Category Imperial Russian Ballet

Marius Petipa – Part III, The Pharoah’s Daughter.

Ballerina Svetlana Zakharova in the ballet “The Pharaoh’s Daughter, circa 2002

at The Bolshoi in Moscow.

“Photo of the ballerina Sofia Fedorova (1879-1963) costumed as the slave Hita with unidentified children in the choreographer Alexander Gorsky’s (1871-1924) revival of the choreographer Marius Petipa (1818-1910) and the composer Cesare Pugni’s (1902-1870) ballet The Pharaoh’s Daughter.”

“Photographic postcard of Anna Pavlova as the Princess Aspicia in the Petipa/Pugni The Pharaoh’s Daughter, Saint Petersburg, circa 1910. Pavlova performed her celebrated “Glow Worm Dance” in 1915.”

Photo taken at the Bolshoi Theatre Moscow of Anna Pvalova and Mikhail Mordkin circa 1905.

“Photographic postcard of the ballerina Vera Karalli and the danseur Platon Karsavin with unidentified children costumed for the Ballet Master Marius Petipa and the composer Cesare Pugni‘s ballet The Pharaoh’s Daughter. St. Petersburg, Russian Empire.”

During the 1860s, a healthy rivalry developed between Saint-Leon and Petipa, and the beneficiary was the Imperial Ballet. In 1861 Petipa was given six weeks to stage a benefit performance for the retiring ballerina, Carolina Rosati. During a sojourn in Paris, Petipa had acquired a scenario from the dramatist, Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges for a ballet, ‘The Pharoah’s Daughter’, inspired by Theophile Gautier’s novel, ‘Le Roman de la Momie’. Throughout the Victorian Era, Europe was fascinated by the culture of ancient Egypt. There has been a revival of this ballet so it is possible to see some film:

Mikhail Mordkin in the ballet “The Pharoah’s Daughter”, St. Petersburg, 1900.

The clip loses the sound halfway through- but watch the foot work anyway. One can see the Bournonville influence. The male dancer is excellent. The choreography is unusual in the extent to which it uses variations of battement foot work. It incorporates the battements into turns as well. The coup de pied position is frequently used, as well as variations of ronde de jambe en l’air. Pierre Lacotte recreated a version for the Bolshoi in 2000. This is what you basically see in the clips. His version included only three reconstructed dances from the Petipa original, from the Grand Pas d’action Act II. The Sergeyev Collection housed with the Harvard University Theater Collection contains choreographic notation from Petipa’s 1898 production for Mathilde Kschessinskaya. Petipa’s notation is for the principal roles, while the choreography for the corps de ballet and the action sequences is only vaguely expressed.

‘The Pharaoh’s Daughter PDD (variation, coda of Act II) Comment: The dancers are Svetlana Zakharova and Serguei Filin.

Premier of ‘Pharoah’s Daughter- Grand pas des fleuves-1/2’

Pharoah’s Daughter-Osipova’  ‘Natalia Osipova, Dmitri Gudanov-La Fille du Pharaon’.

Marius Petipa Part II and The Rose, The violet and The Butterfly.

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…

Arthur Saint-Leon

Natalia Osipova and The Kingdom of The Shadows

In the 1880s Petipa staged revivals of older works such as Mazilier’s Le Corsaire. La Bayadere was originally staged in four acts and seven tableaux by Petipa to the music of Ludwig Minkus. It was first performed by The Imperial Ballet in St.Petersburg.

The Kingdom of The Shadows is one of the most celebrated moments in classical ballet and is considered one of the first examples of “abstract ballet”.