Ballet comique in two acts
Music by Cesare Pugni
Libretto by Marius Petipa
Décor by Andrei Roller
30th December [O.S. 18th December] 1858
Imperial Bolshoi Kamenny Theatre, Saint Petersburg
Original 1858 Cast
Sylph, the Dancing Master
Prince Oscar is in love with the Countess Nathalie, but before he proposes to her, he conceals his identity in order to ensure that she sincerely loves him and not his crown.
A Marriage during the Regency was the first full ballet that Petipa choreographed. He began work on the piece months after the première of The Rose, the Violet and the Butterfly and after his wife had returned to the stage after giving birth to their daughter Marie. At this point, the success of Maria Surovshchikova-Petipa’s career was building; a month before the première of her husband’s new ballet, she appeared in Jules Perrot’s last ballet Eoline, ou la Dryade alongside Amalia Ferraris in the title role and was praised by Théophile Gautier, who wrote: “As for Madame Petipa [. . .] she is fine- drawn, pretty, light, and worthy of belonging to this family of distinguished choreographers.”
For A Marriage during the Regency, Mme. Petipa would create the role of the Countess Matilda, one of the sisters of the leading Countess Nathalie, who was danced by Anna Prikhunova. The all-star cast also featured Marfa Muravieva as the other sister, the Countess Carolina, Timofei Stukolkin as the Dancing Master named Sylph, Petipa as Prince Oscar, Christian Johansson as the Count and Lev Ivanov as the Marquis. The story contained the familiar trait of concealing one’s identity and a possible source of inspiration could have been the 1748 play Les Ruses d’amour by Phillipe Poisson, which would later serve as the inspiration for Les Ruses d’amour, or The Trial of Damis.
A Marriage during the Regency premièred on the 30th December [O.S. 18th December] 1859 at the Imperial Bolshoi Kamenny Theatre for Petipa’s benefit performance. This would be when Petipa received substantial reviews as a choreographer. Although the press judged his treatment of the concealing identity plot device as weak, their comments on his choreographic abilities were enthusiastic and prescient. The critic of the Muzykal’nyi i teatral’nyi vestnik wrote: “He has known how to compose a dance for each of the four ballerinas that corresponds to the nature of their talent and shows this to its best advantage.” The critic of the Sankt-Peterburgskie vedomosti reported: “He has composed some delightful pas [. . .] which were especially remarkable for the fact that they suited the temperaments of each of the dancers.”
A Marriage during the Regency remained active in the repertoire into the following year. It was one of three pieces performed in Mme. Petipa’s benefit performance on the 5th May [O.S. 23rd April] 1859; the other two pieces were the second act of Le Corsaire and The Parisian Market. That same year, it was staged in Moscow by the French Ballet Master Théodore Chion (known simply as Théodore) for the benefit performance of his wife Thérèse Théodore on the 12th November [O.S. 23rd October] 1859. The ballet was revived on the 27th April [O.S. 19th April] 1870 in Saint Petersburg with Lev Ivanov as Prince Oscar. According to the newspaper Golos, the ballet was now more of a divertissement made up of classical dances and character dances with almost no narrative. That same year, after the death of the ballet’s composer Cesare Pugni, it was performed as part of the benefit performance to raise money for his destitute family.
- Meisner, Nadine (2019) Marius Petipa, The Emperor’s Ballet Master. New York City, US: Oxford University Press