Music by: Cesare Pugni
Choreography after: Jules Perrot and Marius Petipa
Costumes by: Jeffrey Sturdivant
Lighting by: Emily McGillicuddy
Staged by: Raffaele Morra after a staging by Pyotr Gusev
The celebrated ballet, “La Naïade et le Pêcheur” (“The Naiad & the Fisherman”), staged by ballet master Jules Perrot, premiered in 1843 at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London during the heyday of the Romantic Ballet. The first performances featured the legendary ballerina Fanny Cerrito in the title role of the Naïade, while Perrot danced the role of the fisherman Mattéo. After relocating to Russia, Jules Perrot restaged the ballet in 1851 at the Saint Petersburg Imperial Bolshoi Kamenny Theatre.
A Naïade, nymph of fresh waters, falls in love with a mortal fisherman, Mattéo. The Naïade is playful and mischievous, and teases Mattéo by making herself visible at times but invisible at other times (the recurring pose of the Naïade on her knee with an arm over her head symbolizes her disappearance from the fisherman’s sight). Mattéo’s true love is Giannina, a mere mortal. The Naïade tries to distract Mattéo’s attention from Giannina while they are having fun with their friends. Spending so much time among humans, the Naïade slowly becomes human herself. At first she is terrified, mostly of her shadow (the “Pas de L’Ombre” represents her discovery of her own shadow), but soon she enjoys her new nature and spending time dancing with her new human friends. A celebration ensues!
The first performance of “La Naïade et Le Pêcheur”, was an enormous success. The ballet would remain in the repertory of the Imperial Ballet thanks to Marius Petipa’s various revivals. Excerpts in this version are from the restaging by Pyotr Gusev, in a revival that gives a rare glimpse of ballets of the old imperial Russian style.