The Library of Nineteenth-Century Photography

Mlle Marie Petipa

Mlle Marie Petipa

A carte-de-visite portrait of Mlle Marie Petipa of the Paris-Opéra. Born Maria Sergueyevna Surovshchikova, the illegitimate daughter of a St. Petersburg milliner, she studied at the Imperial Ballet academy in St Petersburg. After graduating, in 1854 she married Marius Petipa, one of the greatest choreographers of the nineteenth century, and joined the Imperial Bolshoi Kamenny Theatre in St Petersburg. She created many roles in her husband's ballets and was a great success in travestie parts. After her divorce from Marius in 1869 her career as a dancer went downhill and she retired from ballet. She subsequently appeared as an actress playing Pushkin roles at the Alexandrinsky Theatre. In 1882 she died of virulent smallpox at Novocherkassk, on the river Don.

She made her Paris début on 29 May 1861 at the Opéra in Le Marché des Innocents. ‘She is truly Russian.’ wrote one contemporary critic. ‘She aspires neither to the fine classical effects of the French style, nor the warm and powerful fantasy of Italy, nor to a Spanish fury. She is a delightful caprice, ever floating between a heedless folly and a graceful melancholy, a strange mixture resulting from her Slav character.’

The ballet gave rise to two lawsuits. First, René Lordereau, who had translated Marius Petipa's scenario, unsuccessfully sued the management of the Opéra for not having included his name on the bills; and the following year, the courts heard what was probably the first lawsuit concerning the infringement of copyright in choreography, the case of Perrot v. Petipa.

Photographed by A. A. E. Disdéri.


Code: 122080
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© Paul Frecker 2019