How Bertie’s passage to India set the scenes for La Badayère

As Marius Petipa’s La Badayère is soon to return to the Australian Ballet’s repertoire, this time in the production of the Australian choreographer, Stanton Welch, I’ve been researching the ballet’s origins and designs and re-reading A Century of Russian Ballet: Documents and Eyewitness Accounts, 1810-1910, edited by the American academic, Roland John Wiley.

The eyewitness accounts include the writing of Konstantin Skalkovsky and Sergei Khudekov, two critics and historians who knew Petipa well.

Skalkovsky’s review of La Badayère’s premiere in 1877 includes an intriguing insight into the original sets for the ballet. Rather than studying Indian architecture, the four designers of La Badayère relied instead on illustrations from two English magazines, the Graphic and Illustrated London News in their reports on the visit to India of the Prince of Wales, known to his family as Bertie.

Skalkovsky wrote: “Everything necessary to render the couleur locale exactly has been taken from engravings appearing in the Graphic and the Illustrated London News on the occasion of the Prince of Wales journey [in 1875/76]. As a result we see a series of scrupulously exact tableaux of the mores and costumes of the Indians, which naturally give the ballet an ethnographic interest quite exceptional and singularly fascinating”.

A Century of Russian Ballet also includes Skalkovsky’s 1890 review of Petipa’s The Sleeping Beauty in which he wrote: “The new ballet’s production is extremely luxurious, the costumes – excellently drawn, partly after Doré’s illustrations to Perrault’s tales – are elegant”.

Gustave Doré illustrated many of Charles Perrault’s fairy tales, and it’s believed that his illustration for Dante’s Paradiso was the inspiration for the Shades scene in La Badayère.

Sergei Khudekov, in turn, collaborated with Petipa on the libretto of La Badayère.

Scroll down to see the cover of one of the three ballet books he wrote from 1913-15.

The volumes are in the Firestone Library at Princeton University.

Click on the images for a larger version.

2 Comments

  1. Adrian Ryan
    Posted July 27, 2014 at 12:29 am | Permalink

    I hope the article you are preparing is due to appear in the programme for the forthcoming AB production, Valerie. Your pieces are always beautifully written and very informative. The Khudekov work you mention is a very interesting bibliographic case. The 3 known volumes take the history up until 1897. There was to be a fourth volume taking the history from 1898 till 1914. It was to have been published in 1917. However owing to some kind of fire [possibly related to the incipient revolution] the extant fourth volume was destroyed at the printers. Only a few sets of uncut sheets were saved and they are supposed to be in libraries in St.Petersburg and Moscow. Sometimes bibliographies give 4 volumes as the edition but on inspection there are only the first 3.

  2. valerie
    Posted July 28, 2014 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    Yes, it is Adrian – After looking at the Wiley book again I started checking the old English magazine illustrations of Bertie in India and then wanted to know more about Khudekov and that led me to Princeton University. Their Firestone Library has a small but fascinating collection of dance illustrations including one of Fanny Elssler standing on top of a globe labelled America, with bowing disciples all around her in various forms of 19th century American costumes.

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Illustrated London News supplement cover, December 18, 1875

Illustrated London News supplement cover, December 18, 1875

Prince of Wales arrives at Agra, Illustrated London News, March 11, 1876

Prince of Wales arrives at Agra, Illustrated London News, March 11, 1876

"Dancing before the Prince of Wales' elephant in the torchlight procession at Jeypore", Graphic magazine, 1876

“Dancing before the Prince of Wales’ elephant in the torchlight procession at Jeypore”, Graphic magazine, 1876

Gustave Doré's illustration for Charles Perrault's The Sleeping Beauty

Gustave Doré’s illustration for Charles Perrault’s The Sleeping Beauty

Gustave Doré's illustration for Charles Perrault's The Sleeping Beauty

Gustave Doré’s illustration for Charles Perrault’s The Sleeping Beauty

Sergei Khudekov's The History of Dance. Part I–III. Saint Peterburg (1913, 1914, 1915). Firestone Library, Princeton University

Sergei Khudekov’s The History of Dance. Part I–III. Saint Peterburg (1913, 1914, 1915). Firestone Library, Princeton University