On this day: a Ballet Premiere

Michaël Denard (James) et Ghislaine Thesmar (La Sylphide) entourés des « filles de l_air » lors du tournage du ballet en 1971 © Francette Levieux OnP

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The romantic ballet La Sylphide premiered in Paris on the 12th of March, 1832. The ballet was created by Italian choreographer Filippo Taglioni as a showcase for his ballerina daughter Marie, the dancer generally credited with being the first to ever dance en pointe.

As the original production was lost, French choreographer Pierre Lacotte used old records and images to recreate a new production for the Paris Opera in the 1970s.

This promotional photograph by Francette Levieux is from the revival. It features Michaël Denard as James and Ghislaine Thesmar in the title role. Thesmar is the wife of Lacotte.

On this day: the premiere of Giselle in 1841

Carlotta Grisi as the first Act I Giselle (1842)

Carlotta Grisi as Giselle the year after the premiere

The Paris Opera Ballet (then the Ballet du Théâtre de l’Académie Royale de Musique) premiered the romantic tragedy Giselle on the 28th of June 1841. The first performance featured Italian ballerina Carlotta Grisi in the title role.

To this day Giselle is considered one of the most important ballets, and the role of Giselle is considered the Hamlet of ballet roles, as it is the most prestigious and dramatic, requiring good technique and superb acting skills.

The story is of a nobleman, Albrecht, who falls in love with a peasant girl, Giselle, and disguises himself as a commoner to be with her. When his real fiancée arrives, Giselle goes mad and dies, becoming one of the ghostly Wilis, spirits destined to spend eternity gaining revenge for their early deaths. Giselle manages to save Albrecht from this fate.