Romantic Ballet in two acts and three scenes
Music by Édouard Deldevez & Ludwig Minkus
Libretto by Paul Fouche and Joseph Mazilier
Décor by Jourdeuil (scenes 1 and 2) and Heinrich Wagner (scene 3)
1st April 1846
Salle Le Peletier, Paris
Choreography by Joseph Mazilier
Original 1846 Cast
Saint Petersburg Première
8th October [O.S. 26th September] 1847
Imperial Bolshoi Kamenny Theatre
Original 1847 Cast
Première of Petipa’s revival
9th January 1882 [O.S. 27th December 1881]
Imperial Bolshoi Kamenny Theatre
Original 1881/82 Cast
The original production
Paquita was originally created and staged for the Paris Opera Ballet by French Ballet Master, Joseph Mazilier to the music of the French composer, Édouard Deldevez. A relatively unknown name in ballet history, Deldevez was born in Paris and started out as a violinist at the Paris Opéra, progressing to conductor. The earliest ballet he is known to have worked on was Mazilier’s Lady Henriette (1844), which was created for Adèle Dumilâtre, who is most famous for originating the role of Myrtha, Queen of the Wilis in Giselle. Deldevez was one of three composers who were commissioned to compose the music for a single act; he was given the third act, while Friedrich Burgmüller (composer of Jean Coralli’s La Péri) composed the second act. Deldevez’s music was a success in its own right and he would go on to compose three of his own full-length ballets for the Opéra: Eucharis, Paquita and Vert-Vert.
In 1846, the Opéra Director, Léon Pillet commissioned Deldevez to compose his second ballet. His first ballet Eucharis had been a disaster, so the composer was anxious that his next one should be met with a better response. Deldevez may also have seen that this commission as an apology from Pillet, who had worked as the librettist of Eucharis and had felt indebted to him for the ballet’s failure (the libretto for Eucharis was one of the elements that received the most criticism). For the new ballet, entitled Paquita, the libretto was written by the author Paul Foucher, who was the brother-in-law of Victor Hugo. Unlike Eucharis, the plot for Paquita was made to be simple, straightforward and easy to follow and was set in Saragossa during the Napoleonic occupation of Spain, which also gave the ballet a historical atmosphere and, in Ivor Guest’s words, “a generous dose of couleur locale.” When Mazilier was commissioned as choreographer, Deldevez was hugely relieved because he had been unimpressed and unsatisfied with Jean Coralli, who had choreographed Eucharis because he found that Coralli did not possess a very good ear for music. Mazilier, however, was the opposite, as he was very sensitive to Deldevez’s music and took note of the composer’s intentions for the numbers before choreographing. For the casting, the role of Paquita was created for Carlotta Grisi, creating another vehicle in which the great ballerina could show her technical and dramatic abilities. The role of Lucien d’Hervilly was created by Lucien Petipa and, although the elder Petipa was a great danseur, the role was a purely mimed role, like many male roles created at the time for the Opéra.
The first act takes place in the gypsy camp in the Valley of the Bulls where the French General Graf d’Hervilly and his wife and son Lucien are unveiling a new memorial for the General’s brother the Conte d’Hervilly and his wife and daughter, who were assassinated by bandits years before. Also attending the unveiling is the corrupt Spanish Governor Don Lopez de Mendoza and his daughter Serafina. General d’Hervilly proposes a marriage between Lucien and Serafina, which Serafina delightfully accepts, but Lucien is reluctant because he is not in love with her. Don Lopez de Mendoza agrees to the marriage, but is really against it because he secretly wants the young Lucien dead. When the nobles exit, the gypsies enter, led by their ruthless chief Iñigo and last to arrive is the beautiful Paquita while picking flowers. Iñigo scolds her for being late, but then tries to win her over with his declarations of love, which Paquita rejects with contempt. In a mime scene, Paquita explains that Iñigo mistreats her by always forcing her to dance for money and she remembers that she was very young, her parents were murdered, revealing a miniature portrait of her father that she has always had. The nobles then return and Iñigo rounds up the gypsies to dance for them, presenting some very colourful Spanish and gypsy dances.
Perhaps the most interesting dance number is the Pas des manteaux, a type of cachucha dance performed by the female corps de ballet with half dressed and performing en travesti as matadors. This was in accordance with the policies of the Paris Opéra at the time that had some of the women dance en travesti instead of casting male dancers (see video 1 below). There was also a pas des éventails, which saw the dancers dancing with a fan in one hand and playing the castanets in the other. Although the pas is said to have been skilfully arranged, some thought that the aforementioned combination was too awkward and only spoiled the effect. After the first set of dances, Iñigo orders Paquita to collect money from the guests and as she passes the hat around, she meets Lucien and it is love at first sight. However, Paquita then gets into an argument with Iñigo, who is not happy with the result of the money collection, but Lucien intervenes, stopping Iñigo from hitting Paquita. In the confusion, Paquita drops the miniature portrait of her father, which Iñigo finds and steals. Realising she has lost her father’s portrait, Paquita is distraught, but Lucien comforts her and asks her to dance, a request she joyfully accepts. This is followed by pas des sept that was created especially for Carlotta Grisi in accordance with the tradition of creating a showcase piece for the Prima Ballerina. The pas was named the Pas de sept bohémiennes and was nicknamed the “Pas de Carlotta” in Grisi’s honour. The dance features Paquita and six of her friends dancing with their tambourines to entertain the noble guests and further enhances Lucien’s fascination with her.
After the dancing, the nobles leave, but the Governor stays behind and instructs Iñigo to do away with Lucien, an instruction that Iñigo accepts. Lucien returns to see Paquita and asks her to leave her gypsy life and attend a great ball that his parents are holding at their residence, but, though she is moved, she refuses because of his betrothal and their differences in social status, prompting Lucien to declare his love for her. However, Iñigo witnesses the rendezvous and informs the Governor and they decide to use Paquita as bait to lure Lucien into a deadly trap. They order one of the gypsy girls to give a flower to Lucien, telling him it is from Paquita and a message to meet her in her lodging.
The second act, which takes place in Paquita’s lodging, is almost entirely devoted to pantomime. Paquita is alone thinking of Lucien, when suddenly, she is disturbed by the entrance of Iñigo and a masked stranger. Paquita hides and when the stranger removes his mask, she is shocked to recognise him as the Governor, but even more so when she overhears that the two men have lured Lucien to the lodging so they may kill him. Iñigo explains that he will offer Lucien a glass of drugged wine and when Lucien is unconscious, several of the gypsies will emerge from the fireplace, the wall of which is constructed to swivel and reveal a secret entrance, and kill him. The Governor pays Iñigo for his services and leaves, while Iñigo summons several of the gypsies and explains the plot to them. Paquita tries to leave, but Iñigo and the others catch her, but she assures them she knows nothing of what is going on. Lucien arrives and Paquita tries in vain to warn him of the murder plot. Iñigo invites him to sit and have some food and wine and orders Paquita to lay the table. Iñigo then fills Lucien’s glass with the drugged wine, but Paquita quickly causes a distraction that enables her to switch the glasses when neither Iñigo or Lucien are looking. As the two men continue to drink, Paquita dances to entertain them and the drug begins to take its effect on Iñigo. When he passes out, he drops Paquita’s miniature portrait, which she retrieves. Knowing that the other gypsies might catch them, they cover the unconscious Iñigo in Lucien’s cloak and make their escape through the secret entrance in the fireplace. At that moment, the gypsies enter and find the unconscious individual, unaware that it is Iñigo, and stab him to death, only realising their mistake too late.
The third act is a French ball at General d’Hervilly’s palace and opened with a contredanse francaise, a waltz and a gavotte. The ball is being held in honour of the late Conte d’Hervilly, whose portrait is on display, and the guests comprise of French and Spanish nobles. Suddenly, Lucien and Paquita burst in and Lucien tells everyone of the attempt on his life and how Paquita saved him. He asks her to marry him, but she refuses because he is noble and she is a mere gypsy. Upon seeing the Governor, Paquita reveals to all that it was he who orchestrated the murder plot, recounting all she witnessed at her lodging. The Governor is arrested and Serafina flees in distress. Before Paquita can leave, she notices the portrait of the Conte d’Hervilly and recognises him as the same man in her father’s miniature portrait. The truth is finally revealed – Paquita is the long-lost daughter of Lucien’s uncle, who was thought by everyone to be dead; her parents were murdered by the gypsies, who took the young Paquita in and raised her as one of their own. Now, there are no obstacles standing the way of Paquita marrying Lucien and the General blesses their marriage. The ball becomes a celebration to celebrate the homecoming of Paquita. The original numbers for the principal dancers included a ten-minute long variation for Grisi and a pas de deux performed by Adèle Dumilâtre and Adeline Plunkett. Grisi’s variation was especially praised for its technical difficulties and was described by Théophile Gautier as:
“… daring and difficult beyond belief. There were some hops on the tip of the toe combined with a dazzlingly vivacious spin that caused both alarm and delight, for they seemed impossible to perform, even though repeated eight or ten times.” – Presse, 6th April 1846
The pas de deux for Dumilâtre and Plunkett was created and inserted to celebrate the former’s return from Milan, where she had been dancing at La Scala. The original plan had been for Grisi to partner her, but Grisi had had second thoughts because she concluded that since the pas de deux was at the end of the ballet, she would have been too exhausted by the challenges of her new demanding role while her partner would have looked fresh. After the pas de deux, the ballet was brought to a close with a waltz entitled the Queen of Prussia waltz.
The world première of Paquita took place on the 1st April 1846, starring Carlotta Grisi as Paquita and Lucien Petipa as Lucien d’Hervilly, and was a tremendous success. Two months later, the ballet débuted in London on the 3rd June when it was staged by James Silvain at the Drury Lane Theatre, with Grisi once again in the titular role. However, despite Paquita receiving a successful world première, its popularity declined over time and like many Parisian ballets, it did not enjoy a long life at the Opéra. It was given no more than forty performances in Paris before it was dropped from the repertoire in 1851 and it would not be until 150 years later that the Opéra would perform the ballet again.
Paquita was notated by French Ballet Master Henri Justament and is part of his collection of notation scores of ballets and opera-ballets from the 19th century. This could be Mazilier’s original version, but this has yet to be confirmed.
Paquita in Russia
Paquita was first staged in Russia a year after its successful world première and would play a pivotal role in the beginning of Petipa’s career with the Imperial Ballet. It is unclear, however, how the ballet was brought to Saint Petersburg; it is possible that maybe Petipa recommended it for his new company (he would have known the ballet through his brother, who was the original Lucien d’Hervilly), but according to the historian Marina Ilicheva, it was Petipa’s colleague and fellow Frenchman Pierre Frédéric Malevergne (simply known as Frédéric) who first thought of transferring Paquita from Paris to Saint Petersburg. The theory regarding Frédéric explains that he had been dismissed from the Imperial Ballet from the Director Count Alexander Gedeonov and went to Paris while the Imperial Ballet’s Prima Ballerina Elena Andreyanova was guest appearing there. During her time in Paris, Andreyanova was introduced to Paquita and was delighted by Mazilier’s newest creation, which seems to have provided Frédéric with an opportunity to be reinstated at the Imperial Theatres. Andreyanova had no problem persuading Gedeonov (she was his mistress at the time) that a staging of Paquita by Frédéric should be her next big performance. Subsequently, Frédéric returned to Saint Petersburg as Ballet Master, mime artist and teacher at the Imperial Ballet School. While Andreyanova was cast as the titular gypsy girl, Petipa was cast as the lovestruck nobleman Lucien d’Hervilly. Petipa also worked with Frédéric in staging the ballet, making this the first ballet he staged in Russia, and his work seems to have impressed Gedeonov since the Director would later commission Petipa to stage other Parisian ballets for the Saint Petersburg troupe.
Paquita made its Russian première on the 8th October [O.S. 26th September] 1847. In 1848, Petipa first staged the ballet in Moscow with himself and Andreyanova again in the principal roles. However, during their appearances, a grotesque incident occurred. During the first performance, while Andreyanova was dancing, a member of the audience threw a dead black cat onto the stage with a little card tied to its tail that said “For the première danseuse”. Andreyanova was so shocked that she fainted and her partner had to carry her off stage. The reason for this incident was due to the tensions between the people of Moscow and Saint Petersburg and some of the Muscovites were not very welcome to the guest appearance of a Saint Petersburg ballerina in their city. However, the incident infuriated the public and in later performances, Andreyanova was met with numerous ovations and was overwhelmed with flowers and gifts from the public three weeks later at her benefit performance. Despite the insult she had received in her first performance, her Moscow appearances were a success.
On the 9th January 1882 [O.S. 27th December 1881], Petipa staged his definitive revival of Paquita for the Prima Ballerina Ekaterina Vazem, with the Premier Danseur Noble Pavel Gerdt as Lucien d’Hervilly. As was his way when staging the works of another choreographer, especially the Parisian ballets of the Romantic Era, Petipa closely followed Mazilier’s direction with regards to the libretto and the action/mime scenes. Whether or not he retained any of Mazilier’s choreography is still to be confirmed. What is certain is that it was here that Petipa, together with Ludwig Minkus, made his most significant touches as the duo expanded the ballet with the creation and introduction of its most famous passages – the Pas de trois, the Mazurka des enfants and the Grand Pas Classique. Petipa also staged his own rendition of the Pas des manteau in Act 1 and retained the travesti element (see video 1 above).
The Pas de trois, created for the first act for a danseur and two ballerinas, possibly replaced Mazilier’s original Pas des éventails. For almost a century, the Pas de trois has been known as the Minkus Pas de trois, but a majority of the music is by Deldevez, not Minkus. Rather than composing the new pas from scratch, Minkus arranged it from various music numbers composed by Deldevez, Cesare Pugni and Adolphe Adam and only composed the coda.
The Pas de trois is made of the following music numbers (see video 2):
(a) Entrée (Allegretto 2/4) – from Deldevez’s original pas de deux in Act 3 of Paquita
(b) Entrée (Allegretto/Meno mosso) – from Pugni’s score for The Naiad and the Fisherman.
(c) Variation I – from Deldevez’s original pas de deux in Act 3
(d) Variation II – from a pas de trois composed by Deldevez for Act 1 of Paquita
(e) Variation III – by Adolphe Adam from his score for Le Diable de Quatre
(f) Coda – composed by Minkus for Petipa’s revival
It was Act 3 that endured the most drastic of changes. Nearly all of Deldevez and Mazilier’s original dances were omitted and replaced with the Mazurka des enfants and the Grand Pas Classique. Perhaps the most famous and distinct feature of the Grand Pas Classique is its myriad of variations. Petipa’s original staging consisted of seven variations for the likes of Ekaterina Vazem, Varvara Nikitina, Anna Johansson and Alexandra Schaposchnikova. Among these was a variation for solo violin composed by Minkus for Vazem, but there is no evidence that Pavel Gerdt danced a variation; Minkus certainly did not compose one for him. Vazem would later choose the Grand Pas Classique as part of her farewell benefit performance in 1884.
The variations reconstructed from the Sergeyev Collection and staged for Ratmansky and Fullington’s historical production (see video 3) are the following:
(a) Variation I, performed by Nicha Rodborn – Variation for Alexandra Schaposchnikova; music possibly by the composer Vasiliy. Schaposchnikova was the wife of the legendary Premier Danseur Noble Pavel Gerdt and the mother of the great Bolshoi pedagogue Elizaveta Gerdt.
(b) Variation II, performed by Severine Ferrolier – Variation for Maria Anderson “L’amour”; music by Riccardo Drigo, originally composed for Maria Gorshenkova’s performance in Le Roi Candaule. It was later interpolated into The Vestal as a variation for Maria Anderson’s performance as Cupid and is known as “L’amour”.
(c) Variation III, performed by Alisa Scetina – Variation for Varvara Nikitina; music by the composer Barmin, composed for Nikitina’s performance in Paquita ca. 1885. This variation later became the Variation of Amour in Don Quixote after Alexander Gorsky interpolated it into the “Dream scene” of his 1902 revival.
(d) Variation IV, performed by Zuzanna Zahradnikova – Variation for Ekaterina Vazem; music by Minkus. This is the original variation for Paquita in the Grand Pas Classique composed in 1881.
(e) Variation of Lucien (Matej Urban); music by Léo Delibes from his ballet Sylvia. Since Petipa and Minkus did not include a variation for Pavel Gerdt when they created the Grand Pas Classique, Ratmansky and Fullington reconstructed a male variation found in the Sergeyev Collection as a new variation for Lucien because it is very well notated and very much in the style of 1904 (the year Paquita was notated), though the choreographer of this variation is unknown. It may have been Petipa or one of his danseurs.
(f) Variation of Paquita (Daria Sukhorukova) – Variation for Anna Pavlova; music by Riccardo Drigo. This variation was created for Pavlova’s performance as Queen Nisia in Le Roi Candaule in 1903. It is from the celebrated bathing scene of Act 2, “The Baths of Queen Nisia”, in which Nisia dances to her slave’s harp. This was one of Pavlova’s favourite variations and she danced it many times with her company around the world.
Petipa’s revival of Paquita was notated in the Stepanov-notation method in 1904 during rehearsals in which Petipa was coaching Anna Pavlova in the title role. The notations are part of the Sergeyev Collection, which is housed at Harvard University.
Paquita in the 20th Century
In 1908 and 1909, Petipa’s revival of Paquita was first presented to the west in an abridged staging by a troupe of dancers from the Imperial Ballet led by Anna Pavlova, Nikolai Legat and Alexander Shiryaev on a tour of the Baltic States, Scandinavia, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Germany. Throughout the 20th century, however, Paquita was not performed as a full-length ballet after the 1917 Revolution. Only Petipa’s additions were performed in Russia and across the world, with the Pas de trois and the Mazurka des enfants being merged with the Grand Pas Classique and all three numbers have since been performed as a gala piece and is a popular member of the modern repertoire. The Grand Pas Classique was added by Pavlova to her company’s repertoire and she performed it many times across the world. It was one of the pieces that she performed in her last matinee at the Golders Green Hippodrome in London in 1930 before her death. Among those who attended Pavlova’s final Golders Green matinee was the great English choreographer Sir Frederick Ashton, who had first seen Pavlova perform in Lima, Peru in 1917 when he was a teenager.
After Pavlova’s death, the Grand Pas Classique was mainly performed in Russia and has since been staged in various revisions by various choreographers. In 1952, Pyotr Gusev staged a new revival for the Maly/Mikhailovsky Ballet, which was later revived by Oleg Vinogradov for the Kirov/Mariinsky Ballet in 1978. In 1974, the Ballet Master Nikita Dolgushin staged a new revival for the Maly/Mikhailovsky Ballet. For his staging, Dolgushin invited the great Bolshoi pedagogue Elizaveta Gerdt, daughter of Pavel Gerdt, who had performed in Petipa’s version, to assist him in restoring the piece to its form as performed in the early 20th century. In 1964, the Grand pas became a member of the western repertoire when Rudolf Nureyev staged his own rendition for the Royal Academy of Dance in London, which he later restaged for La Scala Ballet in 1970 and for the Vienna State Opera Ballet and American Ballet Theatre in 1971. In 1983, Natalia Makarova staged a new version for American Ballet Theatre, for which the music was arranged by Sir John Lanchberry. Both Nureyev’s and Makarova’s respective versions are based on Gusev’s rendition, which they both danced in at the Kirov/Mariinsky. In 2008, Yuri Burlaka staged a new revival for the Bolshoi Ballet, which he has since staged for the Vaganova Academy, who now regularly perform it for their annual graduation performances.
In 2017, when Yuri Smekalov staged his production of Paquita for the Mariinsky Ballet, this marked an end to the full-length ballet’s long absence in Russia. This version, however, is the most deviated from Mazilier’s original version and Petipa’s revival because it uses a new libretto that is heavily based on Miguel de Cervantes’s novella The Gypsy Girl. To fit this new libretto, Smekalov drastically rearranged the score, probably more than Lacotte, and in keeping with tradition, he retained the Grand Pas Classique, using the staging by Burlaka. Despite what is written on the Mariinsky website, Burlaka’s staging is not a reconstruction of the notated version, but an “updated version” of the Soviet revivals with some new touches. In 2018, a new production of Paquita was staged for the Ural Opera Ballet and premièred at the Tovstonogov Bolshoi Drama Theatre on the 23rd November. The production was by Sergei Vikharev and Vyacheslav Samodurov and it was the final ballet that Vikharev was working to stage before his sudden death in 2017. Samodurov completed the production and it was dedicated to Vikharev’s memory.
In 2014, Russian choreographer and historian, Alexei Ratmansky and dance historian, Doug Fullington utilised the notation scores of the Sergeyev Collection to mount a reconstruction of Petipa’s final revival of Paquita for the Bayerisches Staatsballet (Bavarian State Ballet). The reconstruction had its world première at the National Theatre in Munich on the 13th December 2014, with Daria Sukhorukova as Paquita, Tigran Mikayelyan as Lucien d’Hervilly and Cyril Pierre as Iñigo. Ratmansky and Fullington’s production saw the restorations of the Pas des manteaux and the Pas de sept bohémiennes since they reconstructed Petipa’s renditions from the notation scores. Before then, the two numbers had been unknown of for the majority of the 20th century due to the absence of the full-length ballet. Though some modern productions retained abridgements of the Pas des manteaux, before Ratmansky and Fullington’s production, the Pas de sept bohémiennes had not been performed in 100 years.
The Pas des manteaux was partially restored in an abridged rendition by Lacotte for his production, but the Pas de sept bohémiennes was noticeably absent. In accordance with 21st century tastes, Lacotte staged the Pas des manteaux as a dance for a male corps de ballet of matadors, so it bears more resemblance to the Grand Pas des toreadors from modern productions of Don Quixote than to Mazilier’s cachucha-style dance. The pas made a return to Russia in Smekalov’s production, but he, too, omitted the Pas de sept bohémiennes. Smekalov’s version of the Pas des manteaux is a modern character dance for the gypsies (performed by male and female dancers), which also bears resemblance to modern productions of Don Quixote with its heavy use of the modern stereotypical “Soviet Spanish style” that developed during the Soviet Union and includes two new characters who act as the dance’s leading couple.
- Ivor Guest (2008) The Romantic Ballet in Paris. Alton, Hampshire, UK: Dance Books Ltd
- Ivor Guest (1954) The Romantic Ballet in England. Binsted, Hampshire, UK: 2014 ed. Dance Books Ltd
- Nadine Meisner (2019) Marius Petipa: The Emperor’s Ballet Master. New York, USA: Oxford University Press
- Marius Petipa, Russian Ballet Master: The Memoirs of Marius Petipa. Translated ed. by Helen Whittaker, introduction and edited by Lillian Moore. London, UK: Dance Books Ltd (1958)
- Jane Pritchard with Caroline Hamilton (2012) Anna Pavlova: Twentieth-Century Ballerina. London, UK: Booth-Clibborn Editions
- Michael Stegemann. CD Liner notes. Trans. Lionel Salter. Léon Minkus. Paquita & La Bayadère. Boris Spassov Cond. Sofia National Opera Orchestra. Capriccio 10 544.
- Bayerisches Staatsballett (Bavarian State Ballet): Theatre program for Paquita, 2015
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.