THE WASHINGTON BALLET PRESENTS GISELLE
One of the World’s Most Famous 19th-Century Romantic Ballets
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Washington Ballet (TWB) opens its 2013.2014 Season with what is described as one of the most famous ballets of all time, Giselle. The production opens with a preview October 30 and runs October 31 through November 3, 2013 at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Eisenhower Theater.
Love, betrayal and forgiveness reign as TWB takes on one of the world’s most beautiful and technically difficult ballets. From the time of its 1841 premiere in Paris, this dramatic and stunning ballet has inspired generations of dancers with its story about a young peasant girl who has a passion for dancing and dies of a broken heart. One of Septime Webre’s all-time favorite classical ballets, Giselle has it all—romance, spirited peasant dances and ghostly spirits.
The role of Giselle is one of the most coveted in ballet, as it demands immaculate technical proficiency, incredible theatrical ability, and exceptional elegance and lyricism. Giselle’s second act, the famous “white act”, showcases female dancers as Wilis in white tutus, executing seamless arabesques in one of the purest forms of ballet-blanc, or white tutu ballet. There are few works in the classical repertoire that require more precision from a ballet company. TWB “will showcase multiple casts of Giselle, revealing the company’s depth and outstanding artistic growth since the last time we presented this ballet in 2004” said TWB Artistic Director Septime Webre.
Set to Adolphe Adam’s impassioned score, this romantic full-length production is complete with rich and lavish costumes designed by Galina Solovyeva, and dramatic storytelling.
Background on Giselle
Originally titled Giselle ou les Wilis, Giselle was originally choreographed by Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot for Carlotta Grisi, Perot’s former dance partner. The ballet premiered on June 28, 1841 at the Ballet du Théâtre de l’Académie Royale de Musique in Paris, France with Carlotta Grisi as Giselle, Lucien Petipa (brother of Marius Petipa) as Albrecht, and Jean Coralli as Hilarion. Within two years of Giselle’s premiere in Paris, the ballet was presented in almost every ballet scene in the world and was recognized as an extraordinary ballet. Under the supervision of Jules Perrot, Giselle was restaged by Marius Petipa for the Imperial Russian Ballet. Modern productions of Giselle are normally derived from the 1884, 1899 or 1903 revival by Petipa, who is now considered one of the choreographers of Giselle.
The score for Giselle was composed in less than three weeks by Adolphe Charles Adam. According to Adam’s memoirs, “I composed the music in high spirits. I was in a hurry and that always fires my imagination. I was very friendly with Perrot and Carlotta and the piece evolved, as it were, in my drawing-room.” Adam’s score stands out because it was specifically written for the ballet. This can be recognized at the beginning when Albrecht and Giselle’s themes mesh into a love theme as Giselle plucks a flower in the first act. Hilarion also has his own short leitmotif, or recurring musical theme, and the Wilis theme, although more prominent in the second act, can be heard in the first act when Berthe tells their legend.
Giselle’s tragic and melodramatic story of love, treachery, and compassion was written by Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges and Théophile Gautier. Inspiration for the effective libretto came from two ghost stories — Victor Hugo’s mournful and chilling poem Phantoms about a beautiful young girl whose love for dancing leads to her demise and Heinrich Heine’s On Germany, about Wilis, spectral brides who rise from their graves at midnight to dance beguilingly in the moonlight.
“In parts of Austria there exists a tradition … of Slavic origin: the tradition of the night-dancer, who is known, in Slavic countries, under the name Wili. Wilis are young brides-to-be who die before their wedding day. The poor young creatures cannot rest peacefully in their graves. In their stilled hearts and lifeless feet, there remains a love for dancing which they were unable to satisfy during their lifetimes. At midnight they rise out of their graves, gather together in troops on the roadside and woe be unto the young man who comes across them! He is forced to dance with them; they unleash their wild passion, and he dances with them until he falls dead. Dressed in their wedding gowns, with wreaths of flowers on their heads and glittering rings on their fingers, the Wilis dance in the moonlight like elves. Their faces, though white as snow, have the beauty of youth. They laugh with a joy so hideous, they call you so seductively, they have an air of such sweet promise, that these dead bacchantes are irresistible,” wrote Heinrich Heine.
Giselle is the story of an innocent, tender hearted peasant girl who falls in love with a handsome young villager Albrecht, but soon discovers that he has lied to her. Not only is he a nobleman, but he is also engaged to be married. Learning of her beloved’s dishonesty breaks Giselle’s heart, and she goes mad before succumbing to an untimely and tragic death. In retaliation for Giselle’s death, the Wilis, the vindictive spirits of brides who died before their wedding day, condemn Albrecht to dance until he dies. But Giselle’s enduring love protects him until daybreak when the spell is broken and Giselle and the Wilis fade away, leaving Albrecht alone and full of anguish. Although Giselle premiered more than 170 years ago, the ballet is still fascinating with its unique combination of a heart wrenching story, extraordinary dramatic performing and brilliant choreography.
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
SEPTIME WEBRE (Artistic Director, Staging) was appointed Artistic Director of The Washington Ballet in June 1999 after six years as artistic director of American Repertory Ballet in New Jersey. Much in demand as a choreographer, he has created works that appear in the repertoires of many companies in North America, including Pacific Northwest Ballet, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, North Carolina Dance Theatre, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, Ballet Austin, Atlanta Ballet, Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, Cincinnati Ballet and Colorado Ballet, among others. As a dancer, Mr. Webre was featured in works by George Balanchine, Paul Taylor, Antony Tudor, Alvin Ailey, and Merce Cunningham, as well as in principal and solo roles from the classical repertoire. Mr. Webre sits on the boards of Dance/USA, the Cultural Alliance of Greater Washington, the Advisory Committee of Dance/Metro DC, and has received the DC Mayor’s Arts Award for Visionary Leadership in the Arts as well as a number of fellowships for his choreography. Mr. Webre is the seventh son in a large Cuban-American family, and he graduated from the University of Texas with a B.A. in History/Pre-Law.
CHARLA GENN (Guest Choreographer, Staging) is currently on the ballet faculty of the Juilliard School. In addition, she instructs professional ballet company classes in New York City at Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, The Metropolitan Opera, Les Ballets Trockaderos de Monte Carlo and Ballet Hispanico, She coaches professional ballet dancers, which include dancers from the San Francisco Ballet, American Ballet Theater, The Norwegian Ballet, The Washington Ballet, The Joffrey Ballet, and Dance Theater of Harlem. Ms. Genn is also a Dance Rehabilitation Specialist who works one on one with professional ballet dancers recovering from injuries and surgery. She began her professional career in South Africa with Johannesburg City Ballet and Cape Town City Ballet under the directorship of David Poole; has danced as a soloist and principal dancer with Bat-Dor Dance Company (Israel) and the Eglevsky Ballet, under Edward Villella. After two years as ballet mistress and principal dancer with New York Festival Dance Theater, she became its Associate Artistic Director. In 1985, she co-founded Ballet Manhattan with her husband, Paul Croitoroo. As Ballet Manhattan’s Artistic Director and principal dancer, she performed in the major theaters and opera houses in Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Peoples Republic of China, and throughout Europe, Canada and the USA. Ms. Genn served as rehearsal director and assistant to Septime Webre, when he directed American Repertory Ballet. Ms. Genn staged Sleeping Beauty for Merrill Ashley and John Meehan at Jacobs Pillow, Raymonda Pas de Dix for American Repertory Ballet, Giselle and Coppelia for the Washington Ballet, Don Quixote Act 2 for Goucher College, and Swan Lake for the Richmond Academy in Vancouver. In addition she has choreographed numerous ballets for Ballet Manhattan.
Tickets for Giselle, priced from $35 to $125, are available at The Washington Ballet’s website, the Kennedy Center, by calling 202.467.4600 or visiting the Kennedy Center box office. The Kennedy Center is located at 2700 F Street NW, Washington, DC.
Created at the very height of the romantic era, Giselle is an extraordinary story of absolute love, unconditional devotion and the power of redemption set to Adolphe Adam’s poignant score.
Wednesday, October 30, 7:30PM (Preview)
Thursday, October 31, 7:30PM (Opening)
Friday, November 1, 7:30PM
Saturday, November 2, 1:30PM & 7:30PM
Sunday, November 3, 1:30PM & 6:30PM
Music: Adolphe Adam
Original Choreography: Jean Carolli, Jules Perrot and Marius Petipa
Staging: Charla Genn and Septime Webre
Set Design: Simon Pastukh
Costume Design: Galina Solovyeva
Lighting Design: Kevin Meek
Performed at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Eisenhower Theater
ABOUT THE WASHINGTON BALLET
Originally founded as The Washington School of Ballet in 1944 by legendary ballet pioneer Mary Day and incorporated as a professional company in 1976, The Washington Ballet (TWB) is one of the pre-eminent ballet organizations in the United States. TWB built an international reputation presenting bold works by choreographers from around the world, including Choo-San Goh, Christopher Wheeldon, Mark Morris, Twyla Tharp and Nacho Duato, as well as Neoclassical masterworks and fresh stagings of 19th century classics. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Septime Webre and Managing Director Arthur Espinoza, TWB has embraced a three-part mission: ensuring excellence in its professional performance company; growing the next generation of dancers through its Washington School of Ballet; and serving the community in which it resides through robust community engagement programs.