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Petipa's Talisman

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Could someone please precis the narrative of Petipa's Talisman for me, and explain how the surviving pas de deux fits into the action? I am curious to know what its various stages signify. In my videotape of the piece, the woman wears a ballet paraphrase of the chlamys (a la Symphonic Variations or the RB Sylvia), and the man a ragged and asymmetrical costume. He appears to be rather tempestuous when he enters, but is placated by his partner's deferential arabesques. That enchainement is repeated, with roles reversed, toward the end of the pas de deux. The whole is capped, most unusually for Petipa, though not for Bournonville, with a mirror dance in contrary motion to the music of the entrada. I haven't been able to find out anything about this ballet from my reference books.

Also, could someone please tell me the source of the Carnival in Venice pas de dix. A friend told me it might have been inserted in a Satanella revival, but that he wasn't entirely sure.

Many thanks.

With all good wishes

Rodney Edgecombe

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Thanks for your question, Rodney, and welcome to Ballet Alert! I don't know the answer to this one, but there are at least two people who post her regularly who probably do, and I'm sure you'll get an answer shortly. (I moved your post into Ballet History from Moms and Dads, in case you wondered how it got here. That forum is for parents of ballet students to exchange tips and talk to teachers about their students' progress.)

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I don't know about the context for the "Talisman" pas de deux, but "Carnival of Venice" was a sort of musical comedy where the people danced more than they spoke or sang - and you thought that was just West Side Story! The score was a sort of portmanteau compilation by EVERYBODY. The longest segment of it that survives today is a theme and variations by Jean-Baptiste Arban, which I used to play on the trumpet, and then on the euphonium. (It's easier on the euphonium!) It's really a commedia dell'arte with the standard commedia plot: Handsome Youth with Clever Servant wants to marry Pretty Girl with Grouchy Father. Result: Handsome Youth ends up marrying Pretty Girl by outwitting Grouchy Father and his Bumbling Friends, with the aid of Clever Servant. Boy has Girl, Pop has Money, Servant gets Corps de Ballet. It comes from the era when I think ballet scores must have been in loose-leaf binders, they substituted numbers so freely from one show to another.

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i have never seen or heard of this ballet. in fact, when i saw your topic, rodney, i assumed (and hoped) that it was about a talisman that petipa kept in his pocket - some little treasure that might come up at christie's! how gauche of me. :) i will have a browse in a book or two, but don't really know that i am likely to have this info.

it will be good to have someone at this board from SA, as we hear little from your area, and i know things are very difficult at present. (i recently met dawn weller, who has moved from your territory to mine.)

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Word of the day is chlamys, greek word for cloak.

Comments on Le Talisman I have found:

....the pas de deux from "Le Talisman", a lost ballet of which only this excerpt had lived. It was the creation of Marius Petipa (creator of "The Sleeping Beauty", "The Nutcracker", "Swan Lake", and "La Bayadere" among others) and is a real treat to 19th century ballet fanatic.

...The Talisman pas de Deux is a rarity, a snippet of Petipa that survives where the rest of the ballet is lost. ... this did seem to be music made for dancing, and more interesting than some other 19th century ballet music like Bayadere that survives.

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Cyril Beaumont's "Complete Book of Ballets" (1941) includes a cast list and scenario for THE TALISMAN (pp. 424-429). A sparse choreographic notation of the ballet is preserved in the Sergeev Collection at the Harvard Library, including, I believe, a second notated copy of the pas de deux for Nal and Damayanti. In reviving dance from this collection of notations, I've found that much of the choreography looks like Bournonville. It's a good reminder that the French school was the basis for both the Russian and Danish 19th century ballet schools.

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The pas de deux from the Talisman was danced by the Royal Ballet some time in the 1990s I think - Yoshida and Mukhamedov. I think from your references to costume that it might be this that you have seen ? There were some very attractive costume designs by Elizabeth McGorian, a dancer with the RB.

I don't remember the context other than he was supposed to be a god of the winds or somthing: there was a deliberate cotrast in styles between the boldness of his steps and the extreme delicacy of hers.

I don't know if this was staged specifically for Mukhamedov - maybe The Talisman or excerpts are still performed in Russia ?

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Many thanks for these extremely helpful leads. I shall consult the Beaumont book tomorrow. My tape features Kirov dancers in (I think) a Japanese theatre. I agree with Doug Fullington (I hope I have remembered his name correctly) that there are some Bournonville touches in the choreography--or perhaps the aging Petipa simply drew again on the style of the French ballets he known in his youth, and which Bournonville preserved so faithfully in his own idiom.

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Mel has given a good deal of insight into "Carnival de V"

Doug has said what I would have about the summary in Beaumont of the PETIPA version. However, the later version of LE TALISMAN, the one Nijinsky danced in was not Petipa's staging per se, but a re-staging in '09 by Legat. See the following:

Talisman : Chor: Nikolai Legat; mus: R. Drigo; scen: Orest Allegri; cos: Aleksandr Shervashidze. First perf: St. Petersburg, Maryinsky Theater, Nov 29, 1909.

here the Petipa credits:

Talisman : Chor: Marius Petipa; mus: Riccardo Drigo; lib: K. A. Tarnovsky and Petipa after the fairy play La fille en l'air; scen: Henrykh Levot, Matvei Shishkov and Mikhail Bocharov; cos: Evgenii Ponomarev. First perf: St. Petersburg, Maryinsky Theater, Jan 25, 1889 (O.S.)

apparently the role that Nijinsky assumed, in 1910, that of the original ballet's Zephyr but that Legat renamed as Hurricane, was first danced by E. Cecchetti.

In the later version, Legat's, Nijinsky was costumed (and photographed - see Lincoln Kirstein's NIJINSKY DANCING, among other sources) as a kind a hindu Brahmin - very much the persona he had as Fokine's Favorite Slave in PAVILLON D'ARMIDE - in fact Fokine who danced the role of the Rajah in Legat's TALISMAN found the similarity too close for comfort and was put out by this copycat idea from a ballet of his. (I assume the plot as given in Beaumont was more or less retained by Legat.) One contemp. review of Nijinsky's performing found the stage of the Maryinsky too small for his air-borne dancing, and another expressed real enthusiasm for his expressive mime in performing the role.

As you'll see in the libretto, the Hurricane character is essentially the protector to the goddess who comes to earth and loses her talisman (and her heart) to a mortal. (If alexandra's site here has the capability and the interest I can send a post card from the era of Samuil Andreanov - Balanchine's teacher - in what I take to be the role of the Rajah.)

As you may have learned, the subtitle of LE TALISMAN, was LA FILLE EN L'AIR and Mathilda Felixovna Kshessinska played the leading role of Niriti (she danced the production Nijinsky was part of; the original Niriti in Legat's version was Olga Preobrajenska.) [when my scanner gets set up i could scan a picture of M.F.K. as Niriti or you can look in Shmakov's "Great Russian Dancers" book, in the Kshessinska section, where two photos erroneously captioned as being from PAVILLON are in my opinion really from TALISMAN.

all this to suggest that if any pas de duex lasted into the soviet era it was more likely the Legat version rather than the Petipa, tho' how much Legat retained of the previous Petipa staging I cannot say. So when the Soviet or post-Soviet programs put on LE TALISMAN it's probably in some recension of Legat's ballet as much or more than of Petipa's.

hope this helps.

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Thank you very much indeed for this exhaustive response, rg. I am extremely grateful. I haven't yet got round to consulting Beaumont, but shall do so soon. Do you suppose that Legat revised the Petipa text as extensively as Petipa himself revised, say, the Coralli/Perrot Giselle? I would have thought that he would have been more circumspect with an obvious master. The male choreography in my tape is almost certainly souped up and Sovietized, but the female variation seems to be vintage Petipa.

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rg emailed me two photographs from his collection of The Talisman -- THANK YOU, RG!!

Here's his identification information:

The first is kshessinska as Niriti.

The second is Samuil Andreanov as the Maharajah of Lehore (pinned w/ what i

take the eponymous 'talisman')

[both are educated (?) guesses on part as to identifcation.]

Kschessinska is in this post. Andreanov will be in the next.


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I want to subjoin my grateful thanks to RG for these splendid photographs. The one of MK is absolutely ravishing. I wish contemporary danseuses were as full-bodied as she is; I much prefer the contour of plumpish arms to thin ones, which always a little angular at wrist and elbow.

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:D:dry: These are terrific photos. Thanks, rg and Alexandra. Kchessinska looks beautiful -- I love the slight tilt of her head and softness of her shoulders. But her pointes appear almost to be side-by-side in what I assume is sous-sus. Was this typical of that era?
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Except that these photos were not taken in an moment. The exposure time necessary in very old photos is -- if I remember -- about a minute. I read that many ballet photos around the late 1800s-early 1900s used supports to hold the ballerina in place en pointe during the plate exposure, and that these devices were removed by airbrushing during the processing. Perhaps -- here's an idea -- if she didn't have such a support, she struck a wider foot position in able to hold her balance by herself? :devil:

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Yes, the exposure times in early photography were longer, but by the 1890s, the time was down to about .5 to .25 of a second. What that replaced was the wet plate negative and the salted paper print (1852 & 1860) (an example of which can be seen on the "Who We Are" page of the main Ballet Alert site) which had exposure times of up to 8 or 9 seconds. They in turn replaced the daguerreotype (1849) which was absolutely deadly in more ways than one - an exposure time of a minute in full sun, or 8 or 9 minutes in a studio with a very wide skylight. Obviously there was overlap of technologies, but any dancer can tell that a quarter-second is an eternity when it comes to photos! And by the way, the first successful experimental photograph was made in 1832 - a landscape exposed for 30 minutes in full sunlight!

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Another photo of The Talisman from rg's collection.

Ludmila Pavlovna Barash (or Barache) in TALISMAN

Born in 1887

Other roles she seems to have had include the lead in the pavel gerdt and

lev ivanov SYLVIA, as well as performed Cleopatra in Fokine's "Egyptian



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Perhaps, it will be interesting to know that “The Talisman” was created recently in Italy:

The Talisman

Arena Ballet, Padua, March 16, 1997

Music – R.Drigo, choreography – Chalmer-Petipa. Cast: Carla Fracci (Niriti), Ileana Citaristi (Amravati), Alessandro Molin (Vayou), Stephan Fournial (Noureddin), Simona Mangani (Damayanti).

Probably, it was done in the context of Drigo’s 150th anniversary in 1996 (the composer was born in Padua and there was a conference on the occasion). This was not a restoration, of course - rather a stylization to the epoch. There are some discrepancies with the synopsis, but many scenes fit the latter. I know nothing if Chalmer used Sergeev’s notations from Harvard.

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Just noticed this :FIREdevil: :

....the creation of Marius Petipa (creator of "The Sleeping Beauty", "The Nutcracker" [emphasis added], "Swan Lake", and "La Bayadere" among others) ...

What was your source, nlkflint?

Yes, Mikhail. I agree with RSE that your phrase is especially vivid and precise. :3dnod:

I am struck by the contrast between the photos of the obviously corseted Kchessinska and the obviously uncorseted Barash. Somehow (maybe it's the whalebones?), the difference is far more discrepant than that between, say, Nikiya in Act I and Nikiya in the Kingdom of the Shades.

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I am not at home with the source book for the original quote, but in the meantime here is a synopsis from Ballet Minnesota that I have referenced before. I am certain this "version" may not have each and every fact straight.........

1802: Alexander Dumas Pere was born in Villers-Cotterêts 40 km NE of Paris, France. A French writer, he wrote a revised vision of ETA Hoffman's The Nutcracker and the Mouse King titled "L'Histoire d'un Casse Noisette (The Story of a Hazelnut-cracker). It was from these reviesed versions of the story that Marius Petipa (choreographer of the Nutcracker) got his ideas for the story of the Nutcracker Ballet.


1816: E. T. A. Hoffman published his book "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King". This work was a morbid story never intended for children which intended to show the depraved and desperate side of mankind.

1818: Marius Petipa, choreographer of the Nutcracker, is born in Marseilles, France. ---- First ballet master to the Tzar of Russia was Marius Petipa. He is credited with ushering in the golden age of Classical Ballet. His ballets included Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, La Bayadere, Don Quoxite and the Nutcracker.

1834: Lev Ivanov is born in Russia.  A Russian dancer, teacher, choreographer, and ballet-master. Ivanov was assistant to chief ballet-master Marius Petipa at the Imperial St. Petersburg Theatres, St Petersburg, Russia. He was instrumental in the development of the classic romantic ballet in Russia. When Petipa fell ill, Ivanov created the choreography for The Nutcracker.

(reference: Electric Library)

1840: Peter I Tchaikovsky, composer of the Nutcracker, is born in Russia.

1890: A. Vsevolozsky, director of Imperial Theaters in Russia, planned to produce a new ballet, "The Nutcracker". This came about because of the success which the ballet "Sleeping Beauty" recieved.  He also planned to use the same choreographer (Marius Petipa) and composer (Peter Tchaikovsky) which collaborated to produce "Sleeping Beauty":

1891: Choreographer Marius Petipa commissioned composer Peter I. Tchaikovsky to compose the musis for the Nutcracker.

Early 1892: Tchaikovsky begins work on the music for the Nutcracker. Upon completion of the score in the summer of 1892 Tchaikovsky wrote that the music he composed was "infinitely poorer than The Sleeping Beauty" (which he had composed and premiered in 1890.

Footnote: An interesting footnote to the score of The Nutcracker is the famous use of the celesta in the Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy. The celesta was a new musical instrument which had just been created by Auguste Mustel. Tchaikovsky had discovered the newly-invented instrument just before departing for the U.S., and was immediately captivated by its ``divinely beautiful tone.'' He arranged to have one sent to Russia secretly, because he was ``afraid Rimsky-Korsakov and Glazunov may get hold of it and use the unusual effect before me.''   (reference: Tchaikovsky: "Nutcracker" Suite)

March 1892: Tchaikovsky premiered the music for The Nutcracker Ballet Suite before was ballet was even produced. This eight-part concert version of the ballet music was a success. At least six times, the audience demanded immediate encores of specific music selections. Because of the Suite's instant success, the score was published even before the ballet premiered.    (reference: The History of the Nutcracker)

           Footnote: The Nutcracker, Op. 71a  was scored for 3 flutes (3rd doubling piccolo, 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 2 trombones, bass trombone, tuba, cymbals, triangle, tambourine, glockenspiel, tympani, harp, celesta, and strings. (reference: Tchaikovsky: "Nutcracker" Suite)


September, 1892: Rehearsals begin for the Nutcracker. Choreographer Marius Petipa is taken ill and replaced by Lev Ivanov.   Although Petipa worked with Tchaikovsky to create the story, the story, Ivanov is also generally credited with choreographing the Nutcracker.   (reference: The History of the Nutcracker)

World Premiere

December 18, 1892: Nutcracker World Premiere was at the Maryinsky Theater in St Petersbury, Russia with choreography by Petipa/Ivanov, music by Tchaikovsky and decor by Botcharov..    Sugar Plum Fairy: Antoinette dell'era, Prince: Paul Gerdt


Here is info from Kirov's website

"The Nutcracker" was originally based on a story written by German writer E.T.A. Hoffman. Tchaikovsky was commissioned to write the music in 1891 by the St. Petersburg Opera, but he was initially unhappy with the setting of a children's Christmas Party. The legendary choreographer Marius Petipa (first ballet-master to His Imperial Majesty the Tsar) presented Tchaikovsky with an exact scenario which he wanted, including the rhythm, tempo, and number of measures for each dance. Petipa later became ill, and the choreographic work was assumed by his assistant, Lev Ivanov.

Tchaikovsky, already in the final years of his life, experimented with a number of different tonalities. The divertissement which became known as the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy was composed for the celesta, using its bell-like tone. Tchaikovsky worked closely with Petipa and Ivanov in the production preparations, gradually losing his initial reservations about the setting.

"The Nutcracker" debuted on December 17, 1892, in the Mariinsky Theatre, which is still the home of the Kirov Ballet today. The original cast included ballet students, just as the Kirov Ballet and Kirov Academy production does today. Although popular inside of Russia, "The Nutcracker" was not performed outside of Russia until 1934, when Nicholas Sergeyev staged it at the Sadler's Wells Theatre in England. By that time in Russia, after the Revolution, the Russian presentation had been restaged by V. Vainonen.

Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo debuted a shortened version of "The Nutcracker" in the United States in 1940. The full-length ballet had to wait until the Kirov-trained George Balanchine created a new staging in 1954, which became the Nutcracker most American audiences came to know. The Balanchine production inspired many other versions throughout the world.

The Kirov Ballet/Kirov Academy version is a return to the pre-Balanchine, St. Petersburg roots of this timeless ballet. The music and the staging are done in their entirety, as close as possible to the production which Petipa and Tchaikovsky created over a century ago.

For this reason this production is called the original Nutcracker.

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Thank you so much for the considerable effort that went into that post. :FIREdevil:

I was thinking -- too narrowly -- strictly in terms of choreography. I knew of Petipa's and Tchaikovsky's working relationship.

Upon completion of the score in the summer of 1892 Tchaikovsky wrote that the music he composed was "infinitely poorer than The Sleeping Beauty". . .

But isn't every ballet (qua ballet) score? Duh!

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