The Awakening of Flora

Ballet anacréontique in 1 act
Music by Riccardo Drigo

World Première
6th August [O.S. 25th July] 1894
Peterhof Palace, St Petersburg

Imperial Mariinsky Theatre Première
14th January [O.S. 2nd January] 1895

Original 1894/95 Cast
Flora, the Goddess of the Spring
Matilda Kschessinskaya

Zephyr, the God of the West Wind
Nikolai Legat

Diana, the Goddess of the Moon
Olga Leonova

Aquilon, the God of the North Wind
Alexander Gorsky

Aurora, the Goddess of the Dawn
Anna Johansson

Apollo, the God of the Sun
Pavel Gerdt

Cupid, the God of Love
Vera Trefilova

Mercury, the Messenger of the Gods
Sergei Legat

Hebe, the Goddess of Youth
Claudia Kulichevskaya

Plot
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 Spring.

According to the Roman poet, Ovid, Flora was originally a Greek nymph called Chloris. The myth says that 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 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 Spring and Flowers.

The ballet is an anacreontic in which the Roman gods and goddesses come together to celebrate Flora’s rise to immortality.

Flora and Zephyrus (1875)
Flora and Zephyrus by William Adolphe Bouguereau (1875)

History
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, to the Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich on the 6th August [O.S. 25th July] 1894. 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. This performance 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 an accident that occurred during a rehearsal for Cinderella, in which her costume caught alight on an ironing device.

Matilda Kschessinska as Flora and Vera Terfilova as Cupid (1894)
Matilda Kschessinska as Flora and Vera Trefilova as Cupid (1894)

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 St 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.

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. In 2007, Sergei Vikharev mounted a reconstruction of The Awakening of Flora for the Mariinsky Ballet. The reconstruction premièred on the 12th April 2007 at the Mariinsky Theatre as part of the VIIth International Ballet Festival. Unlike Vikharev’s previous reconstruction of The Sleeping Beauty and his production of La Bayadère, his reconstruction of The Awakening of Flora was met with success in St 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 during their annual graduation performances.

Anna Pavlova as Flora and Mikhail Fokine as Apollo (ca. 1900)
Anna Pavlova as Flora and Mikhail Fokine as Apollo (ca. 1900)

Did you know?

  • Due to the revivals of Greek and Roman mythology in classical times, three of the gods and goddesses in The Awakening of Flora are erroneously credited with the incorrect names and/or identities:
    • The Roman God of the West Wind was called Favonius; Zephyrus was the name of the Greek God.
    • The God of the Sun and rider of the Sun chariot was Sol/Helios, not Apollo. Apollo was the God of the arts, music, poetry, prophecy, oracles, plague, healing and medicine.
    • The Goddess of the Moon was Luna/Selene, not Diana. Diana was the Roman Goddess of the Hunt, Virginity and Childbirth; her Greek counterpart was Artemis.
  • At some point after the 1894 première, Riccardo Drigo composed and added two new variations to The Awakening of Flora – one for 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, 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, it became one of her favourites. In 1914, Pavlova utilised Drigo’s score for The Awakening of Flora to create a 30-minute abridgement of the full-length ballet for her company. In 1974, the great Australian conductor, Richard Bonygne conducted this abridged edition of Drigo’s score 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.
  • 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.”
Anna Pavlova as Flora (1900)
Anna Pavlova as Flora (1900)

 

Sources

  • 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