Act I

The story of Giselle is a romantic tale of innocent love and betrayal; of philandering Count Albrecht and a trusting peasant maid, Giselle. Although she has a weak heart, Giselle loves to dance.

Her beauty has enchanted Albrecht. On the day of the village wine festival, Albrecht, in order to court Giselle, disguises himself as a peasant. Giselle, in her innocence and unaware of his noble birth, resists Albrecht’s advances – only to succumb to his ardour and persistence. He gently induces her to trust his pledge of eternal love. His plans are thwarted by the arrival in the village of a hunting party which includes the Duke of Courland and his beautiful daughter Bathilde, to whom Albrecht is already engaged.

Bathilde is enchanted with Giselle and her youthful innocence. When Giselle tells the princess that she is engaged, Bathilde gives her a necklace, unaware that they are betrothed to the same man.

Hilarion, a gamekeeper in love with Giselle, discovers Albrecht’s disguise. Consumed with jealousy, he reveals his rival’s true identity. Giselle loses her reason, and the first act ends with the famous mad scene, and her death.

Act II

Giselle has been buried deep in the forest and has now become a wili. The wilis are ghostly apparitions of folklore, girls who have died betrayed by their faithless lovers on the eve of their weddings.

Hilarion is discovered mourning at Giselle’s grave. Myrtha, Queen of the Wilis, summons her maidens, who haunt the forest, luring wayfarers to dance with them until they die from exhaustion before the dawn. Hilarion is forced to dance until he dies.

Albrecht, full of remorse, comes to mourn at Giselle’s grave. The Queen commands Giselle to come from her grave and entice Albrecht to join her in dance. Giselle continues dancing with Albrecht through the night. Although she has been betrayed by Albrecht, Giselle still loves him, and helps him to stay alive until the dawn, when the wilis lose their power and will not be able to destroy him.

With the arrival of the dawn, Giselle vanishes back into her grave, and Albrecht is left alone with his sorrow. But his life is saved.