PNB rehearses for June performance of ‘Giselle’
Pacific Northwest Ballet’s season finale production of “Giselle” marks a world premiere staging by Artistic Director Peter Boal, as well as the first time an American ballet company has revived a classic based on original material researched by Stepanov notation expert Doug Fullington in collaboration with leading “Giselle” scholar Marian Smith.
Since its Paris premiere in 1841, “Giselle”has become one of the most popular ballets of all time and is considered ballet’s great tragedy. A masterpiece of the Romantic era, the ballet tells the story of a young peasant girl seduced and betrayed by a nobleman. Dying of a broken heart, Giselle joins the ranks of the supernatural Wilis, women scorned before their wedding day and doomed to take their revenge for eternity.
“Giselle” runs for eight performances only, June 3-12 at Seattle Center’s Marion Oliver McCaw Hall. Tickets start at $27 and may be purchased by calling the PNB Box Office at 206.441.2424, in person at 301 Mercer Street, or online at online at pnb.org.
“We are very excited to be producing this iconic ballet which has never before been in PNB’s repertory,” Boal says. “It has been fascinating for all of us to explore this timeless classic using sources closely tied to the original production. The studio experience has been fascinating.”
THE RE-STAGING PROCESS
“Giselle” is widely acknowledged as the greatest ballet of the Romantic era. The sources utilized for PNB’s version of the ballet include a repetiteur (a rehearsal score, including detailed descriptions of the ballet’s action) believed to have been prepared in Paris, circa 1842, to assist in the staging of “Giselle” in St. Petersburg that year.
The repetiteur includes detailed information relating to the action of the ballet and how it relates to the score by French composer Adolphe Adam. Another primary French source is a complete notation of Giselle likely made in 1860’s Paris by ballet master Henri Justamant. This elaborate notation recently surfaced in a private collection in Germany and has now been published.
The other important source is a choreographic notation made in St. Petersburg, circa 1899–1903. This notation was made using the Stepanov notation system developed in St. Petersburg in the early 1890s. (The Stepanov system of dance notation encodes dance movements utilizing the Western music notation system.) The production represents French choreographer Marius Petipa’s version of “Giselle” that was based on the original Paris production, choreographed by Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot. The Stepanov notation of “Giselle” was used in the West for historic stagings by Paris Opéra Ballet and the Vic-Wells Ballet (now the Royal Ballet). The notation is now housed at the Harvard Theatre Collection.
In collaboration with Peter Boal, who has overseen the entire staging, Marian Smith will focus on the French sources and their use for the action of the ballet, and Doug Fullington will reconstruct choreography using the Stepanov notations. This production marks the first time an American ballet company will base a production on Stepanov notation as well as the first use in modern times of the rare French sources for “Giselle.”
On Jan. 9, 2011, the lecture-demonstration “Pacific Northwest Ballet – “Giselle Revisited” was presented as part of the Works & Process series at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City. In the sold-out program, dancers Carrie Imler, Carla Körbes, James Moore and Seth Orza performed excerpts from PNB’s new staging of the ballet, and Boal discussed the production with Mr. Fullington and Ms. Smith.
For the first time, Works & Process provided a live stream of the program so that it could be watched by audiences online. The full 80-minute program is available for viewing by pnb.org.