Ballet comique in one act
Music by Cesare Pugni
Libretto by Marius Petipa
5th May [O.S. 23rd April] 1859
Imperial Bolshoi Kamenny Theatre, Saint Petersburg
Original 1859 Cast
The Marquis Megrèle
29th May 1861
Théâtre Impériale de l’Opèra
Original 1861 Cast
Première of Petipa’s final revival
20th January [O.S. 8th January] 1895
Imperial Mariinsky Theatre
Original 1895 Cast
The Marquis Megrèle
Every day, Lizetta, the most beautiful girl in the Parisian market, receives letters and gifts from her admirers, but her heart belongs only to Simon, the young market trader. The Marquis Megrèle happens to visit the market and also falls in love with her. When Georgetta, the Marquis’s mistress, accuses Lizetta of trying to seduce him, Lizetta tries to convince her of her love for Simon. Poverty is the only thing that prevents them from marrying. Feeling pity for the lovers, Georgetta decides to help them. She uses subterfuge to obtain the Marquis’s purse full of coins and gives it to a delighted Lizetta, who finally starts to plan her marriage to Simon.
The Parisian Market (Le Marché de parisien) was the first ballet that Petipa created for his wife Maria Surovshchikova-Petipa. The libretto for the new ballet was an adaptation of a French comédie-vaudeville by Emmanuel Théaulon entitled The Countess of the Wine Barrel, or The Two Cousins, which was staged at the Mikhailovsky Theatre. This new ballet came at a pivotal time for the Petipa couple; both husband’s and wife’s careers were rising and a new ballet that showcased their respective talents would further put them on the map. The Parisian Market premièred on the 5th May [O.S. 23rd April] 1859 at the Imperial Bolshoi Kamenny Theatre. However, the ballet received much criticism for its weaknesses, but Maria’s performance was unanimously hailed, with the Sankt-Peterburgskie vedomosti singling out her character dances, and Petipa’s choreography was also hailed. Despite its failings, The Parisian Market would play a significant role in Petipa’s career as this would be the one of his works that gained his choreography attraction from outside Russia and also gained his wife international fame.
In 1861, the Petipas were granted permission by Andrei Saburov, the Director of the Imperial Theatre, to take three months of leave from Saint Petersburg to travel to Paris, where Petipa would stage The Parisian Market. After their arrival in the French capital, the Petipas sought permission from the Court Minister for Maria to dance in The Parisian Market at the Paris Opéra. Their request was successful and Maria was commissioned to dance in six performances of The Parisian Market at the Paris Opéra. For its Parisian première, Petipa staged the ballet under a different title, Le Marché des innocents and changed the names of the lead roles from Lizetta to Gloriette and Simon to Lindor. Le Marché des innocents made its Parisian première on the 29th May 1861, with Emperor Napoleon III and Empress Eugénie attending the performance. The première was a huge success, with Maria Petipa captivating the Parisian audience, receiving enthusiastic ovations and numerous curtain calls from the public and the Emperor and Empress.
Première in Riga and Berlin
In his memoirs, Petipa writes that he and Maria first performed in Riga and then in Berlin on the way to Paris in 1861. While he is correct that they did make a tour to Riga and Berlin, he dates the wrong year; the tour to Riga and Berlin actually took place in 1863. At that time, it was difficult for many dancers to perform in Berlin since the Ballet Master of the Royal Theatre at the time was Paul Taglioni, son of Filippo Taglioni and brother of Marie Taglioni. Taglioni was notorious for letting no one, but his daughter Marie (not the famous Marie Taglioni, but her niece, also called Marie) dance on his theatre’s stage. For Petipa and his wife, however, the matter proved to not be so difficult when Petipa visited the Court Minister to ask for permission for his wife to dance at the Royal Theatre.
Petipa gives the following account of these events in his memoirs:
I knew by hearsay that it was difficult for any ballerina to appear on the Berlin stage, where the ballet master was the father of the famous dancer [Marie] Taglioni. He would not admit any young artist within a cannon shot of the Royal Theatre, where his no longer young daughter had long ruled, dancing the principal roles in all ballets created and staged by old [Filippo] Taglioni. Such an attitude is not peculiar to any one theatre, and on the Saint Petersburg stage, too, such things happen quite often.
Nevertheless, we decided to try our luck, and my wife and I went to see the Court Minister, who received us more than amiably. I asked him to permit my wife to give a few performances on the stage of the Royal Theatre.
‘I would be delighted, M. Petipa; we would all like to grant your request, but our ballet master, M. Taglioni, does not let anyone dance except his daughter.’
Then I took a letter out of my pocket, and handed it to the Minister. It was a letter which had been given to me by His Highness Prince Oldenburg, who had ordered it to be presented, through the Court Minister, to King Wilhelm.
‘Well, this is a different matter,’ the Minister told us, skimming the letter, ‘Under these circumstances, your wife will be able to dance on our stage.’
We left our address with the Court Minister, and on the following morning we were honoured by a visit by from the Director of the Royal Theatre, Hultzen, who had received orders to inform us that my wife would be permitted to give six performances of The Parisian Market. From the first performance to the fifth, the enthusiasm of the public increased, and, after the last, the whole audience shouted: ‘Stay! Stay longer!’
In light of their enormous success in Berlin, the Petipas were commissioned by Kaiser Wilhelm I, himself, to give six more performances at the Royal Theatre. After the sixth performance of the second series, the Kaiser sent valuable gifts to the Petipas – a diamond bracelet for Maria and a gold snuff-box with diamonds for Petipa.
The Parisian Market was first staged in Moscow on the 15th January [O.S. 3rd January] 1868. Thirty years after its successful débuts in Europe, the ballet was revived twice in Saint Petersburg. The first revival was by Lev Ivanov that was staged for the summer season at Krasnoe Selo on the 18th July [O.S. 6th July] 1892. Two years later, Petipa revived the ballet for the farewell benefit performance of Maria Anderson, who had been forced into retirement after the horrific accident in which she had been badly burned. Although her career had come to an abrupt end, she clearly recovered enough from her injuries to give one last performance in the role of Lizetta. Petipa’s final revival of The Parisian Market premièred at the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre on the 20th January [O.S. 8th January] 1895. For this occasion, the role of Lizetta may have been staged as a purely mimed role or was split into two parts, with Anderson performing all the mime and an additional ballerina performing the dances.
Perrot vs. Petipa plagiarism case
During the Petipas’ tour in Paris, a famous incident occurred involving Petipa and fellow Frenchman Jules Perrot.
Among the items that Petipa had brought with him to Paris was the music and orchestrations for a pas created by Perrot and Cesare Pugni for the Saint Petersburg production of Perrot’s ballet Gazelda. The pas in question was a set of national dances entitled La Cosmopolitana. When the Director of the Paris Opèra, Alphonse Royer, granted Mme. Petipa a benefit performance, Petipa thought that it would be more than suitable for his wife to dance this pas by Perrot. Petipa visited Perrot, with whom he was on the friendliest of terms, and asked him for permission for Mme. Petipa to dance the La Cosmopolitana pas. However, Perrot denied Petipa’s request, giving his frustration with the Paris Opéra Directorate as his reason, but Petipa said it was a personal request from him. Perrot remained adamant, but the irritated Petipa, nevertheless insisted that his wife would dance the pas.
In his memoirs, Petipa writes the following account of when he asked Perrot for permission for Mme. Petipa to dance the pas from Gazelda:
I was on a very friendly footing with Perrot, and certainly did not think he would object to the performance of this pas by my wife, in Paris. I went to see him, and asked him to permit my wife to dance his pas at her benefit.
‘No, my friend, I cannot consent!’
Such an answer disconcerted me. ‘How? Why?’
‘Because the Director here, and all the others too, have not been at all kind to me.’
‘But, indeed, it is not the Director who is asking this, but a friend of yours.’
‘It’s all the same. I will not permit it; no, no, and no!’
‘As you wish, my friend, but my wife will dance the pas all the same, in spite of your prohibition. Good-bye!’
I would only have had to alter the name of the dance, and make a few changes in it, for the work to lose all similarity to Perrot’s pas, so that my wife would dance it at her benefit. But from the very beginning of my career until the last days, I honestly gave credit to the works of others, and never appropriated the creations of other ballet masters, as is now freely practised in Saint Petersburg and Moscow, with my works. I considered it my duty to announce on the poster: ‘Mme Petipa’s dance created by Perrot.’
Petipa changed the title of the pas to La Cosmopolite and changed some of the steps. In the days that followed Petipa’s meeting with Perrot, the poster for Mme. Petipa’s benefit performance was unveiled, stating that she would dance Perrot’s La Cosmopolite Pas in Le Marché des innocents. Two days before the performance, Perrot’s lawyer visited the Director Royer and informed him that unless La Cosmopolite was removed, he would have to get an injunction against the performance. Royer, however, refused, stating that it was now too late to change the announcement.
Mme. Petipa’s benefit performance was held on the 6th August 1861 and was a colossal success. The ballerina received numerous bouquets and wreaths during the ovations, which according to Petipa, was rarely done at the Paris Theatres. The Petipas earned as much as 18,000 francs in that single evening, which was sour for Perrot, who was in need of money.
Subsequently, Perrot instituted legal proceedings against Petipa and the matter was taken to court. This was perhaps the first case in dance history in which one choreographer accused another of choreographic plagiarism. However, Petipa’s action were never plagiarism since Perrot received full credit for the pas in the performance programme. As clarified by Ivor Guest, there is a lot of text concerning how justice looked at the case, scenario wise (which was not appropriate to only a short dance), there were no groupings, no words as in poetry, et al.
Arthur Saint-Leon then put in a declaration. Having seen the dance, he claimed Perrot’s and Petipa’s to be identical. Of course, he had reason to dispose of Petipa. Then plagiarism was checked through the music too, but Pugni had given Petipa consent to use any music of his as he wished. Petipa hired an expensive lawyer who based his case on the copyright treaty between France and Russia, and made the observation that Perrot, himself, had dirty hands in this department, having presented in Saint Petersburg works such as La Fille de Marbre under his name, something that Petipa did not do. Petipa must have pointed out this evidence to his lawyer.
In the end, the judge, M. Benoit Champy was in favour of Perrot, on the base that “his pas composed of national dances of various countries, but combined in such a way that it forms a particular and distinct composition constitutes an intellectual work protected by the law of literary and artistic property.” He declared the treaty plea of no validity, since the dance, though created in Russia, was done by a Frenchman and the court therefore had jurisdiction. However, the judge thought the dispute to be of minor importance, and put Perrot’s loss at the meagre sum of 300 francs, not the 10,000 he had bargained for.
As stated by Ivor Guest, whatever the technicalities of this unprecedented case posed to the judge and the forthcoming arguably mistake, Petipa, though not seen in one of his finer moments here, cannot be accused of plagiarism, since he credited Perrot in the programme. Perrot, also not too nice, might have acted to get some money out of it.
- 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)
- Guest, Ivor (1953) The Ballet of the Second Empire. Middletown, Connectivut, US: Pitman & Wesleyan
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.