Marius’s arrival in St. Petersburg (1847) was followed in 1849 by that of Jules Perrot , the French Ballet Master (as Premier Maitre de Ballet) with his composer, Cesare Pugni. Aside from dancing principal roles, Petipa helped Perrot to stage revivals of ‘Giselle’ (1850) and ‘Le Corsaire’ (1858). Petipa continued to rework many dances for Perrot’s revivals of older productions.
In 1850 Petipa’s first child was born, Marius Mariusovich (1850-1919). His mother, Marie Therese Bourdin-with whom Petipa had had a brief liason- died five years after the birth of their son. In 1854 Petipa married again,the prima ballerina, Maris Surovchikova, who produced two more children: Marie Mariusovna Petipa 1857-1930) who would become a celebrated dancer, and Jean Mariusovich Petipa (1859-1871). In January 1855, Petipa presented his first original ballet in over six years, a divertissement, ‘L’Etoile de Grenade’.
The work was presented at the palace of the Grand Duchesse Elena Pavlovna, a balletomane and patron of the arts. This was followed by ‘La Rose,la violette et le papillion’ (1857),’Un Mariage sous la Regence’ (1858),’Le Marche des parisien'(1859) ,’Le Dahlia Bleu'(1860) and ‘Terpsichore'(1861).He had choreographed these with his wife in mind.
Mariia Surovshchikova Petipa and her daughter with Petipa, Marie
Vadim Gayevsky writes in ‘Ballet in Russia’:
Petipa’s Choreographic Style
The choreographic style in Petipa’s ballet seems to be devoid of personal features. It seems rather purely academic, with no clear stamp of individuality (as in Perrot’s case). In Petipa’s ballets the overall structure as well as the composition of various dances is subjugated to an established impersonal pattern. We might call it ballet abstracted to a brilliant ideal. Yet, this statement is only partly true, for Petipa’s academic style is multi-faceted and internally fluid. His classical choreographic style absorbed his own artistic experience and the changing aspirations of at least three generations of St. Petersburg ballet artists. Petipa’s greatest role was the one of Conrad in “Corsaire”. He performed it at the St. Petersburg premiere in 1858, and ten years later he chose it for his last appearance on the stage. What sort of role it was and what type of artist Petipa was can be inferred from the concise but eloquent memoirs of E. Vazem, who was partnered by him in that farewell performance. She recalls his masterfully expressive gestures and his exploding passion in the love scene. This bespeaks of a first-rate master of pantomime who casts a hypnotic power over the audience. This was characteristic of the legendary actors of the Romantic Era. Not a word about his dance technique was mentioned. This is understandable, since by the age of 50, Petipa, who had begun his career very early, must have lost by then most of his bravura technique. Besides, the role of Conrad did not demand bravura. As the leader of the Corsairs in the style of those times, Petipa was not expected to dance. His character was to be portrayed by means of expressive gestures. The ballet was first choreographed by Mazilier in Paris. This was one of the last vestiges of the waning Byronic mood which was short-lived in Europe and then disappeared without a trace. In Russia, though, the Byronic influence lingered longer, and Byronic characters remained on stage until Chekhov’s time. In Chekhov’s “Three Sisters”, Captain Solyony is an example of this type. For this reason, the Paris original of “Corsaire” ran for only 10 years, while its St. Petersburg restaging (by Perrot, and then Petipa) lasted for 75 years. The original version of the ballet ended in a scene of shipwreck, sketched by the famous Gustave Dore. This came easily to him, since the scene had been designed in the manner of his engravings for Dante’s “Inferno”. Such infernal shades colored the entire production and matched its main character, Conrad. In the ballet, Conrad is a demonic loner with a “hell-tormented soul”, to use the expression from Lermontov’s “Masquerade” […]
In 1858 Jules Perrot retired to his native France never to return to Russia. It was logical for Petipa, now 41 to turn to choreography. He thought he would succeed Perrot as Maitre de Ballet, and he had learned much from his apprenticeship to Perrot. But the director of the Imperial Theatres awarded the position to the noted French Ballet Master, Arthur Saint-Leon. The only St.Leon ballet to come down to us is ‘Coppelia’.
Petipa Part III Coming Soon…