Griseldis

The ballet-pantomime in three acts and five pictures GRISELDIS, OU LES CINQ SENS (GRISELDIS, OR THE FIVE SENSES)  is one of his greatest compositions. The sprawling orchestration has many original ideas, including a female voice, a twangy chorus, harmonium, and a very early appearance of the bass clarinet. The five senses are depicted throughout the ballet in allegorical scenes and dance movements.This world premiere presents the original manuscript score, held in the vaults of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, which includes all the scenes from its first performance on 16 February 1848 at the Theatre of the Royal Academy in Paris, France – choreographed by the famous Joseph Mazilier, libretto by Philippe François Pinel Dumanoir, set design by MM. Cambon et Thierry. The famous Petipa danced the role of Prince Elfrid. The ballet was performed 13 times in the first two years after its creation.

In the 18th  century, the genre of ballet- pantomime shared many features with opera. Original scores began to appear in the following century, and Adolphe Adam’s works were among the first – an example is the ballet Giselle, although it too included musical material borrowed from operas. Developing intriguing romantic plots, Adam’s ballets are sprawling, alternating brilliant soloists and pantomime with a large cast of corps de ballet. Griseldis is set in Bohemia, then Moldova. The plot depicts Prince Elfrid’s longing for the unknown beloved he dreams of. He hears her voice, feels her scent, touches her, tastes her lips when she embraces and kisses him, but he does not see her. The role of the mysterious voice, performed by a soprano, is important – it is the voice of Griseldis. The music follows the characters’ excitement and experiences to the happy ending.

SHORT CONTENT

Act One

Picture One

Bohemia, in the royal park Prince Elfrid is lounging carefree, half asleep, while young girls dance around him and play various instruments, but he is indifferent to everything because he dreams of the mysterious maiden he saw in his dream. The King, his father, has a plan to break his son’s “cold heart” by betrothing him to Griseldis, the Princess of  Moldova. Elfrid seemingly agrees.

Griseldis appears, disguised as a shepherdess. She recognizes the young prince’s hunting weapons, but seeing the golden crown, is disappointed because she wants to be loved not for her origins, but for real. After making sure no one can see her, she hides the prince’s golden crown and puts her own crown of flowers in its place.

Elfrid is pensive and sad, wondering what kind of princess this is that he should marry. He looks at the crown of flowers in surprise. Griseldis passes quietly behind him, but slips and drops his locket with her portrait before disappearing.

The prince finds the locket, sees the portrait, and recognizes the girl from his dream. He presses the locket to his chest, covers it with kisses… He rejects the engagement and tells his father that this is the woman he loves, showing him her portrait. The king is enraged. Elfrid, with tears in his eyes, leaves the kingdom to look for his beloved.

Picture Two

Village Square. Farmers and shepherds prepare for work in the fields. Elfrid is staying at the royal inn. Griseldis passes by and leads some goats. Everyone wonders who this unknown maiden is. She shows a small mandolin she carries on her back and, accompanying herself, begins to dance. When she sees Elfrid, she hides in the ruins of a chapel. The Prince examines the medallion, thinking of this mysterious angel. Suddenly, music and a singing voice is heard from the ruins.

THE VOICE:

Stop, child, stop!

Do not leave these places!

I am the mysterious voice,

The voice that comes from heaven.

Elfrid listens in rapt attention.

THE VOICE:

A great voice of storms,

The whisper of streams,

From the forests wild cries,

Songs of little birds,

Terrible or touching music,

Funeral or soft sounds,

The sounds of the earth when I sing,

Shut up! Silence!…

The prince remains dreamy. He rushes to the chapel, but no one is there. The voice is heard several times from different directions against a background of different noises – village bells, hammer blows, drums…

Act Two

Picture three

The gardens of Hassan’s palace, where Elfrid is solemnly welcomed. Left alone, he examines the medallion for the seventh time and falls asleep. He is approached by Griseldis in white. She is in love with him, seeing the locket, her doubts disappear and she kisses Elfrid on the forehead. The prince wakes up and, with her gone, rushes to find her. In the darkness the two collide, embrace passionately and kiss, but when it is light he is alone. Elfrid vows that he will find her.

Act Three

Picture Four

Hunting Picture. Griseldis is the last to appear. She dismounts, picks a bouquet of flowers, pins it to her breast, and rejoins the others.

A feast of gardeners, they invite Elfrid to join, but he is indifferent. Suddenly Griseldis appears, throws the bouquet at his feet, and quickly walks away. The prince realizes that this is his beloved. Desperate and intoxicated by the wine he has drunk, he falls asleep. In his sleep, Griseldis comes and embraces him passionately, but when he wakes, she is gone.

Picture Five

The Prince is at the palace in Moldova to return the engagement ring.

THE VOICE:

Stop, child, stop!

Guard the prized possession.

I am the secret way,

The voice that comes from heaven!

Elfrid rushes towards the direction from where he hears the voice. Griseldis appears, dressed as a goatherd. The prince recognizes her, he kneels and places the ring on her hand. When he later sees the princess covered by a long veil, she sings and her veil falls.

THE VOICE:

Do not leave these parts.

I am the mysterious voice.

The voice that comes from heaven!

Elfrid is surprised, Princess Griseldis is the mysterious maiden. She reaches out to him and shows him her engagement ring. The two lovers are happy.

(The detailed content of the ballet was published by Michel Lévy Brothers / Michel Lévy frères, Paris, 1848)

 

Past events



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