LEV IVANOVICH IVANOV (1834-1901)
Ivanov was the illegitimate child born February
18th (Julian)/March 2nd(Gregorian) to Thio Adamova and a wealthy
merchant, who acknowledged his parentage, and at least gave his
son exposure to the theater in childhood. Young Lev was enchanted
with ballet, and was sent into the Imperial Theater School in
St. Petersburg to study, thus ending his years in orphanage schools.
While in school, Ivanov and his classmates
were permitted to observe rehearsals conducted by Jules Perrot.
Ivanov was the student of Jean Petipa, the father of Marius.
Upon being admitted to the St. Petersburg Grand (Bolshoi) Theater
as a dancer, Ivanov was selected by leading ballerinas Elena
Andreyanova and Tatiana Smirnova to dance leading roles in works
in which they performed. At the age of 24, he also began teaching
junior girls' classes at the Imperial Theater School. He married
dancer Vera Liadova in 1858. The marriage was very unhappy, and
after a separation, Liadova died. Ivanov remarried, this time
to Varvara Malchugina.
Lev Ivanov made a great name for himself as
a pantomimist and "leading man" type dance-actor. His
performances of Ernest in Petipa's ballet Florida, and later
Conrad in Le Corsaire, and Solor in La Bayadere
established his reputation. He ceased attending classes, however,
and found himself replaced by Pavel Gerdt. Ivanov also acquired
a reputation as a heavy drinker, a remarkable notoriety in a
hard-drinking country in a hard-drinking time.
The Polovtsian Dances in the Borodin opera
Prince Igor were assigned to him in 1890, and his setting of
this divertissement was later edited, sharpened and pointed by
Michel Fokine for his famed 1909 staging.
Petipa appointed Ivanov his regisseur in 1882
promoted him to balletmaster en seconde in 1885. His prodigious
memory assisted his principal in staging revivals, and he attained
a reputation as a sort of "walking reference book,"
to quote one critic. Ivanov's approach to choreography proceeded
directly from music, and was a forerunner of the musical approaches
of both Balanchine and Massine. He often rejected simple symmetry
in his composition in order to add excitement and visual variety
to his stage picture. His choreography to The Nutcracker
will be examined under that heading.
Ivanov was assigned to stage Act II Swan
Lake for the Tchaikovsky Memorial Concert on February 17/29,
1894. Petipa had started some choreographic sketches, mostly
for Acts I & III, but no sketches dating from this time for
Acts II & IV exist. Petipa was heavily involved in reviving
the ballet Le Reveil de Flore, and assigned the choreography
of Act II to Ivanov, perhaps after talking and blocking out in
private, or perhaps it is indeed all Ivanov's work. At any rate,
the ballet was a success, and when the full work was presented,
contemporary periodicals seem to have recognized that Ivanov
had done considerable of his own work in the staging.
Ivanov continued on in his unassuming way
after the success of Swan Lake, and George Balanchine
was later to recall an "urban legend" of the earlier
balletmaster's staging of The Magic Flute. Ivanov had
not insisted on sufficient rehearsal time to choreograph all
of the ballet, and one scene was a ballabile where everyone was
to dance uncontrollably to the title flute's music - provided
by Drigo, by the way. They were at dress rehearsal, and the pas
had not yet been set; Ivanov just went far downstage and said,
"All right, now, everybody dance!" Then went about,
dodging and weaving through the madly improvising dancers here,
arranging there, suggesting a step in another place, and staged
the most hilarious chaos - just as the plot demanded.
Ivanov undertook a staging of Delibes' Sylvia
for premiere in 1901, but grew ill, and continued to fail, leaving
his assistant Pavel Gerdt to finish the ballet for him. He died
December 1/24, 1901 in St. Petersburg.