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Classical ballet
Mariinsky Theater, Saint Petersburg
Duration: 3 hours 15 minutes
World premiere: Kirov Theatre of Opera and Ballet, Leningrad, 30 April 1948

Ballet Raymonda, a masterpiece by the world-famous choreographer Marius Petipa and the Russian composer Alexander Glazunov is a kind of graceful medieval romance. It’s interesting to notice that the ballet is a rare example of the productions set to the libretto written by a woman. The scenario was created by Princess Lidia Pashkova, an extraordinary lady who managed to be a member of the French Geographic Society and a correspondent of Le Figaro in Paris, the author of several novels and an ardent traveler who visited Egypt, Palestine and Syria. Thus her Eastern impressions were realized in the ballet. Raymonda was Marius Petipa’s last grand ballet: each act is full of variations displaying the essence of ballet techniques, and the second act is characterized by powerful dance scenes filled with exotic charm. The highlight of the ballet is the final act’s grand pas which skillfully combines classical and character dance. It is really an ideal ballet showing off the dancers in their glory.

Set and costume design: Simon Virsaladze

World premiere: 7 January 1898, Mariinsky Theatre
Premiere of Konstantin Sergeyev`s version: 30 April 1948, Kirov Theatre, Leningrad

Raymonda is a ballet, originally staged in 3 Acts-4 Scenes with Apotheosis, choreographed by Marius Petipa to the music of Alexander Glazunov (his 57th opus). First presented by the Imperial Ballet at the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre on January 7/19 , 1898 (Julian/Gregorian calendar dates) in St. Petersburg, Russia. The ballet is famous for its Grand Pas Classique known as the Grand Pas Classique Hongrois or Raymonda Pas de Dix from the third Act, which is often extracted from the full-length work to be performed independently.

The full-length Raymonda has been revived many times throughout its performance history, the most noted productions being staged by Mikhail Fokine for the Ballet Russe (1909); Anna Pavlova for her touring company (1914); George Balanchine and Alexandra Danilova for the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo (1946); Konstantin Sergeyev for the Kirov Ballet (1948); Rudolf Nureyev for American Ballet Theatre (1975), and for the Paris Opera Ballet (1983); Yuri Grigorovich for the Bolshoi Ballet (1984); Anna-Marie Holmes (in a 2-act redaction) for the Finnish National Ballet (2004), a version which was then staged for American Ballet Theatre (2004) and the Dutch National Ballet (2005).


Act I

Scene I
Everybody is awaiting Raymonda as is Jean, who wants to present her with a silk shawl as a farewell gift. Raymonda’s first solo immediately shows her as an exquisite young woman whose path is strewn with flowers. When Jean puts the shawl around her shoulders she seems to sense the symbolic power of this gift of love. Yet she also painfully senses that Jean’s feelings for her have no real depth, that he will leave her easily for his world of knightly fights, tournaments and crusades. The guests try to cheer Raymonda up with a grand valse and can even persuade her to dance a solo by which she tries to overcome her melancholy mood.

Quite unexpectedly a new guest bursts in on the court: the Saracen prince Abderakhman. He tries to overwhelm Raymonda with presents which she refuses. However, at long last – deeply fascinated by the sensual power of the prince, - she accepts the gesture when Abderakhman presents her with a spray of jasmine.

The festivities are ending, but Raymonda is hypnotized, bewildered by the sudden intrusion of an erotic elemental force upon her seemingly secure happiness with Jean. Clйmence, Henriette and the two troubadours try to cheer her up. And in a dance with Jean’s shawl Raymonda tries to reassure herself of her love for him.

She takes leave of her friends and falls asleep. Entranced by the sweet scent of the jasmine that seems to embody an erotic oriental world, her shoulders wrapped in Jean’s shawl, the symbol of the perfect elegance of the court, she begins to dream.

Scene II
The White Lady leads Raymonda into an unknown world, beyond all material reality. Raymonda falls under the spell of the dance of a group of fairytale girls that finally leads her to a magic reunion with Jean in an adage. At the climax of the dream which follows the formal structure of classical ballet with the adage followed by variations for Clйmence, Henriette, the White Lady and Raymonda herself, as well as a coda where Jean can demonstrate his virile strength – Raymonda suddenly sees the Saracen prince Abderakhman in the place of Jean and is overwhelmed by his fascination, his seductive power and blunt erotic attack. Only the intervention of the White Lady averts the extreme. Raymonda awakens in deep confusion, with the shawl and the jasmine spray in her hands.

Act II

Scene I
The court society assembles for a festivity called “La Cour d’amour”, a popular pastime of the aristocracy in the South of France, at which troubadours court elegant ladies according to strict rules of etiquette. Jean de Brienne, busy with preparations for the crusade, is delayed and instead, Abderakhman appears. Raymonda is dismayed and delighted at the same time. They dance together and he observes the exquisite rules of the courtly festivity with perfect politeness. His entourage entertains the society with exotic dances ending in a bacchanale. At its climax, in a fury of passionate love, Abderakhman commands the abduction of Raymonda.

At this moment Jean de Brienne and King Andreas II appear. The king urges the two men to decide their rivalry, as befits knightly rules, in a duel. This seems to end in a draw until the White Lady appears and gives Jean the strength to inflict a deadly wound on Abkerakhman. The Saracen dies at Raymonda’s feet. She is deeply distressed and can only see Jean as Abderakhman’s murderer.

Jean senses Raymonda’s predicament, her repulse. Again he begins to court her and for the first time really endeavours to win her love. He succeeds in winning back her confidence.

Scene II
The wedding ceremony confirms the love between Raymonda and Jean de Brienne. In honour of the Hungarian King Andreas II the courtiers are dressed in Hungarian style, dance the czardas and finally the grand pas classique hongrois. It begins with a great adage for nine couples led by Raymonda and Jean. This is followed by variations for four men (Bйranger, Bernard and two other troubadours), for two ladies (Clйmence and Henriette), for Jean and finally for Raymonda. Her solo expresses her strength of character and secret melancholy of conquered pain. The coda leads to an apotheosis and the blessing by the White Lady.

Casts & Credits

Choreography: Marius Petipa
Ballet company: Mariinsky (Kirov) Ballet
Set Designer: Simon Virsaladze