Established in 1969 by Leonid Veniaminovich Yakobson, the St Petersburg State Academic Ballet Theatre rightly bears the name of its founder and carefully preserves the traditions he laid down. Today the company is developing several trends in its repertoire – the classics, Leonid Yakobson’s own works and productions by contemporary Russian choreographers. The theatre’s work has received a special prize from the Golden Mask festival jury (for the production The Wedding Cortege), St Petersburg’s highest theatre prize the Golden Sofit and the Taglioni Prize, established in 2014 by the Vladimir Malakhov Foundation (for the programme Classical Miniatures by Leonid Yakobson). The company performs at various theatres in St Petersburg, appears at major international festivals and performs in towns and cities throughout Russia, France, Italy, Spain, the USA, Canada, Japan, China, Mexico, Finland, Croatia, Switzerland, Belarus and Estonia.
The romantic ballet Giselle premiered in 1841 at the Paris Opera Theatre. It is based on the legend of the ‘villi’ – young girls who were betrayed by their lovers and did not live till their wedding, dying of a broken heart and later turning into vindictive and merciless female spirits; this grizzly tale was given a poetic flair by Heinrich Heine. The librettists Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges and Theophile Gautier helped turn the legend into a ballet, with music by Adolphe Adam and choreography by Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot.
The opening night was a triumph. The ballet became hugely popular among the top theatres across Europe. And ever since then, Giselle has been a constant in the ballet world.
But what is the secret of this unwavering interest? How has this romantic ballet managed to survive for over two hundred years and to pass on into the twenty-first century without ever losing its popularity?
Maybe the answer lies in the depth and ardour of affection that Jules Perrot, the ballet’s choreographer and the main mastermind behind its creation, bore towards his beloved wife and star pupil, Carlotta Grisi, who was the one he staged the ballet for? Maybe that is why Giselle, the fruit of Perrot’s passionate talent and inspiration, conceals a certain magical power that does not fade way with time?
In Saint-Petersburg, the ballet Giselle still retains the choreography of Marius Petipa, who was the first ballet master of the Royal Mariinsky Theatre in the second half of the nineteenth century. The Yacobson Ballet Theatre also follows the same tradition.
Age category 6+