[Dance & Opera] Taglioni, Marie. (1804-1884); Elssler, Fanny. (1810-1884); Malibran, Maria. (1808-1836); Schröder-Devrient, Wilhelmine. (1804-1860); Pasta, Giuditta. (1797 - 1865)

Theatre Royal, Covent Garden 1833 Broadside including "Fidelio" and "La Sylphide"

Theatre Royal, Drury Lane [London]: S.G. Fairbrother. 1833. Original 1833 Theatre Royal, Covent Garden broadside from what was surely one of the greatest ever single gatherings of dance and vocal legends in the history of performance. The program of "To-Morrow Evening, Wednesday, July 3, 1833" is advertised as an "Unprecedented Combined Attraction!" and as a Benefit for soprano Schroeder-Devrient, to be joined by sopranos Giuditta Pasta and Maria Malibran and dancers Fanny and Teresa Elsler [sic] and Marie Taglioni and others who "have, in the kindest manner, given her the aid of their very valuable services." The evening included Beethoven's "Fidelio" (first performed in London, also by Schroeder-Devrient, in May, 1833), arias and excerpts performed by Malibran with Schroeder-Devrient (Third Act of Rossini's "Otello"), and by Pasta ("An Italian Air"), and concluding with the ballet "La Sylphide," featuring Elssler and Taglioni ("positively her Last Appearance on the English Stage this Season"). 

"All accounts agree on the dramatic powers of ‘The Queen of Tears’, as Schröder-Devrient was dubbed when observed actually to be weeping on stage. In an age when few singers matched their vocal prowess with equal dramatic skill, she impressed audiences especially with her interpretation of Leonore. In this role, Moscheles preferred her to Malibran, and many reports give details of the dramatic effect of her performance. Beethoven, who had rehearsed her, thanked her personally, and promised to write an opera for her."  (John Warrack, Grove Online)

Contralto/soprano, Maria Malibran, was creator of Donizetti's Maria Stuarda and works by Bellini and Mendelssohn and was one of the most celebrated singers in history, whose early death at the age of 28 contributed to her status as a figure of legend. Giuditta Pasta was "the acknowledged 'diva del mondo' during the 1820s, famed not only for an extraordinary if flawed voice, but also for the physicality of her performance modes. Her innovative practices contributed to the development and reconceptualisation of opera’s dramatic potential on the early Romantic stage. Making her reputation in roles such as Medea (Mayr) and Semiramide (Rossini), Pasta later inspired the composition of three of the most striking operatic heroines of the period: Amina in La sonnambula (Bellini) and the title-roles of Norma (again Bellini) and Anna Bolena (Donizetti)." (Susan Rutherford, "La Cantante delle Passioni," Cambridge Opera Journal #19-2, 2007, p. 1)

Marie Taglioni was the most famous Italian ballerina of the Romantic ballet era, a central figure in the history of European dance. "Her frail physique was schooled relentlessly by her father, the ballet-master Filippo Taglioni (1777–1871), to develop a style distinguished by lightness, grace and modesty, by the use of point-shoes for artistic effect, and by unusual elevation and delicacy on landing. Her freer, more graceful movement, enhanced by a new style of costume with a diaphanous, bell-shaped skirt and fitted bodice, gave a fresh purpose to the art of dance in the theatre. It enabled it to become more poetic and imaginative, an art of illusion rather than illustration." (Grove Online)

Austrian ballerina, Fanny Elssler introduced theatricalized folk dance (character dance) into ballet. Celebrated for her spirited, spectacular dancing and for her technique, especially her point work, she studied under Jean-Pierre Aumer and made early appearances with her sister Theresa, also a dancer. Engagements in Naples, Berlin, and London brought her international fame. After three months of intensive study with Auguste Vestris, she made her Paris Opéra debut in 1834 in Jean Coalli’s ballet La Tempête. Her immediate success divided Parisian balletomanes into two camps, since the warmth and spontaneity of her dancing was in marked contrast to the ethereal lightness of her greatest rival, Marie Taglioni.  Théophile Gautier called Elssler “the Spaniard from the north.” 


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