Giselle | Houston Ballet
When the Houston Ballet Foundation, then a school and pre-professional company, brought power partners Carla Fracci and Erik Bruhn to town for a production of Marius Petipa’s Giselle in 1967, it led directly to the creation of Houston Ballet as we know it today, the fifth largest ballet company in the country.
Needless to say, Giselle holds a pretty special place in Houston dance history.
With elements drawn from Victor Hugo’s “Fantômes” and Heinrich Heine’s De l’Allemagne, Giselle tells the story of a young peasant girl deceived by a nobleman, Albrecht. When she discovers that Albrecht is already engaged to another, she dies of a broken heart. If that sounds like the end, it’s not. The Wilis, a ghostly group of jilted women who rise from the grave to make men dance ‘til they drop (literally, it’s until they die), want Giselle to join their ranks – and they want Albrecht to become their latest victim.
Though originally performed with choreography by Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot in 1841, Houston Ballet Artistic Director Stanton Welch’s reboot is also a descendant of Petipa’s re-staging for the Imperial Ballet in 1884. But in creating his own Giselle in 2016, Welch revisited Adolphe Adam’s original score, re-incorporating sections typically cut, thereby fleshing out the narrative and adding even more dance bang for your buck.
The production will also return to award-winning Italian designer Roberta Guidi di Bagno’s impressionist-like, fairy-tale set designs and lavish costumes. And many of the company dancers – whom Welch created these roles for back for the 2016 production – will reprise their parts for this production.
Welch’s Giselle is a ballet that Houston can call its own, and as such, it will open Houston Ballet’s golden anniversary season. If turning the big five-oh deserves an even more special celebration, for the September 14 performance, audience members have the opportunity to purchase a VIP add-on experience that includes a private reception, a chance to meet the dancers in costume and a commemorative sketch from the production.
Houston Ballet’s Giselle runs September 6 to 15, 2019. The Wortham Theater Center. — Natalie De La Garza