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Giselle has often been described as the epitome of Romantic ballet and certainly it is enduringly popular, having enjoyed almost continuous performance since its creation in 1841. It was the brainchild of the poet Théophile Gautier who, taking his initial inspiration from the German poet Heinrich Heine, cleverly drew together two popular Romantic concepts historical local colour and shadowy spirits with the assistance of the librettist Vernoy de St Georges.
The ballet was created for the rising young star of the Paris Opéra, Carlotta Grisi. The intended choreographer was the company's ballet master, Jean Coralli, the creator of numerous, though not always especially inspired works. However, Grisi's mentor and lover was the inspired choreographer Jules Perrot and it is generally assumed that it is his imaginative touch that ensured the ballet's success. The composer was Adolphe Adam, a close friend of Grisi and Perrot. The role of Albrecht was created by Lucien Petipa, at the time the more celebrated brother of the young Marius Petipa.
Giselle proved popular and was soon in the repertories of most of the opera houses of Europe. It entered the repertory in St Petersburg by the end of the year of its creation, but in 1848 Perrot became ballet master for that company and a few years later created a new production, again for Grisi. On that occasion his assistant was Marius Petipa, who had arrived in St Petersburg in 1847. It was Petipa's influence that kept the work in the repertory to the end of the century, long after the more fickle audiences in Paris and other European capitals had abandoned Romanticism as no longer fashionable!
Nikolay Sergeyev's flight to the west in 1918, together with the Mariinsky Theatre's Stepanov notations, brought the ballet back to western Europe. He mounted a production in Paris for Olga Spessivtseva in 1924 and it was also she who who appeared in the first British production, given by the Camargo Society in 1932, dancing with Anton Dolin as Albrecht. The work first entered the repertory of The Royal Ballet in 1934, with Alicia Markova dancing the title role, again with Dolin as Albrecht. Since that time there has always been a production in the repertories of the two Royal Ballet Companies.
BRB's current production, by Galina Samsova and David Bintley, includes some additional choreography by Bintley.
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BRB Ballet Master
'Giselle has great memories for me. I think I saw it first as a child in Monte Carlo when I was about four or five years old. And my father used to play the viola, and there's a famous viola solo in Act II for the pas de deux, and I remember dancing as my father played.'
Click on the names for individual biographies
Music Adolphe Adam
Production David Bintley
Choreography Marius Petipa; Jules Perrot; Jean Coralli
Production Galina Samsova
Designs Hayden Griffin
Lighting Mark Jonathan
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