Giselle Synopsis

Act I

Act I is set in the Rhineland of the Middle Ages on the day of the grape harvest festival. When the curtain rises, the cottage of Giselle and her mother Berthe is seen on one side, while opposite is the cottage of Duke Albrecht of Silesia, a nobleman whom the villagers believe is a peasant named Loys. Albrecht comes to the village in disguise before his marriage to Bathilde, the daughter of the Prince of Courland. Against the advice of his squire Wilfrid, Albrecht flirts with Giselle, who falls completely in love with him. Hilarion, a gamekeeper, is also in love with Giselle and warns her against trusting this other suitor, but she refuses to listen. Albrecht and Giselle dance and she plucks the petals from a daisy to divine his sincerity. The couple is interrupted by Giselle’s mother, who, worried about her daughter’s fragile health, ushers the girl into the cottage.

 

Horns are heard in the distance and Albrecht retreats from the scene. A hunting party enters and refreshments are served. Among the hunters are Bathilde and her father. Giselle is entranced by the nobility and receives a necklace from Bathilde. When the party departs, Albrecht reappears with the grape harvesters. A celebration begins. Giselle and the harvesters dance, but the merriment is brought to a halt by Hilarion who, having investigated Albrecht’s cottage, now brandishes the nobleman’s horn and sword. Hilarion sounds the horn and the hunting party returns. When Giselle learns the truth of Albrecht’s deception, madness overwhelms her fragile heart and she dies.

 

Act II

Act II is set in a moonlit glade near Giselle’s grave on the night of her burial. Hilarion is grieving Giselle’s death. He is frightened from the glade by Myrtha, Queen of the Wilis, female spirits jilted before their wedding day who rise from their graves at night and seek revenge upon men by dancing them to death. Giselle is summoned from her grave and welcomed by the supernatural creatures, who then quickly disappear. Albrecht enters searching for Giselle’s grave, and her spirit appears before him. Overwhelmed by remorse and grief for the girl he grew to love, he begs forgiveness. Her love undiminished, Giselle readily forgives him. The scene ends with Albrecht in pursuit of Giselle as she disappears into the forest.

 

Hilarion enters pursued by the Wilis, who throw him to his death in a nearby lake. The Wilis then surround Albrecht and sentence him to death. He begs to be spared, but Myrtha refuses. Giselle protects Albrecht from the Wilis as they attempt to dance him to exhaustion. Day breaks and the Wilis retreat to their graves, but Giselle’s love has saved Albrecht. By not succumbing to the feelings of vengeance and hatred that define the Wilis, Giselle is freed from any association with them and returns to her grave to rest in peace.

 

 

Content

Act I

Act I is set in the Rhineland of the Middle Ages on the day of the grape harvest festival. When the curtain rises, the cottage of Giselle and her mother Berthe is seen on one side, while opposite is the cottage of Duke Albrecht of Silesia, a nobleman whom the villagers believe is a peasant named Loys. Albrecht comes to the village in disguise before his marriage to Bathilde, the daughter of the Prince of Courland. Against the advice of his squire Wilfrid, Albrecht flirts with Giselle, who falls completely in love with him. Hilarion, a gamekeeper, is also in love with Giselle and warns her against trusting this other suitor, but she refuses to listen. Albrecht and Giselle dance and she plucks the petals from a daisy to divine his sincerity. The couple is interrupted by Giselle’s mother, who, worried about her daughter’s fragile health, ushers the girl into the cottage.

 

Horns are heard in the distance and Albrecht retreats from the scene. A hunting party enters and refreshments are served. Among the hunters are Bathilde and her father. Giselle is entranced by the nobility and receives a necklace from Bathilde. When the party departs, Albrecht reappears with the grape harvesters. A celebration begins. Giselle and the harvesters dance, but the merriment is brought to a halt by Hilarion who, having investigated Albrecht’s cottage, now brandishes the nobleman’s horn and sword. Hilarion sounds the horn and the hunting party returns. When Giselle learns the truth of Albrecht’s deception, madness overwhelms her fragile heart and she dies.

 

Act II

Act II is set in a moonlit glade near Giselle’s grave on the night of her burial. Hilarion is grieving Giselle’s death. He is frightened from the glade by Myrtha, Queen of the Wilis, female spirits jilted before their wedding day who rise from their graves at night and seek revenge upon men by dancing them to death. Giselle is summoned from her grave and welcomed by the supernatural creatures, who then quickly disappear. Albrecht enters searching for Giselle’s grave, and her spirit appears before him. Overwhelmed by remorse and grief for the girl he grew to love, he begs forgiveness. Her love undiminished, Giselle readily forgives him. The scene ends with Albrecht in pursuit of Giselle as she disappears into the forest.

 

Hilarion enters pursued by the Wilis, who throw him to his death in a nearby lake. The Wilis then surround Albrecht and sentence him to death. He begs to be spared, but Myrtha refuses. Giselle protects Albrecht from the Wilis as they attempt to dance him to exhaustion. Day breaks and the Wilis retreat to their graves, but Giselle’s love has saved Albrecht. By not succumbing to the feelings of vengeance and hatred that define the Wilis, Giselle is freed from any association with them and returns to her grave to rest in peace.