Jeff Hudson writes:
The ballet’s story has parallels to the life of a major Paris composer of that era. In the 1830s, Hector Berlioz watched Irish actress Harriet Smithson playing the jilted Ophelia in a production of Hamlet; he was so taken with her portrayal that he impulsively wooed and wed her. (Never mind that she didn’t speak French, nor he English.) Their union didn’t last long and ended tragically for her.
Cunningham describes the role of Giselle as the equivalent of “Hamlet for the female dancer, with a wide swing of emotional content that the ballerina has to portray.”
Sac Ballet’s production is being largely supervised by Binda, who studied the ballet decades ago under the tutelage of French ballerina Violette Verdy (1933-2016) who was affiliated with the Paris Opera Ballet and later the Boston Ballet (where Cunningham and Binda came up as young dancers). Cunningham was in the Boston production, playing a nobleman. “I came onstage with two borzois, and the audience would applaud,” Cunningham recalled. “But I knew the applause was for the hunting dogs, not me,” he added modestly.
“Because Giselle is a slice of our personal history, and a slice of ballet history, we wanted to bring it back to the stage in our final season,” Cunningham said. “I think the last time Sac Ballet did it was 2004.”