The story of Giselle

Giselle will run from 12 October to 19 November 2023 at Dutch National Opera & Ballet and throughout theatres in the Netherlands! 

Giselle is a young peasant girl. She enjoys dancing. Her mother is concerned. This is due to Giselle’s weak heart. She is concerned that Giselle would suffer harm as a result of all of her dancing. People think ghosts live in the forest: the wilis. These ghosts are unmarried women who seduce men to come to the forest at night. The men have to dance all night until it becomes day. If they fail to do so, they die.

Count Albrecht is obligated to marry Bathilde, although he does not want to. So he goes to the village to distract himself. He notices Giselle. He wishes to entice her and dance with her. On Giselle’s cottage, he hangs his hunting horn with the family crest. He disguises himself as a peasant and conceals his fine clothes in the barn. Giselle sees Albrecht and falls in love with him. She selects a flower and removes the petals one by one: he likes me, he doesn’t like me... the final petal is 'he doesn’t like me'... Giselle hastily discards the petal.

Hilarion, a forest warden, is madly in love with Giselle. He is envious of Albrecht’s dancing with Giselle. Hilarion discovers the hunting horn and Albrecht’s sword in the barn. Hilarion recognises that Albrecht is not a peasant in the least. Albrecht is a count!

Bathilde and her entourage arrive in town. Giselle admires Bathilde’s dress. Bathilde presents Giselle with a pretty necklace. She inquires if Giselle is married. Giselle nods and searches for Albrecht, but he is nowhere to be found.

The locals arrive with large baskets of grapes. They perform a dance for Bathilde and the noble guests. Giselle is allowed to stand on the wine cart. Albrecht sees Giselle, he lifts her up. Then Bathilde arrives. Giselle sees that Albrecht gives Bathilde a hand kiss. She understands that Albrecht is not a peasant. She snatches the necklace from her neck, all the beads rolling across the square. Desperate and sad, she runs from one to another. She falls to the ground. Her hair falls loose over her shoulders. The people of the village and Giselle’s mother look on distraught. Albrecht has sworn eternal loyalty to Giselle, but he has lied. He is of nobility and already engaged. Giselle grabs Albrecht’s sword. She gasps for breath, her heart racing. She falls down and dies.

Giselle’s tomb is located in the woods. Myrtha, the queen of the wilis, summons the other wilis from their tombs. Myrtha dances with myrrh branches and rosemary. The plants protect the wilis. They greet Giselle who has now also become a wili, in a magical circle.

Hilarion visits Giselle’s grave. He is surrounded by the wilis and has to keep dancing. He flees the forest. Albrecht, too, visits the grave. He realises that he was in love with Giselle all along. Giselle shields Albrecht and dances with him till the wee hours of the morning. She saves his life in this manner, but she then has to let him go. Albrecht has a broken heart.