Today’s Discovering Music lesson on 19th century Romantic opera started off with a brief history of staged dance in Europe. While discussing the origins of ballet and dancing “en pointe” (on the toes) Professor Carol talks about the ballet Giselle, with its ghostly “wilis” floating along the stage.
My girls protested loudly. They are quite familiar with the ballet, and to say that it’s not their favorite is–well, an understatement! However, I hastily pointed out that now that we have a better understanding of the Romantic period in music, we can see why a ghostly ballet would have been appealing to a 19th century European audience. It’s interesting that my 21st century American kids reacted so negatively to the supernatural elements in the story and the sad, ghostly heroine victimized by her deceptive boyfriend. They didn’t find it either romantic OR appealing.
Here is part of the Wikipedia entry about Giselle:
The ballet is about a peasant girl named Giselle, who dies of a broken heart after discovering her lover is betrothed to another. The Wilis, a group of supernatural women who dance men to death, summon Giselle from her grave. They target her lover for death, but Giselle’s great love frees him from their grasp.
When all of my children were much younger, we listened to a fantastic book called Ballet Stories. It is a Naxos audiobook, and includes music along with each ballet story. We listened to this book over and over again at bedtime, which is why my kids all have a shivery reaction to the Giselle ballet! I did a quick search and found that you can download and listen to Ballet Stories if you enroll in a free 30-day membership at Audiobooks.com. It’s also available at Audible/Amazon. Here’s the Audiobooks.com link for Ballet Stories…we really recommend it, especially for a chilly fall evening! Caution, the tales are scary in an odd, Romantic sort of way!