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This moving and picturesque work of French romantic ballet caused a sensation in 1841. With music by Adolphe Adam and choreography by Jules Perrot (the solos) and Jean Coralli (the ensemble), Giselle featured the new ethereality possible on pointe, ghostly lighting effects with gas light, and a ballerina role whose mad scene is famous for its dramatic demands.
Giselle is an innocent peasant girl who lives with her mother. The amorous Duke Albert disguises himself as a villager and swears to marry her, but when his deceit is uncovered Giselle’s heart breaks and she dies in a madness of grief.
She becomes a Wili, one of the ghosts of betrayed girls who haunt the forest. Guilt-stricken Albert seeks her grave at midnight, and these vengeful spirits command him to dance himself to death. But Giselle lovingly protects him till dawn bells strike, and she vanishes with the phantoms, leaving him with his remorse.
The Bolshoi Ballet’s version by Yuri Grigorovich, atmospherically designed by chief designer Simon Virsaladze, incorporates careful choreographic developments to keep this antique ballet fresh. Mime passages of the past were gradually replaced with more dance. This 1991 performance film, digitally restored and remastered to HD quality, stars the world-renowned Nina Ananiashvili as a delicate yet dramatic Giselle, with Victor Barykin as the faithless Albert.