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Petipa's "Bluebeard"

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The Grand Pas from this ballet was reconstructed by Vasily Medvedev and performed at Dance Open; a rehearsal video has turned up on youtube:

Does anyone know anything more about this ballet? What is the context of this Grand Pas? I'm wondering what the doors with 'past', 'present' and 'future' above them in the backdrop signify.

Edit: another video of what appears to be the coda. Filming quality is not very good, but it gives an idea.

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1896 ballet by Marius Petipa, music by Pyotr Schenk. Supposedly was the most lavish spectacle Petipa had done so far. Restaged by Nicolas Legat in 1910. Libretto based on Perrault.


This probably would be a wedding pas de deux where the handsome hero has saved Bluebeard's wife from joining his previous wives in death. Handsome hero kills Bluebeard and marries now ex-Mrs. Bluebeard. Mrs. Bluebeard gets to keep castle, treasury and dungeons.

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Okay everybody, here is the libretto and original cast list of Marius Petipa's 3 act grandiose ballet, Bluebeard.

The ballet was premièred at the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg on the 20th December [O.S. 8th December] 1896. The libretto was written by Countess Lydia Pashkova, who also wrote the libretto for Raymonda, and is based on the famous Charles Perrault fairy tale.



Pavel Gerdt

Ysaure de Renoualle

Pierina Legnani

Anne, her sister

Olga Preobrajenska

Ebremard, her brother

Josef Kschessinsky

Raymond, her brother

Alexander Oblakov

Arthur, a page, Ysaure's sweetheart

Sergei Legat

Ysaure's friend

Claudia Kulichevskaya

A Knight

Nikolai Aistov

The Spirit of Curiosity

Olga Leonova


Mathilde Kschessinskaya

Bluebeard's retinue, Astrologers and dancers representing vessels of Gold, Jewels, Precious Things, Planets, Stars, etc

Act 1

A garden in front of the castle owned by the De Renoualle family. To the left, the castle with machicolated towers and a large window and door leading on to the terrace. In the depths of the garden is an elaborate gate and railing, through which can be seen a beautiful landscape dominated by Bluebeard's cast. It is a morning in early spring.

Arthur, a page, who is in love with Ysaure, steals into the castle belonging to her brothers. Having made certain that he has entered unobserved, he signs to his fellow pages, who creep in masked and bearing musical instruments. Under Arthur's direction, they prepare to serenade Ysaure.

During the serenade, Ysaure appears; she listens with pleasure to the music. Arthur entreats her to descend. She agrees and the lovers embrace. Meanwhile her brothers, Raymond and Ebremard, watch the proceedings from the shelter of a gallery. A dance is formed in which the lovers take part and at this point, the brothers enter and the merriment abruptly ceases.

They order Arthur to unmask. The page and his friends remove their masks. Arthur tells the brothers that he is passionately in love with Ysaure and asks for her hand. They point out his poverty and the stupidity of his request. Arthur admits his lack of wealth, but continues to urge his love, which only arouses the brothers' laughter.

Raymond and Ebremard go to their sister and inform her that Bluebeard, a wealthy neighbour, is a suitor for her hand; the counsel her to accept him. Ysaure is filled with grief, but accedes to her brothers' wishes and enters the castle to prepare for her suitor's visit.

Trumpets are heard and the major-domo announces the arrival of an important visitor. Through the garden gates winds a magnificent procession, which includes the sad-faced Arthur and finally, Bluebeard himself. The brothers accord him every honour, while Ysaure descends the steps and offers him a cup of wine.

Bluebeard asks Ysaure for her hand. She hesitates, then consents. Arthur cannot disguise his sorrow. Bluebeard offers Ysaure his arm and together they mount the terrace, where members of his retinue are presented to her.

The betrothal is celebrated by a succession of dances contributed first by village children, then by peasant girls and youths and concludes with a pas d'action danced by Ysaure, Bluebeard, her two brothers, her sister Anne, Arthur and two ladies.

Ysaure is delighted to see Arthur among the dancers and they exchange words of love. Ysaure's brothers, seeing her happy mood, attribute it to her pleasure in the match they have made. Bluebeard gazes passionately at his fiancée so that Arthur's jealousy is aroused, but he is helpless.

When the dances finally end, Ysaure's ladies bring in a wedding gown in which they clothes their mistress, who then takes her place in a litter, which is borne in procession for the wedding ceremony.

Arthur, left alone, gives way to tears.

Bluebeard and Ysaure return and the married couple, attended by their retinue, go towards the former's castle. Arthur wishes to offer Ysaure a flower, but her sister stays his hand. As the unhappy page bestows a farewell glance on his beloved, the curtain falls.

Act 2, scene 1

Ysaure's chamber. The rear wall is adorned with a large mirror screened by a curtain. To the left is a rich four-poster bed with hangings. To the right, a couch. Ysaure is making her toilette, while her ladies offer her flowers and other articles of adornment. Arthur entertains Ysaure by playing on lute.

Anne and Arthur dance a passepied. Then Ysaure orders the curtain to be drawn and she dances in front of the mirror. Footsteps announce the approach of Bluebeard who, entering the room, hurries to his wife. Meanwhile, Anne and Arthur withdraw.

While Bluebeard converses with Ysaure, Arthur enters and announces that a knight desires an audience with him. Surprised and annoyed, Bluebeard consents to receive him. The knight enters and, having delivered a warlike message from his lord, flings his gauntlet. Bluebeard picks up the gage and accepts the challenge. The knight departs.

Bluebeard tells his wife that he must set out on a military expedition, but promises soon to return. Ysaure expresses her sorrow, but is secretly delighted at the thought of his departure. He bids her not to languish in his absence, but to amuse herself with games and dances. He also gives her a collection of keys fashioned of various metals, which afford access to his underground treasure-chambers. She may use all these keys save one, which is made of iron, and if she disobeys him in that respect, he warns her of his severe displeasure.

Distant horns are heard. Bluebeard's retainers enter with a suit of armour, which they buckle on their lord. Ysaure passes her scarf over his shoulders. He kisses her and departs.

Ysaure, left alone, is all eagerness to try the keys, especially the forbidden one. In the distance can be heard the fading tones of a military march.

Ysaure is now visited by a strange person called Curiosity, who tries to make her follow him underground. She opens a door on the left with a gold key and descends the stairs.

Scene 2

The first underground chamber. The walls are lined with glittering vessels of gold and silver; there are gold candelabras with candles and caryatides bearing baskets of flowers on their heads.

Curiosity leads Ysaure through the right-hand door into the chamber. She is amazed at the treasures it contains. Suddenly, the caryatides become alive and the candles burst into flame. The gold and silver vessels become animated and cause a vast clanging as the jostle together.

At the conclusion of their dance, Ysaure opens another door with a silver key.

Scene 3

The second underground chamber. Here the walls are covered with wonderful materials of all shapes and sizes and from every country.

All these precious things come to life. There is a Japanese dance with a fan, a Hindu dance, an Eastern variation, a coda and a final ensemble.

Then Ysaure opens the left-hand door with a diamond key.

Scene 4

The third underground chamber

Ysaure, urged by Curiosity, enters from the right. The room is in semi-darkness, but gradually, it lightens and is seen to contain heaps of precious stones, which come to life and enter into a dance.

First, there is a waltz by Diamonds, then a dance by Emeralds, Coloured Diamonds, Rubies and Sapphires. Follows a variation. Last of all comes another waltz when the Jewels disappear and complete darkness ensues.

Ysaure notices another secret door, which is heavily barred. Curiosity urges to insert the iron key. Unable to resist his pleading, she goes half-eagerly, half-fearfully towards the door. With trembling hands, she slips the key in the lock and turns it. Then she takes a candle and, lighting it, moves towards the chamber, which is seen to contain the bodies of Bluebeard's numerous wives, whom he killed as a punishment for their disobedience. Horrified, Ysaure drops the candle and falls senseless on the threshold.

Act 3, scene 1

The terrace of Bluebeard's castle. To the right, a large tower with steps leading to the top of it. The castle entrance has an iron sconce, to the left is a low stone wall. On the right, a fountain with a stone basin.

Ysaure, pale and distraught, comes out of the castle. She calls her sister, Anne and tells her of her discovery behind the fateful door. "Look!" she cries, holding up the key, "it fell into some blood and I cannot wash away the stain."

The sisters hurry to the fountain and vainly strive to clean the key in the running water. At the same moment, distant trumpets announce the return of Bluebeard. The sisters are filled with terror.

Arthur, who has been watching the scene, runs to Ysaure in the hope of saving her. She entreats him to fetch her brothers immediately. He hurries away on his mission and is seen on horseback galloping towards their castle. Ysaure watches him until he is lost to view and fervently prays for help.

Anne mounts the tower so that she can watch for the coming of her brothers. The trumpets sound nearer and presently, Bluebeard enters in triumph, having vanquished his enemy.

Ysaure goes to meet him. Bluebeard kisses his wife and asks her how she had fared during his absence. She, trying to maintain outward calm, expresses joy at his return, but he observes her nervous manner and is filled with suspicion.

He asks for the keys, which Ysaure trembling restores to him. Remarking the absence of the iron key, he demands to know where it is. Shaking with fear, she gives it to him. He examines the key and asks Ysaure how it has come to be blood-stained.

When she professes her ignorance of the case, Bluebeard tells her that she has disobeyed his commands and must suffer the penalty. Ysaure begs for time to say her prayers Bluebeard consents, but bids her hurry.

Overwhelmed with grief, she can hardly walk to the tower. She asks her sister if her brothers are in sight. Anne replies that nothing can be seen.

Bluebeard orders Ysaure to descend from the tower. Once more, she asks her sister if she can see any signs of her brothers. Anne replies that she can now see some horseman.

Bluebeard, raging with impatience, begins to mount the steps leading to the tower. Ysaure, trying to gain time, hurries to the topmost step. Bluebeard follows and drags her down to the terrace. Then, lifting his swords, he prepares to cut off her head.

At this moment, the brothers dash through the castle gates, followed by Arthur. They rescue Ysaure and Ebremard challenges Bluebeard to single combat. The contest is waged with varying fortunes, until finally, Ebremard mortally wounds his opponent, who topples over the wall into the moat.

Ysaure swoons into her brother's arms.

Anne thanks her brothers for coming in time. They declare that Ysaure would have been killed, but for Arthur. The page again asks for Ysaure's hand, which is granted and the curtain falls on the happiness of the reunited lovers.

Scene 2

A magnificent garden, the centre of which contains a temple in honour of Saturn, with a colonnade in three parts: the temples of the past, of the present and of the future. At the sides are staircases leading to them temples, decorated with fantastic marble sphinxes.

The wedding guests enter in a splendid ensemble. Next come four astrologers with their trains supported by pages. At their command, Uranus descends from the skies, then the planets Venus and Mars and lastly, Stars of various grades.

The Stars form groups and dance. Then there is a variation by Venus, followed by a waltz rendered by the Stars.

The door of the Temple of the Past opens and there emerges a procession of characters typical of an ancient period of France, who render several early dances such as the Gaillarde. The door of the Temple of the Present opens and now come characters representative of the present, who dance contemporary dances. Finally, the door of the Temple of the Future opens and Ysaure and Arthur present the Pas de Deux Electrique.

The ballet ends with a final ensemble and apotheosis.

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"Finally, the door of the Temple of the Future opens and two dancers present the Pas de Deux Electrique."

Now that has real potential!

The cast list alone is quite special -- thanks so much for posting this here!

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"Finally, the door of the Temple of the Future opens and two dancers present the Pas de Deux Electrique."

Now that has real potential!

The cast list alone is quite special -- thanks so much for posting this here!

You are very welcome; as an amateur ballet historian, this is something I love to do! :)

Wow! That ballet must have been quite some spectacle!

Yes, it was the most lavish ballet that Petipa ever staged! :)

Sadly, the ballet wasn't notated, but I would love to see someone like Vasily Medvedev, Yuri Burlaka, Sergei Vikharev and Alexei Ratmansky stage a revival with the original decor, costumes and stages effects restored and it would be also be great to see them sticking to Petipa's ideas.

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Bluebeard : Chor: Marius Petipa; mus: P. P. Schenck; lib: L. Pashkova (cf. Beaumont); scen and cos: P. B. Lambin, K. M. Ivanov, Henrykh Levot, V. T. Perminov. First perf: Russia: St. Petersburg: Maryinsky Theater, Dec. 8, 1896
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Who wrote the music?

Pytor Schenk - Yuri Burlaka and Vasily Medvedev use some of his music from this ballet for their Act 2 Grand Pas des fleurs in their revival of La Esmeralda for the Bolshoi.

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Bluebeard : Chor: Marius Petipa; mus: P. P. Schenck; lib: L. Pashkova (cf. Beaumont); scen and cos: P. B. Lambin, K. M. Ivanov, Henrykh Levot, V. T. Perminov. First perf: Russia: St. Petersburg: Maryinsky Theater, Dec. 8, 1896

Yes, the 8th December is the Old Style Date of the première - I've listed the New Style Date, which is the 20th December, but I'll add the Old Style Date now.

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Here is the list of scenes and dances from Schenk's score, taken from the piano reduction score:

Act I, Scene 1

  • Introduction
  • № 01 Scène d'Arthur et des pages
  • № 02 Aubade
  • № 03 Scène d'amour (Solo de violon pour Mons. Leopold Auer)
  • № 04 Danse des pages
  • № 05 Scène
  • № 06 Scène et marche
  • № 07 Scène
  • № 08 Danse des enfants du village
  • № 09 Le concours des prix pour la danse—
    —a. Andante
    —b. Variation (Vivace)
    —c. Variation (Tempo di valse)
    —d. Variation (Quasi orientale)
    —e. Variation (Pizzicato)
    —f. Coda
  • № 10 Distribution des prix et Paysannerie Normande
  • № 11 Pas d'action—
    —a. Adage (solo de la violoncelle pour Mons. Nikolai Galkin)
    —b. Variation (Moderato)
    —c. Variation (Tempo di mazurka)
    —d. Variation (Tempo di valse)
    —e. Variation (Vivace)
    —f. Coda-valse
  • № 12 Final

Act II, Scene 1

  • № 13 Introduction et scène de la toilette d'Isaure de Renoualle
  • № 14 "L'angélique": Canzonetta d'Arthur sur le luth (Solo de la harpe pour Mons. Albert Zabel)
  • № 15 Passepied
  • № 16 Scène dansante: Le coquetterie devant le miroir
  • № 17 Entrée de Barbe-bleue et scène d'amour
  • № 18 Scène du chevalier
  • № 19 Scène des clefs
  • № 20 Départ de Barbe-bleue
  • № 21 Scène de la curiosité
  • № 22 Premier panorama

Act II, Scene 2

  • № 23 Caveau de l'argenterie
  • № 24 Bacchanale
  • № 25 Deuxième panorama

Act II, Scene 3

  • № 26 Pas orientale—
    —a. Adage japonais
    —b. Danse hindoue
    —c. Variation orientale
    —d. Coda orientale
  • № 27 Troisième panorama

Act II, Scene 4

  • № 28 Pas des pierres précieuses—
    —a. Scène et valse
    —b. Entrées des rubis, des émerauds, des saphirs et des diamants
    —c. Variation diamantée
    —d. Valse des pierres précieuses
  • № 29 Final

Act III, Scene 1

  • № 30 Scène dramatique: "Sœur Anne, ne vois-tu rien venir?"

Act III, Scene 2

  • № 31 Grand polonaise
  • № 32 Divertissement astrologique—
    —a. Entrée des astrologues
    —b. Danse astronomiques
    —c. Groupes et constellations
    —d. Danse des étoiles
    —e. Variation de Vénus
    —f. Valse des étoiles

Le temps passé

  • № 33 Évocation et la Gaillarde
  • № 34 La Monaco

Le temps présent

  • № 35 Évocation et polka fin de siècle

Le temps futur

  • № 36 Évocation du futur
  • № 37 Grand pas de deux électrique—
    —a. Adage
    —b. Variation du Premier danseur: Mons. Sergei Legat
    —c. Variation de la Première danseuse: Mlle. Pierina Legnani
    —d. Coda
  • № 38 Danse générale: Le cotillon
  • № 39 Apothéose
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My, but this is full of fun!

Amongst all the language, I'm curious about Act 2, Scene 3 -- there are two iterations of "orientale," a "japonais," and a "hindoue." I've had several conversations with people over the years about the characterization of music (e.g. what makes something "Spanish"). I haven't heard this score, so don't know this section -- does anyone here have insight on these characterizations?

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