Premiered June 28, 1841 at the Paris Opera
A Rhineland village
Giselle, a peasant girl, falls in love with Count Albrecht who is posing as a villager named Loys. Giselle’s mother, Berthe, has already planned for the girl to marry Hilarion and tries to discourage Giselle’s love for Loys. She fears Giselle may end up as one of the Wilis, the ghosts of girls, scorned by their betrothed, who die before their wedding day. The Wilis are known to force men to dance to their deaths. But Giselle is undeterred.
Albrecht is secretly alerted that the Duke of Courland and Albrecht's fiancée, Countess Bathilde, will soon arrive in a hunting party. Albrecht hides. Hilarion, after hearing this, resolves to expose Loys’ true identity.
When the party arrives, Bathilde decides to rest in Berthe's cottage. The Duke, wanting to continue the hunt, has a horn placed by the cottage door so Bathilde may call him when she is ready to leave. Hilarion finds Albrecht's sword and compares it with the horn. The crests are the same.
Hilarion reveals the true identity of Albrecht/Loys to the villagers. Bathilde announces that Albrecht is her fianceé. Distraught, Giselle goes insane and dies of a broken heart.
A forest at Giselle's grave
Hilarion, who is keeping vigil at Giselle's grave, leaves as midnight approaches for fear of the Wilis. Giselle’s spirit appears to Albrecht who has also come to lay flowers at the grave.
Hilarion, later discovered by the Wilis, is forced into a dance that drives him into the lake, where he drowns.
The Wilis then turn to Albrecht. Myrtha compels him to dance, but Giselle tries to sustain him. Just as it seems that Albrecht is about to succumb to Myrtha’s power, dawn breaks. In the daylight, the Wilis fade away. Giselle returns to her tomb, leaving Albrecht to his sorrow.