A rendition of Giselle (1841)
To escape to the Kennedy Center in morbidly hot weather is a gift of itself. The plush red carpet is comforting and the hum of persons being shuttled in an orderly fashion to their seats is part of the veneer. Giselle being performed by the Paris Opera Ballet at the Kennedy Center is a gem to see.
According to, La Maison Française’s information letter, the Paris Opera Ballet has not been to the Nation’s Capitol in 19 years. The ballet runs through the 8th. The First Act of the story begins with bright and natural woodland scenery. The floor is kept a simple wood and the costumes are elegant and rustic to reveal the simple peasant Giselle (danced by Isabelle Ciaravola). Her dress adds to the quaint rhythms of the peasants' motions as they celebrate the harvest.
There are two men in Giselle’s life. One who she accepts and the other, she keeps at a distance. Her preferred man is Prince Albrecht of Silesia, who, tired of court life decides to dress as a peasant and woo the lovely and innocent Giselle. Her jealous suitor, the Gamekeeper Hilarion, unmasks Prince Albrecht, and in doing so reveals Albrecht to be already engaged to the noblewoman Bathilde, (dressed in highly refined and lushly embroidered costume to starkly contrast with Giselle being herself.) The sensitive Giselle dances to reveal her confusion and pain. She dies from the pain of her lost love and the competing men nearly duel over her.
Carlotta Grisi as Giselle (1841) Original Source Unknown
The Second Act, is absolutely beautiful in an otherworldly manner, with a darkened woodland scene, as Giselle, now deceased has joined The Wilis, the spirits of young women, with the misfortune of death brought upon them before being wed. The dancers, in white spirit garb, are all the same height, and dance in unison to celebrate their current fate within the black woodland night.
The Wilis enact revenge for their broken hearts by wooing young men into their world, never to return. Their first victim is Hilarion. Then, it would be Albrecht, as well, except Giselle convinces the other spirits to let him go, because she still likes him so much. And so the story ends. Giselle returns to her world and Albrecht remains within his own, much as it all began.
The original costumes represented are by Paul Lormier, for the ballet’s initial 1841 production. At the time, Romanticism was in high fashion among the general populace in France and the costumes and ideals behind the ballet marketed to this particular niche. Lormier did much historical study to create as realistic a garb as possible. The current costumes represent the spirit of his work.
By Sarah C. Bahl