On the cusp of adulthood, Giselle for the first time experiences the thrill of love, as yet unsullied by suspicion, disappointment or loss. But soon she discovers that her lover Albrecht is not quite who he pretends to be. He is hiding another relationship from her, and the pain of disappointment breaks Giselle’s heart. She dies and is transported to the mysterious and feared world of the legendary Wilis. Albrecht’s world is also transformed when he is confronted with his guilt and, in a ghostly dream, meets the Wilis and their queen Myrtha. The ballet »Giselle ou: Les Wilis« premiered at the Opéra de Paris in 1841. This work forms the basis for David Dawson’s first full-length narrative ballet. Employing his distinctively neoclassical and highly aesthetic physical vocabulary, the work was created in 2008 for the Semperoper Ballett.
It is morning and preparations are underway for a wedding celebration. Hilarion, Giselle's friend and childhood companion, leaves a flower on Giselle's doorstep as a sign of his love. Albrecht, also in love with Giselle, arrives and disguises his identity as a member of Bathilde's entourage. His tender, happy meeting with Giselle is interrupted as Hilarion confronts his new rival. Giselle sadly returns Hilarion's flower before introducing the man she loves to her community. The bride is readied for the wedding. Her friends jokingly warn her of the dangers of dying before marriage and becoming an unhappy doomed spirit. As the group departs for the wedding, one of the girls finds Albrecht's hidden knife and gives it to Hilarion. Bathilde arrives with her entourage. Bathilde is charmed by Giselle and offers her the gift of a lily. Giselle escorts the entourage into her house, but not before Hilarion confirms his growing suspicion that Albrecht is a member of Bathilde's group. The wedding party returns and festivities commence as day turns to evening. Giselle, caught up in the excitement of the day, dances for Albrecht. Hilarion interrupts the celebration, exposing Albrecht's identity. Madness seizes Giselle as she is confronted with Albrecht's past, and she dies a tragic, premature death.
It is some time after Giselle's death. Albrecht, consumed by guilt and sorrow, confronts the fading vividness of his memory of Giselle, a shadow which at times comes with great clarity and at others is frustratingly vague. Deep within mourning and memory, he sees blurred images of past moments of their life and love. The apparitions that appear to him under the moonlight are images of Giselle, locked in the memory of her last moments. Albrecht grieves, his imagination captured by the stories told on Giselle's last day in his world. As he clings to the pure emotions of evoked by her memory, black and white become the same color, and he comes to the realization that beyond death and beyond the sorrow that follows, it is love itself that matters and that remains. Albrecht's loving remembrance of Giselle enables him to let go of his sadness and remorse and find an end to his mourning.