Marie Taglioni and the apogee of romantic ballet

Marie Taglioni and the apogee of romantic ballet


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© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - G. Blot

Publication date: June 2009

Agrégée in Italian, Doctorate in Contemporary History at the University of Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines

Historical context

Marie Taglioni is one of the most influential figures in the history of dance and the quintessential symbol of romantic ballet; his influence goes beyond the limits of the theatrical and artistic life of the first half of the XIXe century to reach the cultural life and even the fashion of its time. A pupil of Jean-François Coulon, who had been her father's teacher, the young Marie perfected herself with her father who, having brought her to Vienna, subjected her to very rigorous daily training to which she owed a technique and a impeccable gestural elegance.

Marie Taglioni made her Vienna debut in 1822 before performing in Stuttgart and Munich, always achieving great success. Arrived in Paris in 1827, she was promoted to principal dancer of the Opera in 1831 and obtained consecration on March 12, 1832 in the title role of the ballet-pantomime The sylph, which her father created for her to a libretto by Adolphe Nourrit and music by Jean Schneitzhoeffer. Hailed by critics as the purest expression of romantic ballet, she is invited to the greatest European theaters: London, Berlin, Milan, Saint Petersburg, not to mention her frequent returns to Vienna and Paris.

Marie Taglioni ended her career in 1847, after having been celebrated in the lead role of Not four premiered in London in 1845 by Jules Perrot for her and three other romantic ballet divas: Fanny Cerrito, Carlotta Grisi and Lucile Grahn. Recognizing her as her heir, the Taglioni takes her under her wing and performs her unique choreography for her, The butterfly (1860), to music by Jacques Offenbach. The untimely and tragic death of Emma Livry, who died following a serious stage accident (her tutu caught fire during a performance of La Muette de Portici), deprives the romantic ballet season of its last bloom.

After the war of 1870, Marie Taglioni left France for London, where she gave private lessons to young girls from good English society. Ruined by her father's financial speculations, she died destitute in Marseille.

Image Analysis

The French painter of Dutch origin Ary Scheffer is not only the author of touching paintings like Young Sick or of great dramatic power like Souliote women (1827), or poetic and sensual like The shadows of Francesca da Rimini and Paolo Malatesta appear to Dante and Virgil (1835, first version at the Wallace Collection in London; second version, at the Louvre), he is also an appreciated portrait painter who counts, among his models, Chopin and Liszt.

In her portrait of Marie Taglioni, the pale face of the dancer, framed by the hair bands, effectively stands out against the background in contrast with the red color of the flowers in the hairstyle and the collar of the dress. We do not know the exact year of this painting, but the Taglioni appears to be between twenty-three and twenty-five years old. Although this painting does not represent her in one of the roles that made her famous, it does show the simple and naive charm that contributes to the dancer's success.

Interpretation

Marie Taglioni fills the void left by the premature death of Geneviève Gosselin (1791-1818), whose elegant pointe technique she perfected, thus illustrating herself in the aerial style which represents the purest expression of the spirit. romantic. Its opposite is embodied by the sensual and energetic Fanny Elssler (1810-1884). The two dancers are associated like two sides of the same medal by Théophile Gautier who, in an article published in Press on September 11, 1837, speaks of Maria Taglioni as a "Christian dancer" and sees in Fanny Elssler a "pagan dancer".

For Gautier, Marie Taglioni "is not a dancer, it is the dance itself", and her name is intended to replace that of Terpsichore. He compares the art of the dancer to the poetry of Byron and Lamartine, claiming that "she has cuffs and waves in her arms that are worth long poems."

In the romantic imagination, Marie Taglioni is inextricably linked to the role of the Sylphide. The eponymous ballet sublimates the dancer's technique and forever associates the aerial style with romantic reveries exalting the amorous and poetic ideal that flees the banality of everyday life and its deadly traps, since a meeting between the two worlds would be fatal.

  • dance
  • Paris Opera
  • romanticism
  • ballet
  • London
  • Gautier (Théophile)
  • Byron (Lord)
  • Lamartine (Alphonse de)

Bibliography

Théophile GAUTIER, Writings on dance, chronicles chosen, presented and annotated by Ivor Guest, Mayenne, Actes Sud, 1995 Ivor GUEST, The Romantic Ballet in Paris, Middletown, Wesleyan University Press, 1966.Ivor GUEST, The Paris Opera Ballet, Paris, Flammarion, 1976, reissued 2001.

To cite this article

Gabriella ASARO, "Marie Taglioni and the apogee of romantic ballet"


Video: Taglioni - European Ballet Award