Ballet AZ Blog

Behind “Giselle” With Composer Adolphe Adam

A Deep Dive In His Work!

Adolphe Adam

This French composer, whose music is most known for the ballet Giselle, and many other popular operas such as Le Châlet (1834), Le Postillon de Longjumeau (1836), and Giralda (1850). Most of his ballets were composed for productions in Berlin, London, and St. Petersburg, and Paris. Adolphe Adam, carefully curated the music to the demands of the choreography, where audiences found the music to be easy grace and cogency. During the mid-19th century, Adolphe’s music for the ballet and operas were highly successful, to where his pieces have been used again for years.

Giselle was first performed on June 28th, 1841 in Paris, France. This idea for the ballet came from a French poet and novelist Théophile Gautier. Much like Adolphe, Théophile got his inspiration too, from a Greman poet named Heinrich Heine. Heinrich’s poem was about retelling a Slavic legend regarding the wilis. The wilis, are spirits or ghosts who have died before their wedding day. A young woman who becomes betrayed by her true love and dies from a broken heart. Later the young woman returns in her form of a ghost or spirit their true love from the frightful wilis. This act not only saves their true love, but ensures that the young, deceased woman does not become a wili herself.

Adolphe Adams quickly got recruited to help with the new ballet, before having it written for the Paris Opéra before. Immediately, he began to work on the score and choreography. After two months of hard work, Giselle made its debut. Originally the first act was dedicated to mime and action scenes into to propel the story’s plot, which was also called a ballet pantomime. Coming into the 20th-century many productions shorted or edited the ballet to what they thought would be more engaging to their audiences. At the beginning of the 21st-century, the beloved piece of Giselle has returned to the original performance and practice.

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