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
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 created and staged for the Paris Opera Ballet by French Ballet Master, Joseph Mazilier to the music of the French composer, Édouard Deldevez. The world première took place on the 1st April 1846, starring Carlotta Grisi as Paquita and Lucien Petipa as Lucien d’Hervilly, and was a tremendous success. The ballet debuted in London two months later on the 3rd June when it was staged by James Silvain at Drury Lane Theatre, with Grisi once again in the titular role.
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 in 1848, 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. This revival was especially significant because it was here that Petipa and Ludwig Minkus created the ballet’s most famous passages – the Pas de trois, the Mazurka des enfants and the Grand Pas Classique.
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.
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, the only piece of Paquita that was performed across the world was the Grand Pas Classique, staged in various revivals by various choreographers. In 1952, Pyotr Gusev staged a new revival of the piece for the Maly/Mikhailovsky Ballet, which was later revived by Oleg Vinogradov for the Kirov/Mariinsky Ballet in 1978. In 1964, Rudolf Nureyev staged the Grand Pas Classique for the Royal Academy of Dance, restaged it for La Scala Ballet in 1970 and again for the Vienna State Opera Ballet and American Ballet Theatre in 1971.
In 1974, the Ballet Master Nikita Dolgushin staged a new revival of the Grand Pas Classique 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 1983, Natalia Makarova staged a new version for American Ballet Theatre, for which the music was arranged by John Lanchberry and in 2008, Yuri Burlaka staged a new revival for the Bolshoi Ballet, which he has since staged for the Vaganova Academy and Yuri Smekalov’s new full-length production of Paquita that was staged for the Mariinsky Ballet in 2017.
It was not until 2001 that the full-length ballet of Paquita made a comeback to the ballet stage. Before then, the full-length ballet had not been performed since the 1920s. It was Pierre Lacotte who restored Paquita to the stage when, in 2001, he was commissioned by the then-director of the Paris Opera Ballet, Brigitte Lefèvre to stage a new full-length production of the ballet. For his version, Lacotte completely rechoreographed the ballet from scratch, making drastic rearrangements to the score and also included his own version of the Grand Pas Classique.
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, with Daria Sukhorukova as Paquita, Tigran Mikayelyan as Lucien d’Hervilly and Cyril Pierre as Iñigo.
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.
- Photo gallery
- Alexei Ratmansky and Doug Fullington’s reconstruction – Photos by Jack Devant©
- Video excerpts from Alexei Ratmansky and Doug Fulling’s reconstruction
- 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
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.