As we approach our last performances of Giselle for 2015, we thought we’d revist Robert le diable and the sensual nuns that inspired the Romantic era’s battalions of ghostly women.
Ghostly women dressed in white, their heads veiled and their arms crossed in front of their chests. A distant church and a gravestone, both lit by moonlight. The women emerging from their final resting place to dance in formation as they try to entrap a man who stumbles into their midst.
Surely this must be the setting for the second act of Giselle, where the wilis, the ghosts of jilted brides, are compelled to destroy any man who comes near them in the hours between sunset and dawn?
But it’s not. The inspiration for Giselle, the most famous ballet of the Romantic age, and its predecessor, La Sylphide, was an opera that took Paris by storm in 1831. Robert le diable, composed by Giacomo Meyerbeer, was the precursor to La Sylphide and Giselle, two iconic ballets whose collaborators drew on the most scandalous scene of the opera. (more…)