A tale that includes love, heartbreak, and Wilis; Giselle is considered the last ballet of the Romantic Era. Giselle’s grand opening was in 1841, Paris. Composed by Adolph Adams and choreographed by Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot, with lead prima ballerina, Carlotta Grisi; Giselle, was a huge success. As Paris moved away from Romanticism to realism, stories about fantasy and imagination fell out of vogue, making Giselle the last ballet of its kind during this era. Depictions of character and social life took center stage, along with a taste for spectacle, changing ballet and art of the time. Giselle did survive history as the focus of ballet turned from Paris to Russia. The Russian version eventually made its way back to Paris, with the Ballets Russes, in the twentieth century.
The ghost-filled ballet tells the tragic, romantic story of a beautiful young peasant girl who falls for the flirtations of the deceitful and disguised nobleman Albrecht. When the ruse is revealed, the fragile Giselle dies of heartbreak, and Albrecht must face the otherworldly consequences of his careless seduction.
The second act is largely dominated by the Wilis, the spirits of maidens who died after being betrayed by their lovers, and take revenge in the night by dancing men to death by exhaustion (a popular theme in Romantic-era ballets). Led by Myrtha, the Queen of the Wilis, they summon Giselle from her grave and target her lover for her death, but Giselle’s great love frees him from their grasp. They gain their power in numbers as they effortlessly move through dramatic patterns and synchronized movements, and control the stage with their long tulle dresses and stoic expressions, creating an ethereal atmosphere that builds as they gradually close in on Albrecht. By saving Albrecht from the Wilis, Giselle also saves herself from becoming one of them.
2021 La Esmeralda
Inspired by the novel Notre-Dame de Paris by Victor Hugo, La Esmeralda, first performed by Carlotta Grisi, was presented in 1844 in London. La Esmeralda was originally choreographed by Jules Perrot to music by Cesare Pugni. The full length ballet is rarely performed in the United States, but many variations from the ballet are considered classical repertoire for aspiring ballerinas.
A beautiful gypsy girl Esmeralda marries the poet Pierre Gringoire, to save him from death in the hands of the gypsy king. The groom is smitten with his new bride, but she makes it clear that the marriage is strictly one of convenience. Gringoire is not the only one infatuated with Esmeralda, the archdeacon of Notre Dame cathedral, Claude Frollo, is dangerously obsessed with the girl and orders his deformed henchman, Quasimodo, to abduct her. When Quasimodo attacks Esmeralda in the street, she is rescued by the King’s Archers, led by their handsome captain Phoebus de Chateaupers, who capture Quasimodo. They plan to torture him, but Esmeralda asks for his release. The hunchback is deeply touched by her kindness. Phoebus is enchanted by the girl and gives her a scarf that was given to him by his fiancée, Fleur de Lys.
The next day, Fleur de Lys and her mother hold a grand celebration for her engagement to Phoebus, who is distracted by thoughts of Esmeralda. She arrives to entertain the guests, but is left heartbroken when she sees that Fleur de Lys’ fiancé is none other than her beloved Phoebus. Fleur de Lys notices that Esmeralda is wearing the scarf that she gave to Phoebus and realizing that he has fallen in love with another, angrily calls off the engagement. Phoebus leaves with Esmeralda. Alone in a tavern, the two declare their love for each other, unaware that the archdeacon Frollo is also there, eavesdropping on them. Taking a dagger that he stole from Esmeralda’s room, Frollo sneaks up behind the lovers and stabs Phoebus, who falls unconscious to the ground. Frollo calls for the authorities, shows them the body of Phoebus and the dagger that was used to stab him, which is identified as Esmeralda’s. The poor girl is taken away and sentenced to death.
At dawn the following morning, the Festival of Fools is under way and Esmeralda is due to be hanged for the murder of Phoebus. Her friends and Gringoire are all present and bid her farewell, while Frollo watches in triumph. Just as Esmeralda is led to the gallows, Phoebus arrives alive and well, having survived and recovered from the stabbing. He reveals the true culprit to be Frollo and announces that Esmeralda is innocent of any crime. Frollo takes a dagger and attempts to do away with them, but Quasimodo wrests the dagger from his master and stabs him to death. Esmeralda and Phoebus are happily reunited.
2021 Le Corsaire
Le Corsaire began at the Paris Opera in 1856. This ballet has seen many revivals in several countries since its inception. Although originally composed by Adolphe Adam and choreographed by Joseph Mazilier, many composers have contributed to the version we use today. Based on Lord Bryon’s poem “The Corsair”, this ballet is a tale of daring adventures, romance, and pirates. One of Miss Liz’s personal favorites. Many excerpts from Le Corsaire are considered classical ballet’s most famous, including The Three Odalisques, in which you will see performed by our senior dancers.
Medora, a young Greek girl, is sold to Pasha by a slave dealer. The pirate Conrad seizes Medora and declares his love for her. Conrad’s right-hand-man, who is jealous of Conrad, sends Medora back to the slave dealer who again sells her to Pasha. Conrad and his men show up to take Medora away again but he is recognized through his disguise, captured, and sentenced to death. To save his life, Medora, who is in love with Conrad, plots with a slave girl, Gulnare, to escape. Medora agrees to marry Pasha but during the ceremony Gulnare takes Medora’s place, having the ring placed on her finger. That evening Medora dances for Pasha, having convinced him to lay down his weapons, and Conrad enters to take her away. Gulnare produces the ring and declares herself Pasha’s lawful wife. The ship on which Medora and Conrad escape sinks in a terrible storm but the two lovers are saved when they wash up on a rocky island.
2021 Sleeping Beauty
The impact of Sleeping Beauty is difficult to convey. Considered the first truly Russian Ballet, Sleeping Beauty refined ballet and elevated it to a classical art form. Choreographed by Maurice Petipa, and first performed in 1890, Sleeping Beauty is considered his greatest achievement. It was and still is a luxurious ballet with extravagant sets and costumes.
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky composed three ballets and although Swan Lake was the first, the version we know today, did not exist until after Sleeping Beauty. Sleeping Beauty is older than The Nutcracker (Tchaikovsky’s last composition for ballet), and his music, considered revolutionary, changed ballet and created a new vocabulary because it challenged the physical aspects and range of the body. Dancers originally struggled with these challenges and were opposed to dancing to Tchaikovsky’s music. Petipa was faced with the task of refining ballet’s movements to fit the music. Reforming ballet in both style and execution, his choreography is considered as revolutionary as Tchaikovsky’s music. Tchaikovsky was the first composer of real stature to see ballet as a substantial art form. Although originally his music was considered too difficult by the public to understand, and dancers resisted his music in the beginning, he elevated classical music and ballet to a new level.
Disney’s version of Sleeping Beauty is much like the ballet; featuring good fairies and one evil fairy, Carabosse that casts a spell on Aurora during her christening that at the age of 16 she will prick her finger on a spindle and die. The Lilac fairy counters the spell with a 100 year slumber that will only be woken by the kiss of a prince. As predicted all comes true and the kingdom is cast into slumber also. A century later, Prince Désiré is on a hunting party with some friends in the same forest where Aurora lies. In a moment of solitude Lilac Fairy appears, tells him the Princess’ story, and asks if he will be the one to kiss her. Smitten by the vision of beauty, he immediately agrees. Upon kissing Aurora, the entire court also awakens. The King and Queen approve of Prince Désiré’s proposal to marry their daughter; Aurora accepts. Soon after a royal wedding takes place and guests in attendance include the Jewel Fairies and fairy tale characters.
Attending Ballet’s; Etiquette
- Dance performance etiquette is different than orchestra or piano concerts. During dance performances feel free to clap, hoot, and holler when something moves you. Dancing is hard work and the dancers thrive off of the audience energy!
- Bringing young children; we do ask that if you bring young children they will be able to remain seated and quiet during the performance so that others around you may also enjoy the performance. If they do become disruptive or distracting please excuse yourself and your child to the lobby.
- As with all performances and shows, live video and/or photography is NOT allowed. Use of cell phones and camera’s is extremely distracting to those around you and all dance productions by RMSA/RMDT is copyrighted.
- Please silence your phones and refrain from using them during performances.
- If you have to excuse yourself during the production, please do so when there is a break in the scenes or performance. There will be a 15 minute intermission.
First presented in 1870 by the Paris Opera, Coppelia is considered one of ballet’s great comedies. Both The Nutcracker and Coppelia are based on stories written by E.T.A. Hoffman, and one can see character similarities between The Nutcracker’s Drosselmeyer and Coppelia’s Dr. Coppelius.
Originally choreographed by Arthur Saint-Leon, the version we know today is that of Marius Petipa. He was a choreographer for the Imperial Ballet of St. Petersburg, and is Coppelia is composed by Leo Delibes, who is deemed by many to be the first great ballet composer.
Swanilda and Franz are set to marry, when Swanilda realizes Franz is paying more attention to the girl in the window, Coppelia. Coppelia lives in the house of Doctor Coppelius, a somewhat crazy inventor. When Dr. Coppelius leaves his house, he accidently drops his keys. Swanilda and her friends see the keys and decide to sneak into the house, hoping to confront Coppelia. At the same time, Franz has decided to climb a ladder to the balcony to see if he can meet the mysterious Coppelia.
Sneaking into Dr. Coppelia’s house, Swanilda and her friends discover there are many life-size mechanical dolls in Dr. Coppelius’s workshop. Finding Coppelia, the girls realize she too is a doll. Dr. Coppelius returns home and although upset the girls have intruded, he sees Franz in the window and hopes he can persuade Franz to fall in love with Coppelia because he believes this will make Coppelia come to life.
France and Swanilda marry, living happily ever after.
2020 Don Quixote
Originally choreographed by Marius Petipa and performed in 1869 in Moscow, Don Quixote has since been presented in many versions all over the world. The most famous of all modern versions would be that of George Balanchine’s 1965 adaptation, first performed by the New York City Ballet.
Containing some of ballet’s most notable female variations, the lead female, Kitri, must perform extremely difficult choreography with high virtuosity. Composed by Ludwig Minkus, the music demands expert interpretation and does not leave room for mistakes.