Adolphe-Charles Adam / Jean Coralli, Jules Perrot / Marius Petipa



  • Act 1

    50 min.

  • Intermission

    25 min.

  • Act 2

    50 min.

Duration: 2 h 05 min.

  • Buy a ticket
  • Buy a ticket
  • Buy a ticket
  • Buy a ticket
  • Buy a ticket

Fantastic ballet in two acts
Libretto: Théophile Gautier and Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges
Music: Adolphe-Charles Adam
World premiere: 28 June 1841, Théâtre de l’Académie Royale de Musique, Paris
Polish premiere: 20 January 1848, Teatr Wielki, Warsaw
Premiere of this staging: 25 November 2022, Polish National Ballet, Warsaw

This season sees the return of the immortal Giselle, a ballet masterpiece brought to life by the most prominent artists of French romanticism. The idea was originated by poet Théophile Gautier, who drew inspiration from a legend wrote down by Heinrich Heine, the libretto was penned by dramaturge Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges, the score by Adolphe-Charles Adam, and the original choreography was put together by balletmaster Jean Coralli with the help of dancer Jules Perrot. Together, their efforts produced a work considered the paragon of romantic ballet.   

Just like La Sylphide (1832), Giselle (1841) was a product of the French romantics longing for an idealised, pristine female presence on the ballet stage, previously dominated by men. This vision set a standard for all the romantic ballets to come. Having women dance en pointe was meant to serve this very purpose. While some ballerinas had done it before, now the impressive dance technique was elevated to real art, making the revered, almost divine female figure the centre of attention. The first dancer to create the Sylph was the legendary Maria Taglioni, the first one to dance Giselle was her rival Carlotta Grisi, who became hugely successful in the role. When Giselle first enters the stage, she is as a careless girl in love with a seductive Loys. She does not suspect that he is Prince Albrecht disguised as a pheasant until he is exposed by the jealous Hilarion. The shock of the revelation costs Giselle her sanity and life. She returns as a vila, joining the spirits of other prematurely dead girls who had been wronged before marriage. Led by their queen Myrtha, the Wilis ambush young men in a forest cemetery, forcing them to dance until they die of exhaustion. One of their victims is Hilarion, Giselle’s rejected suitor. Yet, her love for Albrecht is still so strong that when he turns up repentant by her grave, she saves him from the other spirits’ revenge, dancing until the day breaks and the merciless Wilis lose their power. The moving role that combines pastoral charm, true drama, soulfulness, and ephemerality has been wonderfully rendered by the greatest ballerinas of all time.

The ballet has been shown in Warsaw many times, starting in 1848, when it was staged according to the Paris original by Roman Turczynowicz, now the patron of the local ballet school. The last two productions (1968 and 1976) were designed by the late Andrzej Kreutz Majewski, whose sets and costumes excellently conveyed the romantic atmosphere of the French masterpiece. When mounting its new production of Giselle, the Polish National Ballet decided to revive the great set designer’s stunning vision. Luckily, the artist left behind detailed set and costume blueprints. What is more, the opera house’s storage rooms turned out to contain elements of his original scenery. Based on the information, the opera house’s craftspeople recreated Kreutz Majewski’s designs after they had been meticulously adapted by Małgorzata Szabłowska (sets) and Katarzyna Rott (costumes). The production is, therefore, also a tribute to the internationally renowned Polish artist who served as the Teatr Wielki’s chief set designer between 1966 and 2005.
Giselle returns to the Warsaw stage in the canonical choreography by Marius Petipa as staged by Maina Gielgud, once a star of European ballet stages, then the head of  the Australian Ballet and Royal Danish Ballet. She is descendent from the ancient Polish–Lithuanian Gielgud family and a niece of Sir John Gielgud, the great English Shakespearian actor who also starred in the title role in Andrzej Wajda’s The Conductor. Maina Gielgud’s staging of Giselle, originally devised in 1986 for the Australian Ballet, earned huge recognition and was later shown in the US, France, and South Africa.



Polish National Ballet
Orchestra of the Polish National Opera



    Transylvania, 15th century. Brave Count Vlad Dracula set off to war against the Turks to defend his homeland. Rumours of his heroic death soon spread, and his grief-stricken wife Elisabeta threw herself from the castle tower. But the courageous count hadn’t perished after all. He returned to his castle and became sick with despair over the loss of his beloved wife. When the clergy refused the burial of the suicide victim, Dracula renounced God and humankind, transforming into a cruel vampire.


    ACT I 

    Scene 1. Jonathan’s farewell

    London, end of 19th century. Jonathan, a young solicitor, is going to Transylvania to finalise the mysterious Count Dracula’s purchase of an estate in England. Before he leaves, he and his fiancé Mina visit the house of her friend Lucy to say goodbye to their friends. Lucy’s mother, Mrs Westenra, who has a heart condition, is being courted by the eccentric Professor Van Helsing. Vivacious Lucy has two suitors: aristocrat Arthur and psychiatrist Doctor Seward, but she is favourably inclined towards Arthur. Meanwhile, Mina is filled with serious misgivings about Jonathan’s departure for a distant country. Bidding him farewell, she offers her beloved a decorative likeness of herself and then confesses her sadness to Lucy.

    Scene 2. In front of Dracula’s castle

    A coach carrying Jonathan arrives at the Count’s castle in Transylvania. The passengers include a mother with a baby and a little boy. When Jonathan leaves his companions, he sees they have become inexplicably anxious.

    A party is underway at Dracula’s Castle. Jonathan has no idea that this is a meeting of vampires. He feels uncomfortable harassed by women. Finally, the host dismisses the guests, and the solicitor goes straight to business. When they conclude the transaction, Jonathan accidentally cuts his finger. Dracula becomes excited and tries to suck the blood from his guest’s hand. He then notices in Jonathan’s bag Mina’s portrait. An uncanny resemblance between her and his beloved wife Elisabeta strikes him.

    When Jonathan, being tired from his journey, is finally alone in a bedroom he is accosted again by the obtrusive vampires. Dracula unexpectedly rescues him by appeasing them with the body of a baby. The obtrusive behaviour of his host concerns Jonathan, so he decides to follow him.

    Meanwhile, the mother Jonathan met on his journey is at the castle’s gates, distraught and seeking her lost children. Nuns have found just one of her children, and she realises her infant has been lost without a trace.

    Scene 4. The vampires’ lair

    Vampires gather in the gloomy vault of the Count’s castle, where they do their ghastly dance. Dracula also arrives and shuts his semiconscious companions in boxes and then takes his own place. Creeping in after him, Jonathan only sees the lid of the box closing. When he raises the lid of Dracula’s bed, the Count tries to pull him inside. He is rescued by the mother of the missing baby, who appears suddenly in the vault, holding a crucifix. Dracula slams the lid shut, and the brave woman leads the shocked Jonathan away.


    ACT II

    Scene 1. Renfield

    The inmates at the London mental asylum of Doctor Seward include the exceptionally peculiar Renfield. He is obsessed with insects and birds, which he maniacally devours. His growing frenzy gives the doctor concern and scares the other inmates. He gets especially tense when Dracula’s boxes from the Transylvanian castle are carried past the asylum windows by porters. When the doctor, concerned about the safety of other inmates, leads them out of the room, Dracula appears at the window. Then, Renfield invites him inside and declares his submission.

    Scene 2. Lucy’s Engagement

    Mrs Westenra is having an engagement party for her daughter Lucy and her new fiancé Arthur. The partygoers have no idea they are being observed. When the guests move to the garden, Lucy – weary from dancing – falls asleep. Suddenly Dracula appears next to her. A dose of her fresh blood restores him to the form of young Count, who blends in unnoticed with the company returning indoors.

    Seeing Lucy passed out, her mother seeks the help of Doctor Seward and Professor Van Helsing – an expert on supernatural phenomena. He discovers a bite mark on the neck of the fainting Lucy and leads her from the room with Arthur’s help. As the party goes on, Mina notices the handsome stranger, while the Count recognises her as the girl from Jonathan’s portrait. He considers her to be an incarnation of his beloved wife Elisabeta. Their relationship grows into fascination.

    Mrs Westenra is worried about her daughter’s health and bids the guests’ goodbye. Only Mina stays, still shocked by her uncontrolled weakness for a strange man. The next moment, however, she notices Lucy sleepwalking into the sinister arms of Dracula. Disconcerted by the presence of Mina, the vampire leaves his victim in her faint state. Mina rouses her friend from sleep and realises that the seducer was the same stranger who had also charmed her that evening.

    Mrs Westenra and her family friends are concerned about Lucy’s weakness. Professor Van Helsing suspects a vampire is involved, so he tries to safeguard the girl from future danger. Garlands of garlic were meant to protect her from another attack of the evil force. Mrs Westenra stays to watch over her daughter but when she falls asleep from fatigue, Dracula reappears. The woman awakens and is so terrified that she suffers a heart attack and accidentally destroys all of the Professor’s safeguards. Now there is nothing to stop the vampire, who sucks out the rest of helpless Lucy’s blood.

    Scene 3. Jonathan’s return

    Mina meets Jonathan as he returns from his journey, but her joy is overshadowed by the death of her friend Lucy and her mother. Mina and Jonathan go to their friend’s asylum, where they encounter Arthur and Professor Van Helsing. Doctor Seward wants to consult the professor about Renfield’s case. They notice that the patient gets excited by the sight of Mina, but his behaviour is more suggestive of concern than aggression. He seems to want to warn and protect her.

    Scene 4. Lucy the vampire

    Trying to protect her from a vampire’s fate, Lucy’s friends arrive at the cemetery and open her grave, but her body is missing. Meanwhile, she circles around them, desperately trying to get close to her beloved Arthur and give him a sinister kiss. The vigilant Van Helsing saves him, and Doctor Seward drives an aspen stake through her heart. The devastated Arthur joins to the annihilation of the vampire and thus, frees his beloved Lucy from eternal damnation.

    Scene 5. Dracula’s death

    Mina wants to protect Renfield from the vampire’s vengeance, but she arrives too late and witnesses his death. Her confrontation with Dracula is full of passion. He shows her the portrait of his beloved wife Elisabeta, and Mina finally understands Dracula’s pain and longing for his late wife. Touched by all this, she automatically surrenders to his power.

    The returning friends are shocked by the disturbing scene. Taken by surprise, the vampire tries to flee. When everyone rushes after him, Jonathan stays to guard his fiancée. Now returned to his ancient form, Dracula reappears and is drawn toward Mina as she was his beloved wife. He gets wounded, but Mina defends him from further harm. Filled with emotion for the miserable Count, she kisses tenderly the repulsive old vampire. Moved by her gesture and wanting to protect her from his own fate, he begs Mina to help him die, freeing him and herself from eternal suffering. Dying, he is the young Count Dracula once more.


  • Patrons of the Polish National Opera

  • Partners of the Opera Academy

  • Partners of the Polish National Opera

  • Partner of the Polish National Ballet

  • Media patrons