Irving Penn (1917-2009), Ballet Society, New York, 1948.
The Dream, a one act-ballet adapted from Shakespeare, was created in 1964 by Frederick Ashton (1904-1988) for the Royal Ballet. Depicted is elegant Oberon, king of the forest fairies, in a later production. The popular music is by Félix Mendelssohn.
With music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) and first performed in 1965, Onegin is one of the most popular story ballets for audiences to watch and for dancers to aspire to perform in. His ballet masterpiece, Onegin was created by John Cranko (1927-1973). The lead roles of Tatiana and Onegin, and Olga and Lensky, are finely drawn characters who tell a story of love and tragedy through a series of intricate and diverse dance sequences.
A staple of The Royal Ballet since its premiere in 1978, Mayerling by principal choreographer and former artistic director Kenneth MacMillan (1929-1992) is a tragic story based on the true story of the murder-suicide of the dissolute crown prince of Austria-Hungary and his mistress. The music is by Franz Liszt. Appearing in virtually every scene in a three act ballet, the male lead dancer performing with five different ballerinas, is one of the most demanding roles of the ballet stage. Mayerling is the Imperial hunting lodge in the Vienna Woods where the bodies of the pair were discovered on January 30, 1889.
Considered the greatest Italian ballerina of the late nineteenth century, Pierina Legnani (1868-1930) trained at La Scala Theatre Ballet School in Milan and later danced famously throughout Europe, especially in Italy and Russia. at the Imperial Marinsky Theatre in 1896 for the lead role in La Perle, an original production created for Legnani.
Modern production at The Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, Russia. The historic theater of ballet and opera opened in 1860.
Pierina Legnani with Olga Preobrajenska in 1899, two of the greatest ballerinas dancing in the late nineteenth century (1871-1962).
Natalya Bessmertnova and Mikhail Lavrovsky dance the roles of Giselle and Albrecht in Adam’s ballet Giselle. With its premiere at the Paris Opera (Salle Le Peletier) in June 1841, the ballet Giselle was a triumph and immediately staged across Europe. The music is composed by Adolphe Adam (1803-1856) and became the French composer’s most popular and enduring work. Musically Adam introduced the leitmotif, that is, a specific theme for a character who appears on stage in the ballet. The libretto was scored by Théophile Gautier (1811-1872) and Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges (1799-1875) with choreography by Jean Coralli (1779-1854) and Jules Perrot (1810-1892). The story is about two lovers, Giselle and Albrecht. When Giselle discovers that Albrecht is already betrothed to Bathilde she dies of a broken heart at the end of Act I. This leads to the appearance in Act II of a group of otherworldly and potentially mortally dangerous Wilis, a type of young female vampire, intent on revenge for Giselle by securing Albrecht’s destruction.
Paris Opera (Salle Le Peletier) in 1844 by A. Provost, depicted around the time of the premiere of Adolphe Adam’s triumphant ballet Giselle. The opera building, opened in 1820, was completely destroyed by fire in 1873 and replaced in a new location by today’s Palais Garnier.
Opera Le Peletier salle by Gustave Janet (1829-1898) in 1858.
Coppélia is based on Der Sandmann by E.T.A. Hoffmann (1776-1822). The comic ballet was choreographed by Arthur Saint-Léon (1821-1870) to the music of Léo Delibes (1836-1891), with libretto by Charles-Louis-Étienne Nuitter (1828-1899). It premiered in May 1870 and, though it later went on to become one of the most popular works of the Paris Opera Ballet, was interrupted by the start of the Franco-Prussian War and the siege of Paris. Italian ballerina Giuseppina Bozzaccchi (1853-1870) first danced the part of Swanilda. Tragically, the 17-year-old ballerina died from malnutrition directly related to the privations of the siege in November 1870. In this photograph from a 2014 production by the English National Ballet, Shioro Kase dances as Swanilda and Yonah Acosta dances as Franz.