The Rose, the Violet and the Butterfly

Ballet divertissement
Music by Pyotr II, Grand Duke of Oldenburg
Libretto by Jules Perrot

World Première
20th October [O.S. 8th October] 1857
Tsarskoe Selo, Saint Petersburg

Original 1857 Cast
The Rose
Maria Surovshchikova-Petipa

The Violet
Matilda Madaeva

The Butterfly
Marfa Muravieva

A rose and a violet have both become enamored by a gorgeous butterfly, who flutters around them, paying court to their sweet embrace. The blossoms attempt to succeed the other with their floral charms, however, at the end of the proceedings, the butterfly chooses to fly away rather than exclude one over the other.

The Rose, the Violet and the Butterfly (La Rose, la Violette et le Papillonis a one-act ballet created to the music of Pyotr II, Grand Duke of Oldenburg. As with many Russian nobility, the Grand Duke was a huge balletomane and patron of the arts and was commissioned to compose a new ballet, which took the form of The Rose, the Violet and the Butterfly. The ballet was premièred as a court performance on the 20th October [O.S. 8th October] 1857 at the Grand Duke’s residence Tsarkoe Selo. According to Denis Leshkov, Petipa was the ballet’s author and among the première casting was Maria Surovshchikova-Petipa, which is astonishing because at the time, Mme. Petipa was heavily pregnant with her daughter Marie, who was born two weeks later. The only explanation for how she would have been able to perform would be that she had to restrict herself to careful poses and plenty of mime. This would not be the only time that Mme. Petipa was listed in a performance while heavily pregnant because she seems to have opened the Imperial Ballet 1859-60 season two weeks before she gave birth to her son Jean.

On the 1st November [O.S. 20th October] 1857, The Rose, the Violet and the Butterfly premièred at the Imperial Bolshoi Kamenny Theatre in a staging by Jules Perrot as part of a mixed programme for the benefit performance of the regisseur Marcel. Dancing the three leading roles were Lyubov Radina as the Rose, Nadezhda Amosova as the Violet and Muravieva reprising her role as the Butterfly. Since the programme for the ballet’s première performance at the Imperial Bolshoi Kamenny Theatre credited the choreography to Perrot, there is some confusion regarding the authorship. Petipa claimed authorship in his memoirs and was backed by Leshkov, but Irina Bolgacheva credited Perrot as the choreographer. It could be, however, that the programme for the performance at the Imperial Bolshoi Kamenny Theatre erroneously credited the choreography to Perrot.

On the 20th December [O.S. 8th December] 1857, as reported by Konstantin Skalkovsky, Petipa staged the ballet under the title The Butterfly, the Rose and the Violet at Peterhof Palace.



  • Petipa, Marius, The Diaries of Marius Petipa. Translated ed. and introduction by Lynn Garafola. Published in Studies in Dance History 3.1. (Spring 1992)
  • Meisner, Nadine (2019) Marius Petipa, The Emperor’s Ballet Master. New York City, US: Oxford University Press