The ballet, “Giselle, or Willis”, is considered the greatest Romantic ballet. Despite the fact that the ballet was created over 170 years ago, it is still one of the ten most popular ballet productions in the world. “Giselle, or Willis” is also regarded as the best work of the famous French composer, Adolphe Charles Adam. The libretto for the ballet, “Giselle”, is based on an old legend, retold by Heinrich Heine in a short story about the willis; brides who dies before their wedding and could not attain their dream of happiness. When they would meet a man at midnight, the willis would dance with him until he died.
Romanticism in general, including romantic ballet, is characterized by a sharp conflict between reality and ‘the life of the heart’. The ballet, “Giselle”, is not simply divided into two acts; it seems to represent to us two realities in one work. The first act is decisively mundane. The second act is mystical. During the second act, on the stage is a fantastically magical cemetery where the willis live. In this phantasmagoric setting, a drama unfolds which has no equal in the heat of its passion. The appearance of Giselle is the only circumstance that saves Abrecht from the wrath of the willis.
It is likely that the secret of the popularity of “Giselle” is that the metaphoric language of the ballet is about love, which is stronger than death itself.