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Flowers in Giselle


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The recent run of the RB’s Giselle has prompted a lot of thoughts about the imagery of flowers in the ballet. I thought it might be interesting to discuss how this is used in different productions. In the 19th century, different types of flowers would have been recognised as carrying specific meanings which are not so well remembered today.

Giselle tests Albrecht’s fidelity by picking the petals of a flower (he loves me: he loves me not). This flower grows right outside her house. It looks like it is some kind of daisy. (The daisy was supposedly a symbol of innocence and purity).

In Peter Wright’s production, Giselle gives Bathilde a small posy when introduced to her. It looks like it might be the just same kind of daisies.

Giselle is crowned with flowers as the Queen of the Harvest (though it’s not so easy to tell exactly what these are – thoughts anyone?).

The flower imagery really takes off in Act 2 however. Hilarion does not leave flowers at the grave in the Wright production, but a bare wreath of twigs.  Albrecht brings a huge bouquet of lilies.

Myrtha picks two sprigs of flowers which seem to be instrumental in calling up the spirit of Giselle. According to Beaumont’s account of the libretto in The Ballet called Giselle these are supposed to be rosemary.

Giselle showers Albrecht with lilac flowers as part of their duet.  (At least I thought they were lilac – but these  are unlikely to be in flower in the early autumn at the time of the grape harvest, but then we are in Balletland).

Myrtha in some productions holds a branch which seems to symbolise her power. I think in the Mariinsky version this is seen to wilt when confronted with Giselle’s protecting love.  It doesn’t make an appearance in the RB’s current version.

Finally of course, Giselle lets fall a small white flower as she returns to the grave. Are we to read this as another daisy like flower (as in he loves me, he loves me not) or is another flower with a different meaning intended here?

Does anyone recall other flower symbols in productions of Giselle ? 

 

Edited by Lynette H
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Thanks Lynette.  I vaguely recall discussion of the symbolism of flowers in a Giselle programme from way back but haven't as yet found it.

 

The Royal Opera House website includes the following which may be of interest:

http://www.roh.org.uk/news/petal-power-some-flowery-moments-in-ballet

 

There's also an article about flowers in the Paris Opera Ballet's Giselle - different flowers:

http://michellepotter.org/articles/giselle-and-the-paris-opera-ballet

 

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2 hours ago, Lynette H said:

Giselle showers Albrecht with lilac flowers as part of their duet.  (At least I thought they were lilac – but these  are unlikely to be in flower in the early autumn at the time of the grape harvest, but then we are in Balletland).

 

They don't look like lilac flowers to me, either in colour or in shape.  More like orange blossom, or something.

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15 hours ago, Jamesrhblack said:

Interesting thoughts here. Isn't the wreath that Hilarion lies on the grave in Act 2 Giselle's Harvest Queen crown?

 

I think it is supposed to be, but in the Wright production it looks quite different. The Harvest Queen crown is decorated with several flowers, but the wreath is entirely bare. Perhaps we are to understand that they have fallen off, or withered and died ? 

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48 minutes ago, zxDaveM said:

what i want to know is - how come we never hear the chimes for 1am, 2am and 3am? And i would have thought dawn was more like 5am too....

 

Some clocks don't chime overnight.  In Autumn, it's quite possible for dawn to be at 6 (bearing in mind it depends on longitude and latitude...)!

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On 15/02/2018 at 13:21, Lynette H said:

 

I think it is supposed to be, but in the Wright production it looks quite different. The Harvest Queen crown is decorated with several flowers, but the wreath is entirely bare. Perhaps we are to understand that they have fallen off, or withered and died ? 

 

I’ve always assumed this to be the case 

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On 2/16/2018 at 11:29, zxDaveM said:

what i want to know is - how come we never hear the chimes for 1am, 2am and 3am? And i would have thought dawn was more like 5am too....

That would make Act 2 very irritating!!  :)

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26 minutes ago, zxDaveM said:

and another thing - when Hilarion runs on being chased by the Wilis - what happened to his lamp?

(he seemed pretty detirmined not to forget it at the start of the act!!)

 

Maybe Albrecht nicked it.

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Yes, could be overactive imagination. I like the Russian version where there are only twinkling lights that scare him away - that seems a better way of ‘anticipating’ their arrival. 

Sorry - a bit away from the flowers ....which is such an interesting topic

Edited by J_New
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I think lproductions which have Myrtha's branch brake as she approches Giselle's grave with the cross.  Also I miss in a lot of productions the veil flying off Giselle's head, instead of its being pulled off by Myrtha.  what about sometimes G. rises up and sometimes she just comes on.

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I like the idea of the branching wilting when faced with the power of the cross, but in reality it doesn't work terribly well, and can be a bit comical.  But if someone could come up with something a bit more realistic than pushing a button and the branch suddenly breaks, I'd be all for it :)

 

Welcome to the forum, BTW, Joe.

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Another flower detail:

 

From a footnote in "The Ballet called Giselle",  evidently in Gaultiers's notice of the 1st performance in the 1840s,  Myrtha invested Giselle, once arisen from the grave, with "a  magic garland of asphodel and verbena", which might have been an interesting visual echo of Bathilde's necklace in Act 1. 

 

Asphodel was the flower that grew in the Elysian Fields after death. 

 

....And following up on the theme emerging here of fascinating inconsistencies in Giselle, how many Albrechts actually get to notice that Giselle is wearing his fiancee's necklace - which is potentially such a powerful moment ? 

 

 

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Very rare, I think.  I certainly haven't noticed it in RB performances recently - but then I've always put it down to the frequent male habit of not noticing what your girlfriend/partner is wearing/that they've had a new haircut, etc. :)  - so why would you pay attention to your fiancee's jewellery?   I do remember seeing Patrick Armand doing it, though, back around the turn of the century - there was a definite reaction as he realised that his carefully-constructed world was about to fall apart.

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I've always taken the view that the necklace means nothing to Bathilde - she no doubt owns many dozens and occasional gifts help cement the social fabric.  So why would this necklace have any significance for Albrecht?  What I find telling is the contrast between Bathilde's disinterest in the necklace, how easy it is for her to make a gift of it, and Giselle's delight in the necklace, never having opportunity to touch yet alone own such jewels.

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Hi JohnS,

I quite agree with you.  And anyway, Albrecht dosn't have any time  to notice, everything happens so fast.  Not only that,  but he hardly looks at her when she approaches him.

I'd like to hear what people think of her death scene suicide or heart attack? I'll post some comments at another time and place.

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