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Teatro Regio, Wednesday 19 December 2007 - Sunday 23 December 2007
In an imaginary, fairy-tale land immersed in vineyards, grape harvesters are returning home, singing a cheerful song. The first house on the left belongs to Giselle, a romantic and dreamy country girl who doesn’t work in the fields because of her bad heart, but loves dancing and «would pay for this passion with her life». In love with the charming Albrecht, a youth who arrived a few days before in the village, she is in turn loved by the rustic forester, Hilarion. He is jealous of his rival; spying on him, he finds, hidden, a cloak and sword of noble origins. The sound of a horn announces the arrival in the village of the Duke of Courland with the noble Bathilde and their court, in search of refreshment during a hunt. Giselle, enchanted by the splendid Bathilde, improvises a dance for her, and confides her love for the handsome Albrecht. Furious, Hilarion abruptly intervenes and shows them Albrecht’s cloak and sword in order to unmask him. The noblewoman, appalled, shows the ingenuous Giselle her engagement ring, given to her by Albrecht as a promise of marriage. The poor girl, with her heart pierced and her mind thrown into confusion by the deception, grabs Albrecht’s sword and, whirling desperately, goes mad and dies.
The striking of midnight can be heard. In the enchanted forest, quintessence of the songs of Ossian, a cross in the moonlight indicates Giselle’s tomb. Flying among the branches of the trees, Giselle appears, already a spirit and wearing a long tutu of white tulle. Myrtha, the severe queen of the Wilis, watches over the scene, and calls together her cold dancing furries. As with every moonlit night, at midnight the Wilis rise from their tombs and force any unwary men who dare approach them to dance until they die. This time, gathered together to welcome Giselle into their spirits’ circle, they pursue the forester Hilarion, crying on the tomb of his beloved. Forcing him to dance and whirl without a moment of rest, they make his heart burst. The same fate awaits Albrecht, who has just arrived; he, too, is begging forgiveness on Giselle’s tomb. But the sweet girl, still very much in love, sustains him with her love until dawn, when the Wilis, with Giselle among them, are driven back into the darkness of their tombs by the first rays of light.