll toss him into a gold jacket and pretend to be fireflies as they force him to dance Balanchine's scherzo from Midsummer.

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