In this 2016 production of Giselle, the étoiles Marianela Nuñez and Vadim Muntagirov join forces with Barry Wordsworth and the Royal Opera House Orchestra to bring the work that Tchaikovsky considered to be “a poetic, musical, and choreographic jewel” to life.
“Lovely in their wedding clothes and crowned with flowers and ribbons, glittering rings on their fingers, the Willis dance in the moonlight as though they were elves. Their countenance, whiter than snow, glows with youth, they laugh with such perverse cheer, such entrancing gaiety (...) that no-one can withstand these dead Bacchants...” This is how Heinrich Heine described the willis, the fantastical creatures of mythology that are at the heart of Giselle, and who would become an archetypal character of Romantic ballet. Dead before their wedding days, the sinister maidens carry away any men they run across in a dance that leads to death.
The willis inspired Théophile Gautier to suggest a plot to Henri de Saint-Georges, author of the libretto that Adam would set to music. The choreography established by Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot is employed here by Marius Petipa, the brother of Lucien, who was the dance partner of Carlotta Grisi, the Italian étoile dancer for whom the role of Giselle was written. The premiere of this choreography at the Imperial Mariinsky Theater in 1887 marked the arrival of the modern approach to this ballet, an interpretation that is still employed and beloved today.