Paquita

Ballet in 3 acts
Music by Édouard Deldevez & Ludwig Minkus

World Première
1st April 1846
Salle Le Peletier, Paris
Choreography by Joseph Mazilier

Original 1846 Cast
Paquita
Carlotta Grisi

Lucien d’Hervilly
Lucien Petipa

St Petersburg Première
8th October [O.S. 26th September] 1847
Imperial Bolshoi Kamenny Theatre

Original 1847 Cast
Paquita
Yelena Andreyanova

Lucien d’Hervilly
Marius Petipa

Première of Petipa’s revival
9th January 1882 [O.S. 27th December 1881]
Imperial Bolshoi Kamenny Theatre

Original 1881/82 Cast
Paquita
Ekaterina Vazem

Lucien d’Hervilly
Pavel Gerdt

Plot
Set in Spain during the occupation of Napoleon’s army, Paquita tells the story of the young gypsy girl, Paquita, who is unaware that she is really of noble birth and was abducted by gypsies when she was an infant. Paquita wins the love of the young French officer, Lucien d’Hervilly when she saves his life from the gypsy chief, Iñigo, who is hired by a Spanish governor to kill Lucien. Through a medallion that she has had all her life, Paquita finally discovers her true birth right and identity; she is in fact the cousin of Lucien and can marry him.

Carlotta Grisi as Paquita and Lucien Petipa as Lucien d'Hervilly (1844)
Carlotta Grisi as Paquita and Lucien Petipa as Lucien d’Hervilly (1846)

History
Paquita was originally staged for the Paris Opera Ballet on the 1st April 1846 by French Ballet Master, Joseph Mazilier to the music of the French composer, Édouard Deldevez. The world première starred the legendary ballerina, Carlotta Grisi as Paquita and Lucien Petipa as Lucien d’Hervilly. The ballet was first staged in Russia on the 8th October [O.S. 26th September] 1847 by Petipa and Pierre-Frédéric Malevergne for the Imperial Ballet of St Petersburg and was the first full-length work that Petipa ever staged. The first performance in Russia starred Petipa himself as Lucien d’Hervilly and the ballerina, Yelena Andreyanova in the title role. 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 great Premier Danseur Noble, Pavel Gerdt as Lucien d’Hervilly.

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.

Throughout the 20th century, the only piece of Paquita that was performed was the Grand Pas Classique, staged in various revivals by various choreographers. Some of the most well-known modern stagings of the Grand Pas Classique are Pyotr Gusev’s 1978 revival for the Kirov/Mariinsky Ballet, Natalia Makarova’s 1983 staging for American Ballet Theatre and Yuri Burlaka’s 2008 staging for the Bolshoi Ballet. In 2001, Pierre Lacotte staged his own version of the full-length ballet of Paquita for the Paris Opera Ballet. Before then, the full-length ballet had not been performed since the 1920s.

In 2014, Russian choreographer and historian, Alexei Ratmansky and dance historian, Doug Fullington utilised these notations 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.

Virginia Zucchi as Paquita (1885)
Virginia Zucchi as Paquita (1885)

Did you know?

  • When Petipa first staged Paquita in Moscow in 1848 with Yelena Andreyanova in the title role, 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 St Petersburg and some of the Muscovites were not very welcome to the guest appearance of a St 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.
Paquita - Children's Polonaise & Mazurka - ca. 1900
Students of the Imperial Ballet School in the “Mazurka des Enfants” (ca. 1900)

Grand Pas Classique

For his 1881/82 revival of Paquita, Petipa added new pieces arranged and composed by Ludwig Minkus, who was the ballet composer to the St Petersburg Imperial Theatres at the time. These new pieces were the following – the Pas de trois for the first act and the Grand Pas Classique and the Mazurka des enfants for the third act. For almost a century, the Pas de trois has been known as the Minkus Pas de trois, but in actual fact, a majority of the music is by Deldevez, not Minkus. Only the coda was composed by Minkus and the male variation is by Adolphe Adam, taken from his score for Joseph Mazilier’s 1845 ballet, Le Diable à Quatre. Petipa’s original staging of the Grand Pas Classique consisted of only one variation for Mme. Vazem and there is no evidence that Pavel Gerdt danced a variation; Minkus certainly did not compose one for him.

By the turn of the 20th century, the Grand Pas Classique consisted of five variations when performed in the full-length ballet. The tradition of including a myriad of classical solos started in 1896 at a gala performance held at Peterhof Palace in honour of Tsarina Ekaterina II (aka Catherine the Great), with Matilda Kschessinskaya as Paquita, but it was for the great Enrico Cecchetti’s farewell benefit of 1902 at the Mariinsky Theatre that the tradition really began. Cecchetti was not only a celebrated dancer, but a beloved teacher and every one of the Mariinsky’s leading ballerinas wanted to participate in the gala to pay him homage. It was decided that they should dance their favourite variations from various works to perform as a sort of “variations marathon” to honour Maestro Cecchetti. From then on, it was tradition to include a suite of solos in the Paquita Grand Pas Classique when it was performed as a gala piece and the tradition remains intact today.

The Grand Pas Classique was first introduced to the West by Anna Pavlova, who danced it many times with her company. It was one of the pieces that was part of her last matinee at the Golders Green Hippodrome – her London home area – in 1930 before her death. Among those who attended her 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.

Paquita - Anna Pavlova as Paquita (ca. 1904)
Anna Pavlova as Paquita ( 1904)

Sources

  • Petipa, Marius, 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)
  • Letellier, Robert Ignatius (2008) The Ballets of Ludwig Minkus. Cambridge Scholars Publishing
  • Naughtin, Matthew (2014) Ballet Music: A Handbook. Lanham, Maryland, US: Rowman & Littefield
  • Pritchard, Jane with Hamilton, Caroline (2012) Anna Pavlova: Twentieth-Century Ballerina. London, UK: Booth-Clibborn Editions
  • Stegemann, Michael. 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