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The Ballet Russe Collection

© 2001 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Ballet in 3 acts and 4 scenes, original libretto and choreography by Marius Petipa (St. Petersburg, Maryinsky Theatre, January 19, 1898).
Music by Alexander Glazunov.
Re-staged for the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo by George Balanchine and Alexandra Danilova.
Scenery & costumes by Alexander Benois.
Premiere: New York , March 12, 1946 , by the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo.

Considered by many of the Russian dancers as one of the highlights of the Petipa repertoire, Raymonda was the longest full-length ballet mounted by the Ballet Russe, and its sheer length and volume bewildered an American audience accustomed to triple or quadruple bills of repertoire ballets coupled with shorter works.

It could be argued that Raymonda, despite its brilliant dances, was not an ideal introduction to the multi-act classical form, since the thread of plot that holds its dances together - a tenuous story about how a Crusader rescues a lady from a Saracen - has never been considered one of the triumphs of balletic dramaturgy. At a time when serious dancegoers were discovering the narrative works of Tudor and Graham, the Raymonda scenario must have seemed downright foolish. Audiences did not quite know how to take the events of the ballet. Often, City Centre patrons would hiss Nikita Talin as the evil Saracen, as though he were the villain in a parody revival of a Victorian melodrama. Some of the dancers also had difficulty adjusting to Raymonda.

Jack Anderson, The One and Only: The Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo

Many critics and balletomanes, although admiring the classical flavor and the sheer magnificence of the spectacle, complained about its excessive length and subsequently several cuts were made until finally the ballet was reduced to just a series of divertissements, and under that guise remained for several years in the repertoire.

Those feelings were however not universal. Writing about the Ballet Russe's 1945-46 season in which the full production appeared for the first time, the dance critic and (later encyclopaedist) Anatole Chujoy characterized Raymonda as "...a superb ballet, ingenious in choreographic invention, splendid in form, absorbing to look at, pleasant to listen to." Dance News, April 1946.

Several of Benois' lush scenery pieces remain in the Butler Ballet's collection, including the Act Curtain portrayed above, and the backdrops for the first two acts.

Act 1 backdrop

Act 2 backdrop

Reproduction, including downloading of Benois works is prohibited by copyright laws and international conventions without the express written permission of Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.