Marie Taglioni Charms Russia

 

     Marie Taglioni's arrival in Russia in 1837 was impatiently awaited by the press and the public. A special brochure called The Biography of Marie Taglioni was distributed in St. Petersburg, and the Literary Supplement to the gazette Russian Veteran published a biographical article about her. For her first appearance in her showcase ballet La Sylphide at the St. Petersburg Bolshoi Theatre, the hall was filled beyond capacity.
     Performances of La Sylphide in Russia were followed by a spectrum of works set on her, anew. These were the ballets La Fille du Danube, L'Ombre, L'Ecuneur des Mers and Gerta-the Queen of the Elfrides.
     Marie Taglioni came to St. Petersburg with her greatest triumphs as a dancer already behind her, including the success of La Sylphide. Her conquest of Europe was widely recognized, and she had captured the attention of her great contemporaries Theophile Gautier, Victor Hugo and others.
     Nevertheless, Taglioni's arrival in St. Petersburg generated uncommon excitement in Russian society. Her name appeared constantly in the pages of the local press. Russian dancers of the same period were continually compared to her. Russian wrote to one another about her in their private correspondence. After a short time, Russian even began to consider her their own. Critics referred to «our» Taglioni, as did the public.
     This enthusiasm can be easily explained. The essence of her art coincided with the mood pervasive in Russian society during those years. The ballerina reminded the Russian audience of their romantic spirit, hopes and longings.
     «All that romantic poetry, painting and music could express, Taglioni could express in her dancing,» wrote well-known Soviet ballet critic Lubov Blok in the 1930's. Taglioni's Sylphide penetrated and brought to the forefront the tragic disparity between dreams and reality. Not only was the ballet capable of expressing a theme - characteristic of romantic art - but also of materializing the world of dreams, reincarnated in the image of La Sylphide.
     The art of Taglioni took the ballet theatre to new heights. «For the first time in history, the individual dancer had embodied the most advanced ideas of the art of its time. Taglioni was raised to the rank of the poet, the composer, the painter...» Blok wrote,
                                            
underscoring how the expressive potential of dance had been realized.
 
by Natalia Godzina
This article first appeared in «Sovietsky Balet», issue No.2, 1984
 
The Tour That Never Was
     During her five Russian seasons Marie Taglioni did not appear once in Moscow. But negotiations about her tour of the old capital (Moscow) were vigorously conducted. Letters written by Marie Taglioni from St. Petersburg tell the story of the tour to Moscow that never took place.
     N.Soloviov, author of the book on Taglioni published in St. Petersburg in 1912, printed her letter of September 23, 1838 to the Director of the Moscow Imperial Theatres, Mikhail Zagoskin. In this letter she writes, «I was asked, in person, to give several performances in Moscow. This was done with such warmth and kindness that I could not refuse. Of course, my desire to see this large and beautiful city contributed in no small way to my decision to undertake this journey...»
     Setting forth her conditions for the Moscow tour, Taglioni finished the letter with the following words:
     «I would like very much to meet you face to face if, of course, you allow me to do this. This will be done when my desire to see Moscow, a very strong desire within me, takes me to your capital. Indeed I have found Russia to be a new homeland. This, coupled with a curiosity about the city and the Theatre - which has been entrusted into your enlightened care and about which so much is talked in St. Petersburg - arouses my wishes to go».
     However, these discussions did not end in success. Four months later, Taglioni sent Zagoskin a long letter that revealed her business savvy. She refused to perform in Moscow because she was not given the terms that she required and expected. The Moscow negotiations, lasting almost until the end of her stay in Russia, clearly did not produce the results desired by all who were involved.

home | balet magazin | top |