Ballet anacréontique in one act
Music by Riccardo Drigo
6th August [O.S. 25th July] 1894
Peterhof Palace, Saint Petersburg
Imperial Mariinsky Theatre Première
14th January [O.S. 2nd January] 1895
Original 1894/95 Cast
Chloris/Flora, the Goddess of the Flowers
Zephyrus, the God of the West Wind
Selene, the Goddess of the Moon
Boreas, the God of the North Wind
Eos, the Goddess of the Dawn
Helios, the God of the Sun
Eros, the God of Love
Hermes, the Messenger of the Gods
Hebe, the Goddess of Youth
Watched over by Selene, the nymph Chloris, the new bride of Zephyrus, is sleeping with her fellow nymphs. At the approach of Boreas, however, she awakens from the cold. Chloris begs Eos for help. Eos comforts Chloris and announces that Helios will appear and put an end to her sufferings. With the appearance of the sun god, everything comes alive. Enchanted by the beauty of the nymph, Helios kisses Chloris. At the summons of the sun god, Zephyrus, Chloris’s new husband, flies into the arms of his beloved. Hermes announces the arrival of Ganymede and Hebe, who bring Chloris and Zephyrus a cup of nectar and declare that Zeus is granting them eternal youth and Chloris immortality. The wife of Zephyrus is no longer the nymph Chloris – she is now Flora, the Goddess of the Flowers. Olympus is revealed and the gods appear – Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Hephaestus, Athena, Demeter, Ares, Hades, Persephone and Aphrodite.
The Awakening of Flora is a one-act ballet anacréontique that is based on the Ancient Greco-Roman myth of Flora, the Goddess of the Flowers. The ballet is an Anacreontic, which means it is meant to have a Greek subject, but Petipa inaccurately used the Roman gods instead of the Greek gods, the same inaccuracy that is to be found in Le Roi Candaule. The reason for Petipa’s inaccuracies in Greco-Roman mythology is unclear, but the Petipa Society has corrected this error, so the ballet remains somewhat faithful to the famous myth on which it is based as told by the Roman poet Ovid.
According to the myth, Flora was originally a Greek nymph called Chloris. One day, Chloris was wandering in a field when Zephyrus, the God of the West Wind saw her and fell in love with her. He then abducted the nymph and married her. As proof of his love, Zephyrus granted his new bride with the power to rule the flowers, plants, trees and orchards, thus Chloris became Flora, the Goddess of the Flowers.
The Awakening of Flora was created and staged as part of the celebrations at Peterhof Palace for the wedding of the Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna, daughter of Tsar Alexander III, and the Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich on the 6th August [O.S. 25th July] 1894. Originally, Petipa and Drigo were creating a new ballet entitled Le Bal champêtre for the summer season of that year, the producing of which was announced on the 28th April [O.S. 6th April] 1894 in the newspaper The New Time. On the 8th May [O.S. 26th April], however, the newspaper announced that the new ballet for the Peterhof summer season was now called The Awakening of Flora. It seems that The Awakening of Flora was reformulated from Le Bal champêtre, perhaps when it was announced that it would be performed as a ballet for an Imperial wedding. The gala for the Imperial Wedding included The Awakening of Flora and the second act of Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet. The ballet was later transferred to the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre, where it had its Imperial Theatre première on the 14th January [O.S. 2nd January] 1895 with the original cast members from the Peterhof première. The Imperial Theatre première of The Awakening of Flora was part of a farewell benefit performance for the ballerina Maria Anderson, who had sadly been forced into early retirement after sustaining burn injuries in a horrific accident that occurred during a rehearsal for Cinderella, in which her costume caught alight on an ironing device.
In the original theatre programme, the choreography for The Awakening of Flora was erroneously credited as having been a joint effort between Petipa and Lev Ivanov. When a review in the Saint Petersburg Gazette also credited the choreography to both Petipa and Ivanov, Petipa responded to this matter with the following letter to correct the newspaper:
In no. 201 of your much respected newspaper, a not fully accurate communication was reported about the production of the ballet Le Réveil de Flore. The programme of the ballet was created by L. I. Ivanov and me together, (but) the production of the dances and the mise-en-scène belong exclusively to me; Mr. L. I. Ivanov had no part in them.
After the outbreak of the Russian Revolution, The Awakening of Flora was performed for the final time by the Imperial Ballet in 1919. The ballet was introduced to the west by Anna Pavlova when, in 1914, she utilised Drigo’s score to create a 30-minute abridgement of the full-length ballet for her company that was choreographed by Ivan Clustine. Pavlova’s staging of The Awakening of Flora enjoyed a very successful première in London on the 12th October 1914 and among those who attended the première was Queen Alexandra of Denmark, Queen consort of the United Kingdom and wife of Edward VII. In 1974, the Australian conductor, Richard Bonygne conducted the music for Pavlova’s abridged edition for his LP Homage to Pavlova, performed by the London Symphony Orchestra. To date, this remains the only available recording of any of Drigo’s score for The Awakening of Flora.
Following the development of the Stepanov notation system, The Awakening of Flora became one of the first ballets to be notated in this new method. It was notated shortly after its 1894 première and is part of the Sergeyev Collection.
After an eighty-eight year absence, The Awakening of Flora returned to the stage in 2007 when Sergei Vikharev mounted a reconstruction for the Mariinsky Ballet. The reconstruction premièred on the 12th April 2007 at the Mariinsky Theatre as part of the VII International Ballet Festival. Unlike Vikharev’s reconstruction of The Sleeping Beauty and his production of La Bayadère, his reconstruction of The Awakening of Flora was a success in Saint Petersburg and even won the 2007 Golden Mask Award.
In 2004, Yuri Burlaka utilised five pieces taken from Drigo’s score for The Awakening of Flora to create an abstract pas de quatre inspired by the full-length ballet. He also utilised two supplemental pieces that Drigo composed for Le Roi Candaule and The Vestal. The piece was entitled the Rose Pas de quatre and features the goddesses Flora, Aurora, Diana and Hebe. The pas de quatre was originally created for a workshop held at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy and was later transferred to the Bolshoi Ballet repertoire. In 2008, Burlaka included his Rose Pas de quatre in a Russian ballet gala The Golden Age of Russian Ballet, which was arranged for the school of the State Ballet of Chelyabinsk. It has since been performed by students of the Vaganova Academy for their annual graduation performances.
Did you know?
- At some point after the 1894 première, Riccardo Drigo composed and added two new variations to The Awakening of Flora – one for Eos/Aurora, the Goddess of the Dawn and the other for Hebe, the Goddess of Youth. Despite the fact that both these variations are notated, Sergei Vikharev did not reconstruct them for his 2007 reconstruction. However, the music for both variations appear today in other ballet pieces:
- The Viennese-waltz variation for the goddess, Eos/Aurora is often used as one of the so-called “bridesmaids variations” in the Don Quixote Pas de deux. It was Alexander Gorsky who added this variation to the Grand Pas de deux in his 1902 revival of Don Quixote. This variation also appears in American Ballet Theatre’s production of Le Corsaire as the variation for Medora in Le Jardin Animé.
- The pizzicato variation for the goddess, Hebe is used by Yuri Burlaka in his Rose Pas de quatre. However, instead of retaining this piece as the Variation of Hebe, Burlaka uses it as a variation for Aurora.
- The role of Flora was the first lead role that Anna Pavlova danced in her professional career. She made her début as Flora when she was 19 years old at the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre on the 10th September 1900 and despite the role being quite a technical challenge for her, her debut was a success and the role became one of her favourites.
- One year after Tamara Karsavina’s promising début in Le Roi Candaule, Petipa’s enthusiasm about her began to fade. After she attempted the role of Flora, Petipa wrote in his diaries on the 28th April 1904: “In the evening The Awakening of Flora was given. Mme Karsavina danced badly. Despite that there were bouquets and flower baskets.”
- Petipa, Marius, The Diaries of Marius Petipa. Translated ed. and introduction by Lynn Garafola. Published in Studies in Dance History 3.1. (Spring 1992)
- Kschessinskaya, Matilda, H.S.H. The Princess Romanovsky-Krassinsky (1960) Dancing in Petersburg: the Memoirs of Mathilde Kschessinskaya. Alton, Hampshire: Dance Books Ltd
- Naughtin, Matthew (2014) Ballet Music: A Handbook. Lanham, Maryland, US: Rowman & Littefield
- Wiley, Roland John (1997) The Life and Ballets of Lev Ivanov. Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press
- Celebration at Peterhof, Ezhegodnik Imperatorskikh Teatrov. St. Petersburg Imperial Theatres, 426-9. 1894
- Manchester, P. W. Liner note for the LP record “Homage to Pavlova” (CSA 2232). Decca Records, 1974
- Mariinsky Ballet: Souvenir program for the reconstruction of The Awakening of Flora. Mariinsky Theatre, 2007