Cesare Pugni

Cesare Pugni was the most prolific of ballet composers, having composed close to 100 known original scores for the ballet and adapting or supplementing many other works. He composed myriad incidental dances such as divertissements and variations, many of which were added to countless other works.

Maestro Cesare Pugni (1868)
Maestro Cesare Pugni (1868)

Pugni was born on the 31st March 1802 in Genoa, Italy, though his early family life is rather obscure. It appears that his father Filippo Pugni, was a clock and watchmaker with, for a time, a successful shop in the Via Rebecchino in the neighbourhood of the Palazzo del Duomo, near the cathedral of Milan. Cesare Pugni began his musical studies at a very young age and even composed his first symphony before the age of 10. When the Pugni family became acquainted with the noted composer Peter Winter, his reaction to the 7 year old Pugni’s Sinfonia prompted him to take the boy under his tutelage and later arranged for him to be admitted into Milan’s Royal Imperial Conservatory of Music (known today as the Milan Conservatory). At that time, Milan was the capital of the Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia, then part of the Austrian Empire. Since the Milan Conservatory was in the territory of the Kingdom known as Lombardy, only Lombards (residents of Lombardy) were allowed to be admitted as pupils. Thanks to Winter’s recommendation, the 13 year old Pugni was accepted into the institute in 1814 as a non-Lombard at the expense of the state.

During his time at the conservatory, Pugni studied under many noted pedagogues of music. Among Pugni’s instructors was Bonifazio Asioli – under whom he studied composition and counterpoint; Alessandro Rolla – the noted instructor of Niccolò Paganini, who taught him the violin; and Carlo Soliva – under whom he studied musical theory. While still a young student, Pugni was given the opportunity to compose several pieces for ballets and opera given at the Teatro alla Scala and its auxiliary theatre, La Canobbiana, (known today as the Teatro Lirico) as well as performing his own compositions for violin to acclaim.

At the request of his family, Pugni was allowed to leave the conservatory in 1822, the “official” reason being continuing illness. In reality, the management of La Scala greatly desired for Pugni to be in their employ and since the Milan Conservatory would not allow a non-paying student to leave the institute without finishing his education, Pugni was “officially” said to be ill in order to allow him to be free to work for the theatre. Pugni then took up residence with Asioli at his home in Correggio, where he completed his musical studies under his tutelage.

Frontispiece of the complete score for Pugni's Sinfonia por una o due orchestre (ca. 1830)
Frontispiece of the complete score for Pugni’s Sinfonia por una o due orchestre, published by F. Lucca. This Sinfonia made a deep impression on Meyerbeer and Glinka. (Milan, circa. 1830)

Not long after leaving Milan’s Royal Imperial Conservatory of Music, Pugni began playing the violin in the orchestra of Teatro alla Scala and Teatro alla Canobbiana. The first documented full-length ballet for which Pugni created the music was the Ballet Master, Gaetano Gioja’s Il castello di Kenilworth, which was based on Walter Scott’s novel Kenilworth, and was first presented at La Scala in 1823. Ballet music at that time was often a musical pastiche and the printed libretto for this work credits the score as being assembled from themes derived from “various well-known composers”.

Pugni was among the first composers of the early Romantic Era to create original scores for the ballet i.e. scores that were not assembled from the airs of many composers and/or various works. One such score was written by Pugni for Louis Henry’s ballet Elerz e Zulnida. The success of this work brought about three more commissions from Henry and soon, Pugni was sought out by some of the most distinguished choreographers who were working in Italy at the time. Among them were Salvatore Taglioni, uncle of the legendary Marie Taglioni, and Giovanni Galzerani. Pugni’s growing popularity as a capable composer of light, melodious music for dancing was attested by the publication of a number of piano reductions of excerpts from his works, among them, the popular Scottish Dance from his 1837 ballet L’Assedio di Calais (The Siege of Calais), which, like every one of his works published during his life, sold very well.

Though he demonstrated considerable talent for composing ballet music, Pugni’s real ambition at this time was to become a celebrated commissioned composer of opera. There had been occasions where he had to compose an aria “to order” for various performances at La Scala and such assignments encouraged him to pursue this ambition further. In 1831, his opera Il Disertore Svizzero, ovvero La Nostalgia premièred at La Canobbiana in Milan with his teacher, Alessandro Rolla conducting. The work was praised for its variety and originality and was revered by the composer’s fellow musicians.

It was during this time that Pugni began to compose a substantial number of masses, symphonies and various other orchestral pieces. One Sinfonia – the Sinfonia por una o due orchestre – was scored for two orchestras, both of which would play the same piece, but with one orchestra a few bars behind the other. This piece so impressed Giacomo Meyerbeer that he was known to hold up a manuscript of the work in order to show his friends a supreme example of virtuosity in composition. These great successes of Pugni as a musician appropriately lead to his appointment as Maestro al Cembalo at La Scala. In addition to fulfilling these duties, Pugni also taught the violin and counterpoint when time allowed. He even instructed the visiting Russian composer Mikhail Glinka, who revered Pugni as a composer and teacher of music. With regard to style and structure, Pugni’s symphonies and concert music have been likened to the works typical of composers of the Classical Period, such as Muzio Clementi and Joseph Haydn.

Pugni scored two more operas for the Teatro alla Canobbiana in 1833 and 1834, both of which were listened to with considerable respect. Pugni also continued composing various orchestral pieces, earning him great prestige and notoriety. However, despite Pugni’s initial success in the field of music, only two years after his appointment as Maestro al Cembalo, all of his prospects collapsed and he was dismissed from La Scala for what appears to have been the misappropriation of funds, a likely by-product instigated by his notorious passion for gambling and liquor, which had caused him to amount considerable debt. In early 1834, Pugni left Milan in an effort to flee from his creditors.

Maestro Cesare Pugni (ca. 1845)
Maestro Cesare Pugni (ca. 1845)

With his wife and children, Pugni made his way to Paris, where they lived in poverty while the composer searched desperately for employment. He was employed for a time as the chief copyist for the famous Théâtre Italien where, in late 1834, he was reunited with an old friend, the Italian composer Vincenzo Bellini, who, at that time, was engaged at the theatre to mount his opera I Puritani and at the same time, in the process of preparing a special version of the work for the Teatro di San Carlo in Naples. For the Naples production, the principal soprano role was to be revised for the vocal talents of the Prima Donna Maria Malibran and since the production of I Puritani in Paris was putting Bellini under considerable pressure, he called upon Pugni to copy the parts of the score that would be presented in Naples without change.

Pugni did this, but he also made a second copy of the complete score and subsequently sold the manuscript to the Teatro di San Carlo at a high price. Soon Bellini was told that the theatre had purchased an official copy of the score and would no longer require his services. Bellini was crushed, for he had not only paid Pugni the five francs for the copying, but had also given him money when needed in order to feed his family and was often known to not only give Pugni his own unwanted clothes, but begged his lady friends to send their unwanted dresses over to Signora Pugni. Bellini wrote in his journal, “It will be a lesson to me. Were it not for his six innocent children, I should like to ruin him.” Bellini would later recall in an unfinished letter written in 1835 how Pugni’s … infamous conduct shattered my faith in human nature.”

In 1836, Pugni received a commission from Louis Henry, the choreographer of several of his first ballet scores, to compose music for the ballet Liacone, which was to be produced in Naples for the Ballet of the Teatro di San Carlo. At that time, Henry was engaged at the Paris Opéra, staging the ballet sections of Gioacchino Rossini’s opera William Tell, for which Henry utilized music from Pugni’s ballet L’Assedio di Calais. Pugni then traveled to Naples to assist with the music for the opera’s dance-sections. Soon afterwards, Henry died of cholera.

In 1837, Pugni returned to Paris where he began working for the Casino Paganini until its closure in 1840. He then began serving as a “musical ghost writer” of sorts for the Paris Opéra at the Théâtre de l’Académie Royale de Musique. Pugni was charged with the editing, correcting and orchestrating of nearly all of the music for the ballets presented on the stage of the theatre. Often, composers of the era left orchestrations to the copyist or principal conductor of an Opera House and with his extraordinary facility at sight reading and scoring, Pugni was often given the task of arranging the compositions of others. A tradition passed down among his descendants claims that during this time, Pugni either composed or orchestrated all or part of Adolphe Adam’s score for Giselle, though no evidence is known to exist in support of this. Pugni served in this function at the Paris Opéra from 1836 until 1843 and even supplied anonymous supplemental pas and variations for visiting ballerinas when needed.

During his time at the Paris Opéra, Pugni became acquainted with Benjamin Lumley, the director of Her Majesty’s Theatre in London. Through Lumley, Pugni became acquainted with the renowned choreographer and Ballet Master of Her Majesty’s Theatre, Jules Perrot, who, during his engagements as a guest artist to the Paris Opéra, encountered Pugni’s extraordinary facility with composition and orchestration. In 1843, Lumley offered Pugni the post of Composer of the Ballet Music to Her Majesty’s Theatre.

Frontispiece of a published piano reduction of the dance La truandaise from the ballet La Esmeralda (1844)
Frontispiece of a published piano reduction of the dance “La truandaise” from the ballet Esmeralda (1844)

In the autumn of 1843, Pugni left for London and soon enjoyed a period of great renewed success. These were very prolific years for the composer. Between the theatre’s 1843 and 1850 seasons, Pugni produced an impressive series of scores for three of the greatest choreographers at that time – Jules Perrot, Arthur Saint-Léon and Paul Taglioni. Next to the full length ballets he composed during his time in London, he also wrote a substantial number of supplemental pas, variations, divertissements and incidental dances which were often performed as “diversions” during the intermissions of operas. In 1845 alone, he produced six new scores, including the celebrated divertissement Pas de Quatre and his music was always highly praised by the public and critics alike. During this period, Pugni was composing four to five full-length works every year for Perrot, Taglioni and Saint-Léon. Also, not long after his move to London, Pugni married his second wife Marion (or Mary Ann) Linton.

From 1843 onwards, few ballets were produced by Jules Perrot at Her Majesty’s Theatre that were not composed by Pugni and nearly every one of these works was a great success: the public and critics marvelled at how fresh and new both choreographically and musically each spectacle was. In 1843, Perrot and Pugni produced Ondine for Fanny Cerrito. In 1844, the duo produced Perrot’s most celebrated and enduring work, La Esmeralda for Carlotta Grisi. Among Pugni and Perrot’s most celebrated collaborations was the fantastical 1845 ballet Éoline created for the great Danish Prima Ballerina Lucile Grahn, for which Pugni’s score contained a considerable number of celebrated pieces composed for solo harp. In 1846, Perrot produced the oriental extravaganza Lalla Rookh, based on Thomas Moore’s poem of the same name, for which Pugni composed a score full of pseudo middle eastern themes. That same year, Perrot and Pugni collaborated on Catarina, which would be one of Mme. Grahn’s greatest triumphs.

During the late 1840s, Pugni and Perrot worked to stage their ballets in various theatres throughout Europe. In 1845, they staged Esmeralda at the Teatro alla Scala and later that year for the Court Opera Ballet in Berlin, where the title role was danced by the great Fanny Elssler. In 1847, Pugni and Perrot mounted Catarina and Lalla Rookh at La Scala. In 1848, Perrot was invited at the behest of Fanny Elssler to stage Esmeralda for the Imperial Ballet in Saint Petersburg.
Lithograph of the Pas de Quatre (1845) - from left to right: Carlotta Grisi, Marie Taglioni, Lucille Grahan and Fanny Cerrito
Lithograph of the Pas de Quatre (1845) – from left to right: Carlotta Grisi, Marie Taglioni, Lucille Grahan and Fanny Cerrito

As well as Perrot, Pugni wrote many celebrated scores for Paul Taglioni, who was a guest choreographer at Her Majesty’s Theatre. Taglioni would later call Pugni the greatest composer of ballet music he had ever worked with. In 1847 alone, Pugni wrote four short ballets for Taglioni, including Coralia and Théa. More works followed, including Les Plaisirs de l’Hiver in 1849 and Les Métamorphoses (a.k.a. Satanella) in 1850. Pugni also left a profound impression on Saint-Léon, who was also sometimes a guest choreographer in London, but worked primarily in Paris. During the 1840s, Saint-Léon was engaged as Ballet Master at the Théâtre de l’Académie Royale de Musique in Paris and Pugni traveled there often to compose music for the choreographer’s works. Pugni and Saint-Léon created many successful works while in Paris, among them, La Vivandière in 1844, a revival of La Violon du Diable in 1849 and Stella in 1850.

While in the Imperial Russian capital, Jules Perrot was offered the position of Premier Maître de Ballet at the Imperial Theatres to begin in the 1850-1851 season, which he accepted. In this position, Perrot recommended to the Court Minister that Pugni accompany him to Russia so that he may serve as the official composer of ballet music to the Saint Petersburg Imperial Theatres. Up until that time in Europe, the composition of new ballet music always fell into the hands of the orchestra’s head conductor, who was, in this case, Konstantin Liadov. A new position was thus created for Pugni – Ballet Composer to the Saint Petersurg Imperial Theatres.

In the winter of 1850, Pugni severed all ties to London and Paris. He arrived in Saint Petersburg with his English wife and their seven children, which included his son, Alberto Linton-Pougny (1848-1925), father of the famous avant-garde artist Ivan Puni (1894-1956). By 1860, Pugni was maintaining two households – the first with his wife and the second with a Serf woman named Daria Petrovna, with whom he fathered eight more children before the end of his life.

In the winter of 1861, Anton Rubinstein hired Pugni to teach composition and counterpoint at the new Saint Petersburg Conservatory of Music, a position he held with great acclaim and respect until his death.

The Pharaoh's Daughter - Piano Reduction Page
Frontispiece of the piano reduction score of The Pharaoh’s Daughter

During his time as Premier Maître de Ballet to the Saint Petersburg Imperial Theatres, Perrot staged many of the works he had originally mounted for Her Majesty’s Theatre in London. Unlike the ballet companies of that time which performed in the opera houses of London or Paris, the Saint Petersburg Imperial Theatres presented evening-length ballet presentations separate from those of opera. As Pugni was the author of nearly all of the music for Perrot’s works, the composer expanded many of his scores for the ballet master’s Saint Petersburg productions. Pugni took his revisions even further for the large orchestra of the Imperial Bolshoi Kamenny Theatre, often lavishing grand orchestrations for the scores he expanded.

The year 1855 saw the first collaboration between Pugni and Petipa when the former composed the score for The Star of Granada, the first ballet of Petipa’s own creation since his arrival in Russia. In 1858, Perrot left Russia and Pugni found himself in need by both Petipa and Arthur Saint-Léon, the latter by then being engaged as Premier Maître de Ballet to the St Petersburg Imperial Theatres. The two choreographers, both highly gifted in their art and differing dramatically in their respective approaches to choreography of the Grand Ballet, were engaged in a rather healthy and productive rivalry on the Imperial stage. In spite of the differences between Saint-Léon and Petipa’s styles, Pugni scored the music for nearly every one of their works during the 1860s.

The Little Humbacked Horse - Piano Reduction Page
Frontispiece of the piano reduction score of The Little Humpbacked Horse

The later years of Pugni’s life were not as bright as his earlier years. As he aged, he began to become more and more unreliable, becoming severely depressed, drinking, gambling and leaving his family to fend for themselves for days at a time. As a result, Petipa found it increasingly difficult to extract music from him and the quality of his work underwent a marked decline. In his memoirs, Petipa quotes a letter that Pugni wrote to him in 1860: “I tearfully ask you to send some money; I am without a sou.” The letter also included freshly composed sections for Petipa’s upcoming ballet The Blue Dahlia.

The première of The Blue Dahlia was approaching and Petipa had been receiving music from the composer in a piecemeal fashion. It became clear to Petipa that Pugni had put off scoring the more difficult sections and left them to be done last. By the mid 1860s, such situations became commonplace.

In 1862, Pugni composed the music for The Pharaoh’s Daughter, produced in only six weeks for the Italian Prima Ballerina Carolina Rosati. The production was so successful that it won for Petipa the position of second ballet master. In 1864, Pugni composed the music for Saint-Léon’s The Little Humpbacked Horse, which itself was as successful as The Pharaoh’s Daughter. Although he received laurels for his score for The Pharaoh’s Daughter, Pugni’s score for The Little Humpbacked Horse caused a sensation with the St Petersburg balletomanes. The march titled The Peoples of Russia from the last act of this ballet became a favourite of Tsar Alexander II and many of Pugni’s marches and entr’actes were thus performed at Imperial balls and diplomatic functions.

In spite of such occasions of inspiration, Pugni nevertheless became increasingly unreliable. Enrico Cecchetti recounts in his memoirs of how Pugni began inventing excuses for not delivering music on time: for example, he once told Petipa that his cat had scratched his hand, making him unable to hold his pen. On another occasion, Pugni came to rehearsal without the day’s required music, informing Petipa that he had no candles by which to write. When Petipa subsequently arranged to have a large box of candles delivered to Pugni’s home, the composer told him at the following day’s rehearsal that he did not write the required music because he was forced to sell the candles in order to eat.

Many of Pugni’s colleagues found themselves helping him whenever possible. Petipa was even forced to hire someone to watch over the composer to ensure that any required music would be prepared on time. Nevertheless, Pugni managed to compose eight new scores between 1865 and 1868 for the Imperial Ballet, though these were mostly short one-act ballets and divertissements.

Saint-Léon was also having difficulty with the unreliable Pugni and began to turn to Ludwig Minkus for ballet music. In 1865, Saint-Léon wrote to his friend Charles Nuitter:

Pugni has nearly died. He was found in the woods 16 versts from the city (St. Petersburg) owing 300 roubles to tradesmen. The Court Minister paid the sum, and a collection from the dancers of the company, who produced 200 roubles, is serving to feed him, his wife, and his eight children, five of whom are very young. He owes 5,800 roubles in all, while for the past twenty years he has been receiving 1,200 francs a month (for Royalties for scores performed in Paris) plus a benefit!

In 1868, Pugni composed the music for Le Roi Candaule and this was to be his final full-length score. Unbeknownst to many, Petipa originally made plans to have Pugni compose music for Don Quixote, but Pugni’s irresponsibility quickly forced Petipa to reconsider and instead he turned to Ludwig Minkus. In the end, the score for Don Quixote only included one variation composed by Pugni: a waltz composed for Kitri in the ballet’s final Grand Pas de deux.

Maestro Cesare Pugni (ca. 1860)
Maestro Cesare Pugni (ca. 1860)

In late 1869, Pugni pulled himself together to score the music for Petipa’s one act ballet The Two Stars. This score was widely considered to be among his greatest works for the ballet, but it was also to be his last.

Cesare Pugni died on the 26th January 1870, aged 67, in utter poverty and at his death, his large family was completely destitute. He was buried in the Vyborgskaya Roman Catholic Cemetery in Saint Petersburg, but tragically, the cemetery was completely destroyed in 1939.

In honour of the composer and as a benefit performance for his family, a gala was prepared with excerpts from many of Pugni’s works by Petipa in May 1870. Later that year, Petipa mounted a revival of Catarina, under the title La Fille du Bandit, premièring on the 13th November [O.S. 1st November] 1870, again as a benefit performance for the composer’s family. Petipa then presented Pugni’s final work, The Two Stars on the 21st January 1871 for the benefit performance of Pavel Gerdt. The ballet premièred to great success and was performed by the Saint Petersburg ballet on occasion until just before the Russian Revolution. Petipa also staged the work under the title The Two Little Stars for the Ballet of the Moscow Imperial Bolshoi Theatre in 1878. The ballet was re-staged for the company in a new version by the Ballet Master Ivan Clustine in 1897, a production which was retained in the Bolshoi’s repertoire until 1925.



Maestro Pugni’s compositions


  • Sinfonia (1809. Cesare Pugni’s first composition at the age of seven)
  • Sinfonia in D minor: In morte di Giacomo Zucchi (Milan, 1822)
  • Sinfonia in E minor (composed for the private concert of Borromeo)
  • Sinfonia in F major (composed on the commission of Borromeo)
  • Sinfonia in D major (1826. composed for the private concert of Carlo Rota)
  • Sinfonia in D major a.k.a. Sinfonia per una o due Orchestre, or Sinfonia a cànone (La Scala, c. 1830. “Dedicated to the celebrated Maestro Alessandro Rola”)
  • Sinfonia in E major (Milan, c. 1830. “Dedicated to Bonofazio Asioli”)
  • Sinfonia in A minor: L’ultima ora di un condannato per opinione (La Scala, c. 1826–1833)
  • Sinfonia in three movements (Villa Borghese, St. Petersburg, July 22 [O.S. July 10] 1855. Musical poem, or program symphony)

Chamber Music

  • Divertimento for solo violin (Milan, 1820)
  • Divertimento for solo flute (Milan, 1821)
  • Quartet in B flat major for clarinet, violin, viola, and cello (Milan, ca. 1824)
  • Quartet in A minor for clarinet, violin, viola, and cello (Milan, ca. 1825)
  • Quartet in A minor for flute, piano, viola, and cello (Milan, ca. 1825)
  • Quartet in B flat major for flute, English horn, violin, and piano
  • Quartet in E flat major for clarinet, violin, viola, and cello (Milan)
  • Petit Trio in C major for piano, violin, and cello (St. Petersburg, circa 1870)
  • Serenade in C minor for viola, violin, and cello
  • Serenade in D major for violin, viola obbligata, second viola, and cello (Milan)
  • Serenade in E flat major for flute, English horn, clarinet, two horns, and two bassoons
  • Ottavino in F major flute, oboe, bassoon, two violins, viola, cello, and bass
  • Terzettino in G major for two violins and viola (Milan)
  • Redowa-Polka in A major for solo violin: Il Carnevale di Milano (Milan, ca. 1845)

Religious Music

  • Mass for two tenors and one bass, with violin, English horn, three violas, two cellos, and one double bass (Milan, 1827)
  • Mass for large vocal and orchestral arrangement (Correggio, 1831)
  • Mass for solo tenore, several basses, and the chorus of La Scala (Bologna, Basilica di Santa Maria dei Servi, ca. October 1832–November 1833)
  • Kyrie e Gloria
  • Messa e Kyrie e Gloria for three soloists, chorus, and orchestra
  • Magnificat in E major for two tenors, two basses, and orchestra


  • Il Disertore svizzero, ossia La Nostalgia – melodramma semiserio in two acts (1831)
  • La Vendetta – melodramma tragico in two acts (1832)
  • Ricciarda di Edimburgo – melodramma serio in 2 acts (1832)
  • L’Imboscata – melodramma buffo in 3 acts: adaptation for the revival of the original work by Thaddäus Weigl (1833)
  • Il Carrozzino da vendere – melodramma buffo in one act (1833)
  • Il Contrabbandiere – melodramma buffo in two acts (1833)
  • Un Episodio di San Michele – melodramma giocoso in two acts (1834)


  • Ai passi erranti (Lyricist unknown)
  • Untitled; composed for Ennio Pouchard and Mrs. Serda (Lyricist unknown) (1837)
  • La Toussaint (Lyrics by Joseph Méry). Originally composed for the inauguration ceremonies of the Casino Paganini
  • Inno alla beneficenza (Lyrics by Felice Romani) (1833)
  • Lyrical Ode (Lyrics by John Oxenford). Performed by Sanchioli Gardoni Bouché on the occasion of the performance “for the benefit of the fund for the relief of the distressed Irish and Scots” (1847)


Teatro alla Scala, Milan

  • Il Castello di Kenilworth (1825)
  • Elerz e Zulmida (1826)
  • L’Assedio di Calais (1827)
  • Pelia e Mileto (1827)
  • Don Eutichio della Castagna, ossia La Casa disabitata (1827)
  • Agamennone (1828)
  • Adelaide di Francia (1829)
  • Macbeth (1830)
  • William Tell (1833)
  • Monsieur de Chalumeaux (1834)

Her Majesty’s Theatre, London

  • L’Aurore (1843)
  • Les Houris (1843)
  • Ondine, ou la Naïade – Romantic Ballet in two acts (1843)
  • Hamlet (1843) – never premièred
  • Le Délire d’un peintre (1843)
  • Esmeralda- Romantic Ballet in one act (1844)
  • Myrtelde, ou La Nymphe et le papillon (1844) – never premiered
  • La Polka – incidental dance (1844)
  • La Vivandière – Ballet in one act (1844)
  • Zélia, or La Nymphe de Diane (1844)
  • La Paysanne Grande Dame (1844)
  • Jeanne d’Arc (1844) – never premiered
  • Éoline, ou La Dryade (1845)
  • Kaya, ou L’amour voyageur (1845)
  • La Bacchante (1845)
  • Rosida, ou Les Mines de Syracuse (1845)
  • Pas de Quatre – ballet divertissement (1845)
  • Diane (1845)
  • Catarina, or La Fille du Bandit – ballet in three acts (1846)
  • Lalla Rookh (1846) – the music for the second and third tableaux contained passages based on Félicien David’s 1844 symphonic ode Le désert
  • Le Jugement de Paris (1846)
  • Coralia, ou Le Chevalier inconstant (1847)
  • Méphistophéla (1847) – never premiered
  • Théa, ou Le Fée aux fleurs (1847)
  • Orinthia, ou Le Camp des Amazones (1847)
  • Les Eléments (1847) – music composed jointly with Giovanni Bajetti
  • Fiorita et la Reine des elfrides (1848)
  • Les Quatre saisons (1848)
  • Electra, ou La Pléiade perdue (1849)
  • La Prima Ballerina, ou L’embuscade (1849)
  • Les Plaisirs de l’hiver, ou Les Patineurs (1849)
  • Les Métamorphoses (also known as Satanella) (1850)
  • Les Graces (1850)
  • Les Délices du sérail (1850)

The Paris Opéra

  • La Fille de Marbre (Paris production of Perrot’s Alma) – music by Michael Costa, adapted by Pugni (1847)
  • Revival of La Vivandière with Pugni adapting his original score (1848)
  • Le Violon du Diable (new version of Saint-Léon’s Tartini il Violinista, originally staged for the Teatro La Fenice in Venice on 29 February 1848 with music Giovanni Felis with Saint-Léon composing the violin solos). Choreography by A. Saint-Léon, with Pugni adapting Felis and Saint-Léon’s score (1849)
  • Stella, ou Les Contrebandiers (1850)
  • Le Marché des Innocents (Paris production of Le Marché des parisien) (1861)
  • Diavolina (Paris production of Graziela, ou Les Dépits amoureux) – Pugni utilized a suite of traditional Neapolitan airs called Passatempi Musicali for this score, as well as the Chasse aux Hirondelles by composer Maximilien Graziani (1863)

Works for other theatres

  • Le Fucine di Norvegia – ballet in five acts at the Teatro Ducale, Parma (1826)
  • La Dernière heure d’un condamné – at the Théâtre Nautique, Paris (ca 1834–1835)
  • La Ricompensa dell’amore spontaneo – Theatre unknown, Paris. (ca. 1830–1835)
  • Liacone – at the Teatro di San Carlo, Naples (1836)
  • Don Zeffiro – at the Théâtre Italien, Paris (1865)
  • Gli Elementi – at the Théâtre Italien, Paris (1866)

The Imperial Ballet

  • La Guerre des femmes, or Les Amazons du neuvième siecle (1852)
  • Gazelda, or Les Tziganes (1853)
  • Marcobomba (1854)
  • L’Étoile de Grenade – Ballet divertissement (1855)
  • Armida (1855)
  • La Petite marchande de bouquets (1857)
  • L’lle des muets (1857)
  • A Marriage during the Regency – Ballet in two acts (1858)
  • The Parisian Market – Ballet comique in one act (1859)
  • The Blue Dahlia – Ballet fantastique in two acts (1860)
  • Graziela, or Les Dépits amoureux (1860)
  • Les Nymphes et le satyre (1861)
  • Terpsichore – Ballet in one act (1861)
  • The Pharaoh’s Daughter – Grand Ballet in four acts (1862)
  • The Beauty of Lebanon, or the Mountain Spirit – Ballet fantastique in three acts (1863)
  • The Little Humpbacked Horse – Grand Ballet in three acts (1864)
  • Florida – Ballet in three acts (1866)
  • Titania – Ballet in one act (1866)
  • The Benevolent Cupid – Ballet in one act (1868)
  • L’Esclave – Ballet divertissement (1868)
  • Le Roi Candaule – Grand Ballet in four acts (1868)
  • The Two Stars – Ballet anacréontique in one act (1871)

Expanded revisions of his own works for the Imperial Ballet

  • Le rêve du peintre – revival of Le Délire d’un peintre (1848)
  • Esmeralda – expanded staging in three acts (1849)
  • The Naiad and the Fisherman – expanded staging of Ondine in three acts (1851)
  • The Judgement of Paris (1851)
  • Markitenka – revival of La Vivandière (1855)
  • La Fille de marbre – revival of Alma (1856)
  • Éoline, or La Dryade (1858)
  • The Travelling Dancer – revival of La Prima Ballerina, or L’embuscade (1864)

Revisions to other existing scores for the Imperial Ballet

  • Leda, the Swiss Milkmaid (1849) – original score by Adalbert Gyrowetz (1821)
  • L’Élève des fées – revival of La Filleule des fées (1850) – original score by Adolphe Adam (1849)
  • La Femme capricieuse – revival of Le Diable à quatre (1850) – original score by Adolphe Adam (1845)
  • La Belle flamande – revival of La Jolie Fille du Gand (1851) – original score by Adolphe Adam (1842)
  • Vert-Vert (1852) – original score by Édouard Deldevez
  • Faust (1854) – original score by Giacomo Panizza (1848)
  • Le Corsaire (1858) – original score by Adolphe Adam (1856)
  • Robert et Bertrand, or Les deux voleurs (1858) – original score by Herman Schmidt
  • Jovita, or Les Boucaniers mexicains (1859) – original score by Théodore Labarre (1853)
  • Saltarello, or La Dansomanie (1859) – original score by Arthur Saint-Léon
  • La Somnambule, or L’Arrivée d’un noveau seigneur (1859) – original score by Ferdinand Hérold (1827)
  • Pâquerette (1860) – original score by François Benoist (1851)
  • The Pearl of Seville (1861) – original score by Santos Pinto
  • Météora, or Les Étoiles de Grandville (1861) – original score by Santos Pinto
  • Théolinda l’orpheline – revival of Le Lutin de la vallée (1862) – original score by Eugène Gautier
  • Satanella – revival of Le Diable amoureux (1866) – original score by Napoléon Henri Reber and François Benoist (1840)
  • Le Basilic (1869) – original score by Massimiliano Graziani



  • Petipa, Marius, The Diaries of Marius Petipa. Translated ed. and introduction by Lynn Garafola. Published in Studies in Dance History 3.1. (Spring 1992)
  • Beaumont, Cyril (1937) Complete Book of Ballets. London, UK: Putnam
  • Edgecombe, Rodney Stenning. Cesare Pugni, Marius Petipa, and 19th Century Ballet Music. Musical Times, Summer 2006
  • Guest, Ivor Forbes, ed. (1981) Letters from a Balletmaster – The Correspondence of Arthur Saint-Léon. Dance Books Ltd
  • Guest, Ivor (1983) Cesare Pugni: A Plea For Justice. London, UK: Dance Research Journal. Vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 30-38
  • Sidney-Fryer, Donald. The Case of the Light Fantastic Toe: The Romantic Ballet and Signor Maestro Cesare Pugni.
  • Wiley, Roland John. Dances from Russia: An Introduction to the Sergeyev Collection. The Harvard Library Bulletin, 24.1, January 1976
  • Wiley, Roland John (2007) A Century of Russian Ballet. Alton, Hampshire, UK: Dance Books Ltd
  • Bolshoi Ballet: Theatre program for The Pharaoh’s Daughter. Bolshoi Theatre, 2001
  • Mariinsky Ballet: Theatre program from Ondine. Mariinsky Theatre, 2006

Photos and images: © Dansmuseet, Stockholm © Большой театр России © Victoria and Albert Museum, London © Государственный академический Мариинский театр © CNCS/Pascal François © Bibliothèque nationale de France © Musée l’Opéra © Colette Masson/Roger-Viollet © АРБ имени А. Я. Вагановой © Михаил Логвинов © Михайловский театр, фотограф Стас Левшин. Партнёры проекта: СПбГБУК «Санкт-Петербургская государственная Театральная библиотека». ФГБОУВО «Академия русского балета имени А. Я. Вагановой» СПбГБУК «Михайловский театр». Михаил Логвинов, фотограф. Martine Kahane.