Reconstructed by Frank Andersen, Dinna Bjoern, Anne Marie Vessel Schlueter and Eva Kloborg
Assistant to the Staging Choreographers: Eka Shavliashvili
Musical Consultant: Ole Noerlyng
Dramaturgical Assistance: Christian Kronman
Fragment from the letter by FRANK ANDERSEN, the author of the reconstruction idea and the staging choreographer:
"Moscow the 8th. of May 1874.
My beloved Helene, Arrived here yesterday morning at 10 with the night train from St. Petersborg and after spending the night in the special sleeping compartment. I have immediately executed my promise to you about sending my first letter to you today. I have been walking a bit around to catch the atmosphere of this fantastic town and I am also staying at the best hotel I ever been staying at, hotel Slave ( Slaviansky Gostenitza ) - My Helene, this is truly a town, that is worth getting more acquainted with. And I shall have to say, that by now I feel, that I have been to Russia!! I have to admit, that this town, by far, is surpassing Prague in greatness and beauty. Last night I went to the theater, the biggest I have ever seen and much bigger than La Scala in Milan. Here I also met Petipa again. I was also invited on stage where the entire personnel proved to be very happy to make my acquaintance."
The above is an excerpt of one of the several letters that August Bournonville sent home from Russia during his journey in 1874. Bournonville's last journey abroad took him to St.Petersburg and Moscow in a period from the 18th. of April until the 11th. of May. During this period he saw more of Russia than tourists would see today and he got quite taken by the country and its inhabitants. All these impressions made such an impact on him that he, when he came home to Denmark, decided to create a ballet, which was a kind of dedication to Russia.
The idea of trying to reconstruct and rechoreograph "From Siberia to Moscow" came through many happy talks, dinners, late conversations and meetings with my more than 20 year friend Nina Ananiashvili. I have known her since the late 80ties, when I was the Director for the Royal Danish Ballet, and she has visited my wife and me a numerous amount of times in Denmark and our relationship soon turned into a friendship. During these countless wonderful moments together, the idea came up to present this, August Bournonville's last ballet from 1876, for the audience in Tbilisi, where Nina for just a few years ago had been named Director of the State Ballet of Georgia. A thought became an idea, and the idea then became a project and almost three years ago, we decided to proceed and make the project become reality.
Now more than 130 years has passed since the premiere of "From Siberia to Moscow" at the Royal Theater in Copenhagen. It is hard to believe, that the NEW premiere shall take place here in Tbilisi, Georgia. However, I must say, I am not really surprised. The foreseeing of Nina and her associates were expected. I have had the pleasure of following the company since Nina took the helm and many things has happened, miracles has happened for the company. They are a wonderful selection of great and promising dancers. Eager to learn and listen and to be challenged and eager to venture into new land of choreography.
The interest for August Bournonville, his works, his choreography and daily classes is increasing all over the world and I am happy, that it is the State Ballet of Georgia that has chosen to be the first company, where we shall present the NEW premiere of August Bournonvilles last ballet "From Siberia to Moscow".
By Erik Aschengreen
Senior Dance critic and Professor
August Bournonville was born in Copenhagen in 1805 the same year as Hans Christian Andersen, who later became his good friend.
He was educated in the best of the French and Italian dancing traditions by his father, a French dancer, and the Italian Vincenzo Galeotti, who was the ballet master in Copenhagen from 1775-1816.
August Bournonville became an elegant demi-caract駻e dancer, small and light with a beautiful jump and a great facility for mime. During the 1820's, he continued his training in Paris, the 19th century center for ballet, later bringing the elegance and grace of the French style back to Denmark. While this style later disappeared in France it was preserved in Copenhagen. In his 1849 ballet Konservatoriet Bournonville remembers his youth in Paris and gives us a snapshot of the life and classroom exercises of a young dancer at the Paris Opera.
As a dancer, Bournonville could have had an international career, but he chose to return to work in Copenhagen for several reasons. First of all, he was Danish and his ideas about life and art were aligned with those of the other leading Danish artists of the period. Additionally he was interested in the male dancer as the central figure and he did not want to disappear behind the ladies as the Romantic period's focus on the ballerina required. In Copenhagen where he was the ballet master and the artistic director, Bournonville could decide for himself; in his own ballets, where he danced the leading male parts until 1848, the male dancer and the female dancer were of equal importance. Through his own dancing and through the important position male dance has in his ballets, Bournonville created a tradition for Danish male dance of high standards.
Beyond his dancing he was an organizer, a choreographer and a teacher who was very much aware of the demands and standards of the international ballet world. He raised the Royal Danish Ballet to an international level of ability and at the same time gave it a unique national quality which remains to this day its distinctive characteristic. It was also due to his influence that Danish dancers achieved social equality with the citizens of the town and with the other artists of the Theatre.
With a few interruptions August Bournonville was the ballet master in Copenhagen 1830 1877. He staged nearly fifty ballets and numerous divertissements in opera and drama. He was a sublime mand of theatre and it was of great importance that he had studied, lived and danced in Paris in the 1820's when the Romantic theatre had its breakthrough. With La Sylphide (1836) he introduced French / European Romanticism on the Danish stage. He went on to create ballets in many genres, including his idyllic ballets like Far from Denmark (1860) and The King's Volunteers on Amager (1871). He produced many works based on folklore such as the merry flemish Kermesse in Bruges (1851), the oriental Abdallah (1855) and a lot of Italian ballets, where Napoli (1842) became his main work. He created ballets based on Nordic myhths such as The Valkyrie (1861). A Folk Tale (1854) was his Danish ballet. From Siberia to Moscow (1876) his Russian and his last ballet.
With a firm confirmation in the Danish cultural tradition of the period - the Danish Romanticism Bournonville maintained that art should be positive; its purpose was to elevate us and to make us into harmonious human beings. Harmony is the keyword in his ballets, and this harmony is to be found not only in the stories and the happy ending of his ballets, but also in his style of beautiful proportions and delicate musical timing.
Bournonville did not become world famous until long after his death, when the world began to discover his works in the beginning of the 1950's.
In his ballets we see reflections of his time, the Romantic period, but in the greatest of his ballets we also meet ideas which enrich our own lives today. We recognize our own problems, our hopes and our ideas about beauty, happiness and harmony.
August Bournonville in Russia
In 1874 August Bournonville went to Russia. It was quite an impressive undertaking since he was 69 years, but he had always wanted to see St. Petersburg, and he had an open spirit, seeking all kind of experiences. He had travelled in Germany, France and Italy, but the Russian journey was something new. He even learnt a little Russian before he left Copenhagen.He travelled as a normal tourist. Especially interested in the Russian folk life - as he has been in folk life in other countries he had visited. In St. Petersburg he went to the colourful markets, but he also admired the Winter Palace , the St. Isaac Cathedral and the Monastery of St. Alexander. He saw the marvellous art collections in the Hermitage Museum and the Crown Jewels as well. In Moscow he was impressed by the churches and the palaces in Kremlin. And his impression of the Russian national character he summed up to: attachment to religion and burning love of the fatherland. Maria Feodorowna, married to the heir to the throne, received him. She was a Danish princess - Dagmar and Bournonville knew her from Denmark. He had actually given her and her sisters dancing lessons, when they were young. Now she was happy to see her old teacher in her new home country.But Bournonville was also a professional tourist. He went to the theatre and met collegues in the ballet world. He met Marius Petipa, the great French-Russian choreographer, whom he knew from their youth, and his Swedish pupil Christian Johansson, whom Bournonville had trained in Copenhagen in the 1830's. Later on Johansson became a dancer and chief pedagogue at the Imperial State Ballet School in St. Petersburg, and he is considerred one of the chief architechts of the Russian School of dancing. Thus there are those close connections between French, Danish and Russian dancing. With Johansson and Petipa Bournonville discussed the aesthetics of the ballet.
Bournonville saw Petipa's ballets Le Papillon, La Fille de Pharaon, Don Quixote and Esmeralda and he did not like all what he saw. He admired the strong technique of the dancers, but felt that the gymnastic virtuosity was stressed all too much. He loved the Slavic national dances, but he did not like the all too short ballet tutus for the classical ballerinas. Russian ballet theatre followed the French taste, which to Bournonville had deteriotated since his youth. But he loved the Russian audience. "Nowhere else in the world does there exist a livelier or more grateful audience" he wrote in his memoirs My Theatre Life.
When he returned to Copenhagen he created his last ballet From Siberia to Moscow in 1876, built on impressions from his journey. August Bournonville had always been an ardent advocate of freedom, which is also seen here in his last ballet about a Russian nobleman, who had incurred the disfavor of the Tsar because he is taken with the ideas of the first French Revolution. In the ballet Bournonville displayed Russian and Polish national dances, there is a love story between the daughter of the Russian nobleman and a young officer, who obtains forgiveness for the nobleman by the Tsar. As a ballet composition From Siberia to Moscow is a typical Bournonville ballet in the brillant way it is telling a story and depicting characters. New and now doubt under influence of the Petipa ballets Bournonville saw in Russia is the big divertissement, where several of Europe's rivers are depicted in appropriate dances.
From Siberia to Moscow was premiered in in Copenhagen 1876 and was last performed in 1904. More than 100 years later it is now being revived in Tbilisi. La Syphide has been performed in St. Petersburg staged by Elsa Marianne von Rosen in 1975. Napoli has been staged both in St. Petersburg by Elsa Marianne von Rosen in1982 and in Moscow in 2009 staged by Frank Andersen, Dinna Bjoern, Eva Kloborg and Anne Marie Vessel. In 1989 Kirsten Ralov staged a series of Bournonville dances in Moscow. But it is the first time ever that From Siberia to Moscow is staged and danced outside Denmark.