Romantic Ballet in three acts
Music by Édouard Deldevez & Ludwig Minkus
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
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 after the assassination of her parents. 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.
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 debuted in London two months later on the 3rd June when it was staged by James Silvain at Drury Lane Theatre. Paquita 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 Saint 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.
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. Another version staged in the west 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 version, but that has yet to be confirmed.
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, the only piece of Paquita that was performed across the world was the Grand Pas Classique, staged in various revivals by various choreographers. 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.
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 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.
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 Saint Petersburg Imperial Theatres at the time. These new pieces were the following – the Pas de trois for the first act and the Mazurka des enfants and the Grand Pas Classique 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. Minkus actually arranged the Pas de trois from various music numbers composed by Deldevez, Cesare Pugni and Adolphe Adam and only composed the coda.
- Entrée – the entrée from a pas de deux in Act 2 of Mazilier’s original production of Paquita composed by Deldevez
- Solo for two dancers – from Pugni’s score for The Naiad and the Fisherman
- Variation I – from Deldevez’s original pas de deux in Act 2
- Variation II – from a pas de trois composed by Deldevez for Act 1 of Paquita
- Variation III – by Adolphe Adam from his score for Le Diable de Quatre
- Coda – the only piece composed by Minkus
The Grand Pas Classique is the most famous passage from Paquita and is often danced today in gala performances. Perhaps the piece’s most famous and distinct feature is its myriad of variations from different ballets. Petipa’s original staging of the Grand Pas Classique consisted of only one variation for Ekaterina Vazem, a variation for solo violin composed by Minkus, 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 with Matilda Kschessinskaya as Paquita, but it was for the great Enrico Cecchetti’s farewell benefit performance of 1902 at the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre that the tradition really began. Cecchetti was not only a celebrated dancer, but a beloved teacher and every one of the Imperial Ballet’s leading ballerinas wanted to participate in the gala to pay him homage. It was decided that in the Grand Pas Classique, they should dance their favourite variations from various works 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 one of the many pieces from her Imperial Ballet repertoire that Anna Pavlova added to her company’s repertoire and performed many times across the world. It was one of the pieces that she performed in 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.
- 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