|Classical ballets Giselle will be restaged at the Saigon Opera House on October 19 and 20 - Photo: Courtesy of HBSO
Classical ballet is unusual in that many of the composers of its most successful works are only known for their ballet compositions. Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and Brahms are rarely used for ballet productions. And the composer of the music for Giselle, Adolphe Adam, is today only remembered by most patrons for this one composition.
The ballet is in two acts. The first act takes place at a harvest festival in Germany. The second act takes place in a spirit world, dominated by a group of spirits known as the Wilis.
The reason for this is that at the end of the first act the heroine, Giselle, dies, and her devoted fiancée, Albert (sometimes called Albrecht), ventures into the other world to try to find her.
Giselle will be danced by Do Hoang Khang Ninh and Albert by Ho Phi Diep. Another man who loves Giselle, Hilarion, will be Meritorious Artist Dam Duc Nhuan.
The staging of this spectacular but tasteful production is by Yuki Hiroshige and Chloe Glemot. Yuki Hiroshige also dances the part of Myrtha, Queen of the Wilis.
The reason this production is spectacular is that the two halves are both beautifully imagined. The first half is realistic, with medieval provincial German costumes, while the second half is misty and seen in various shades of blue, representing another world.
The plot of the first act is complicated by the fact that Albert, who is really a nobleman, has disguised himself as a peasant in order to get close to Giselle. But in reality he is betrothed to a girl called Berthilde, and it is her arrival on the scene to claim Albert that causes Giselle to faint and then die.
The plot of the second act is also slightly complicated. The Wilis are the spirits of girls who have been abandoned, and if they meet a man between sunset and dawn they force him to dance until he is so exhausted that he dies. This is a fate that befalls Hilarion, and that Albert only just avoids, thanks to the love of Giselle.
Giselle is one of the great works of the classical ballet world, with visually strong roles for the corps de ballet (the equivalent of the chorus in opera) as well as for the leading solo dancers.
There are currently three productions of Giselle touring in the UK alone. In one of them, influenced by the #me/too movement, Albert is killed at the end, because of his supposedly deceitful behavior.
The work was premiered in 1841 and was an immediate success. Several features of what we now see as classical ballet were first seen here.
But Giselle gained its modern incarnation in the early 20th century in revivals staged in Russia by the famous French choreographer Marius Petipa.
Tickets for these HCMC performances are priced from VND300,000 to VND650,000, with a special concessionary price of VND80,000 for students. The shows begin at 8 p.m.