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Giselle and Its Orchestration By Milton Rosenstock

In the quest for an orchestration to Dance Theater of Harlem’s production of Giselle, many orchestrations, arrangements and abridged versions surfaced. However, all of them were at a wide variance with Mr. Frederic Franklin’s established concept of the ballet and of its contents.

Interestingly enough the new or changed orchestrations had a rather distinct personal point of view: that is one stemming from the orchestrator, (arranger) and at times from the conductor. It seems that Giselle was, and still is, considered fair game for all; with a complete freedom to change this or that and hopefully enhancing the orchestration with a modern consideration of orchestra playing. In addition to all of this, how easy it was for the musical world outside of ballet to paraphrase the main themes and to go so far at times to laugh and ridicule them, in cartoons and silent movies.

Still, through all of these extraneous attempts at improvement or change for changes sake, the intrinsical musical values and dramatic utterances established by the composer Mr. Adolphe Adam in 1840 persist in their presence during the unfolding of the ballet.

Some ten to twelve years ago, Miss Mary Skeaping of London went to Paris and researched the archives for the original concepts and materials of Giselle. She found scores and music which had been discarded in the many productions of the previous 140 years and from there prepared her famous production of Giselle. While at the Paris Opera, Miss Skeaping was permitted to microfilm the entire orchestra score as used by the Paris Opera Ballet, which is assumed by them to be the original orchestrations of Adolphe Adam; except for the interpolations used in the variations.

From the microfilm of the entire orchestra score, orchestra parts were extracted in London by the librarian of the London Festival Ballet. It is this orchestration, orchestra parts circa 1841 that is being used by Dance Theatre of Harlem for its production of Giselle.

Milton Rosenstock

September 11th, 1984 

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