Daria Klimentova (Giselle) and Esteban Berlanga (Albrecht) © Sîan Trenberth

Restaging a ballet classic: Giselle

Mary Skeaping’s Giselle

An important milestone in restaging a ballet classic


It was a milestone that two years ago richly deserved to be celebrated – the 50th anniversary of Mary Skeaping’s production of Giselle in the UK, which first entered the repertoire of London Festival Ballet (LFB) in April 1971. It has become one of the best known and loved traditional versions in the world which is testament to Skeaping’s attention to detail, her meticulous research and her determination to remain true to the original style. Also important is the clarity with which each of the characters is drawn – that they have their own backstories, no matter how small the role might be, each has its own significance within the unfolding story.

The first Giselle was originally performed in Paris in 1841. Théophile Gautier and Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges were the librettists and Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot were the choreographers. Adolphe Adam was responsible for the music and one of the most notable features of Skeaping’s Giselle is the restoration of parts of the score that are omitted in other productions, alongside recovering the correct running order. This, in turn, proves to be pivotal dramatically. The music, in effect, dictates the action.

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