French ballet dancer, teacher, and choreographer (b. 11 March 1818 [N.S.] in Marseilles; d. 1/14 July 1910 in Gurzuf, Crimea), born Victor Marius Alphonse Petipa, known in Russia as Marius Ivanovich Petipa (Мариус Иванович Петипа).
His early years were spent touring Europe with his parents, Jean Antoine Petipa, a balletmaster and teacher, and Victorine (b. Grasseau), an actress and drama teacher, but from the age of six he was educated in Brussels, studying music and the violin at the city's conservatory. In 1825, he took up ballet lessons, and made his stage debut in one of his father's productions two years later. After engagements in Bordeaux, the United States and Madrid, Petipa was invited to become principal dancer at the Imperial Theatres in Saint Petersburg. By 1871, he had risen to the position of principal ballet master, and he remained at the Mariinsky until 1907, before retiring to the Crimea at the age of 89.
Tchaikovsky and Petipa
Petipa and Tchaikovsky seem to have met for the first time in Saint Petersburg in November 1886, in connection with a projected ballet on the subject of Undina, which was never realised . However, in subsequent years they worked closely together on the ballets The Sleeping Beauty (1888–89) and The Nutcracker (1891–92).
Correspondence with Tchaikovsky
One letter from Tchaikovsky to Marius Petipa has survived, dating from 1889, and has been translated into English on this website:
4 letters from Petipa to Tchaikovsky, dating from 1888 and 1889, are preserved in the Tchaikovsky State Memorial Musical Museum-Reserve at Klin (a4, Nos. 3347–3350).
Notes and References
- See Diary entry for 8/20 November 1886: "Back home, where I had everything already packed up for my departure [to Maydanovo], I found a letter from Vsevolozhsky, with an invitation for Sunday to talk about the ballet. This caused me to despair, but still I decided to stay and made the according arrangements. Rushed off to Vsevolozhsky. Petipa and Frolov happened to be there, too, and we immediately set about discussing things. I rejected Salambo [as a possible ballet subject]. Undina." (quoted in (1993), p. 110). Tchaikovsky liked Flaubert very much, but the latter's historical novel Salambô (1862), set in ancient Carthage, was clearly not as close to his heart as the sad tale of the water-spirit Undina, which had fascinated him ever since childhood.