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Marius Petipa: The Emperor's Ballet Master Reviews

Marius Petipa: The Emperor's Ballet Master by Nadine Meisner (Independent Scholar and Dance Writer)

Marius Petipa: The Emperor's Ballet Master

Nadine Meisner (Independent Scholar and Dance Writer)

3.83 out of 5

3 reviews

Category: Non-fiction
Imprint: Oxford University Press Inc
Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc
Publication date: 19 Jun 2019
ISBN: 9780190659295

This cultural biography of the nineteenth-century ballet master Marius Petipa - creator of The Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake - tells the full story of his life and work in the remarkable context in which he lived.

4 stars out of 5
3 Aug 2019

"Marius Petipa could be a demanding bully but his choreography was touched by genius"

Drawing on mainly Russian-language sources, including diaries, memoirs, letters, newspaper interviews, notes (many by Petipa himself) and contemporary reviews, Meisner illuminates Petipa’s career and steers us through the most crucial period in the Imperial Ballet’s history. She catalogues the ins and outs of his first big hit — The Pharaoh’s Daughter (1862), an exotic, five-hour spectacle set in Egypt, in which an English lord smokes opium and dreams of mummies coming to life (I still remember fondly Pierre Lacotte’s reconstruction of it for the Bolshoi Ballet).


3 stars out of 5
27 Jul 2019

"meticulously researched and exhaustively detailed"

Nadine Meisner’s meticulously researched and exhaustively detailed study will surely establish itself as the standard authority on the subject in English. The absence of any scorching drama or scandal in Petipa’s life means that it doesn’t make electrifying reading, but its poise and scholarship impress, particularly in its command of the broader cultural context.

4 stars out of 5
21 Jul 2019

"The first biography of the Russian choreographer who created ballet as we know it"

Meisner weaves this biographical material into a much broader picture of ballet under the tsars; she is excellent on the contrasting skills and styles of the ballerinas with whom Petipa worked, and who forged his style just as much as any ethereal notions of dance did. She doesn’t always see the wood for the trees, or separate the glistening solos from the work of the corps de ballet, but there is an amplitude in her creation of Petipa’s world that is worthy of so expansive a creator.