This page is partially completed,
with information about the Stars of Petipa's first production.
There will be future pages added for the Stars of subsequent
productions. Check back!
THE STARS OF THE SHOW
Pierina Legnani (1863-1930)
La Legnani was a student of Caterina Beretta
in Milan, Italy where she had been born on September 30, 1863
and where she was to die on November 15, 1930. In 1890, she was
appearing to great acclaim in ballets at the Alhambra Theatre
in London, which specialized in a sort of vaudeville/spectacular/pantomime
ballet, then returned to Italy where she was appointed prima
ballerina of the Teatro alla Scala in her beloved Milan. She
was a part of the Italian "invasion" of the Russian
ballet in the 1890s, which introduced great technical brilliance
and virtuosity to the elegant, but rather staid tradition of
the Imperial Theaters up to that time.
She was hired by the Maryinsky
Theater in 1893 to assume the previously unheard-of rank of prima
ballerina assoluta. While no stunning beauty, and somewhat faulted
for her "lack of sensuality", her technique in both
legato and allegro parts was phenomenal, and her technical tricks,
enabled by her unsuspected strength, often drove audiences to
a frenzy. In the coda of the Black Swan
pas de deux in Act III of Swan Lake, she not only performed
two whipping turns called fouettes while remaining in one single
spot (legend had it that one could chalk a circle on the floor
around a ruble coin, and she could perform her turns with the
point of her toe never moving outside of that circle), but after
only sixteen bars, resume, at a galloping tempo, with thirty-two
echappes releves traveling the center line of the stage. She
was also possessed of a pleasant offstage personality, and was
very popular in St. Petersburg society.
Her last performance was in the
Minkus/Petipa ballet La Camargo on January 28, 1901.
She retired to Italy, where she lived in a villa at Lake Como,
but served as an examiner for La Scala Ballet School until shortly
before her death.
PAVEL ANDREEVICH GERDT aka Paul Friedrich Gerdt (1844 - 1917)
Gerdt had been born in Volynkino, Russia on
November 22 (Julian calendar)/December 4 (Gregorian calendar)
1844. He died in Vamaljoki, Finland on July 30 (Julian)/August
12 (Gregorian). He had been a student of both Jean Petipa and
his son Marius at the St. Petersburg Theater School, where he
also studied with Christian Johannson.
Gerdt was the premier danseur of
the Maryinsky Theater when Swan Lake was scheduled for
production. He had an established record of success in the Tchaikovsky
ballets, having created Prince Desire' in Sleeping Beauty,
and Prince Coqueluche (the Sugar Plum Fairy's cavalier) in The
Nutcracker, and so he became a natural choice for the romantic
lead in the new work, although he was over twice the age of the
character he was portraying.
Gerdt was particularly noted for
the expressive quality of his acting, and he remained very good-looking,
by the then-standards of masculine pulchritude, right up until
his retirement from leading men's roles in 1901. He was a distinguished
teacher at the St. Petersburg school where he had studied, and
taught Anna Pavlova, Agrippina Vaganova and Michel Fokine, among
many others. He also assisted Lev Ivanov in staging Delibes'
Sylvia and finished it when Ivanov died.
Gerdt continued to perform in character
parts until shortly before his death. His daughter Elizaveta
carried on the "family business", teaching and coaching
until her death in 1975.