The Little Humpbacked Horse (ballet)

The Little Humpbacked Horse, or The Tsar Maiden (a.k.a. Konyok Gorbunok ili Tsar-Devitsa, or Le Petit cheval bossu, ou La Tsar-Demoiselle) is a ballet in four acts and eight scenes with apotheosis.

Story of the ballet

The libretto is by Arthur Saint-Léon, based on the fairy tale The Little Humpbacked Horse by Pyotr Yershov. However, the choreographer substantially deviated from Yershov's original tale.[1] The ballet shows how Ivan the fool, with the aid of a magical horse, defeats an evil Khan and wins the hand of the Tsar- Maiden. Eventually Ivan replaces the ineffective and incompetent Tsar and becomes Tsar himself.[2][3]

Choreography of Saint-Léon

Ballets and revivals of Marius Petipa

*Paquita (1847, *1881)
*Le Corsaire (1858, 1863, 1868, 1885, 1899)
The Pharaoh's Daughter (1862, *1885, *1898)
Le Roi Candaule (1868, *1891, *1903)
Don Quixote (1869, *1871)
La Bayadère (1877, *1900)
*Giselle (1884, 1899, 1903)
*Coppélia (1884)
*La fille mal gardée (1885)
*La Esmeralda (1886, 1899)
The Talisman (1889)
The Sleeping Beauty (1890)
The Nutcracker (1892)
Cinderella (1893)
Le Réveil de Flore (1894)
*Swan Lake (1895)
*The Little Humpbacked Horse (1895)
Raymonda (1898)
The Seasons (1900)
Harlequinade (1900)

* revival

The original choreography was created by Arthur Saint-Léon, and was set to music by Cesare Pugni.

The ballet was first presented by the Imperial Ballet on 15 December [O.S. 3 December] 1864 at the Imperial Bolshoi Kamenny Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia. Marfa Muravyova (as the Tsar Maiden) and Timofey Stukolkin (as Ivanushka) were planned as principal performers. However, Stukolkin had broken his leg and was replaced with Nilolay Troitsky, who had no previous experience of dancing principal roles.

The ballet became an important milestone in the development of Russian ballet. It was the first ballet based on a Russian story. Composer Pugni included Russian folk songs in the music for the ballet, and choreographer Arthur Saint-Léon created specifically Russian folk dancing - overall 22 Russian folk dances were staged. However, the French choreographer was not very knowledgeable in Russian folk dancing, and invented many of them himself, including the "Ural dance" .[4] The ballet was very colorful and was a huge success.

Russian democratic critics such as Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin and Nikolay Nekrasov however strongly criticized the work.[5] They viewed the ballet as a pathetic parody of Russian dances rather than a genuine collection of dances, and accused the choreographer of being mediocre, the audience of tastelessness, Tsar Alexander II of having a criminal attitude to his people, and all of them together of a lack of understanding of social development.[4]

On the other hand, the ballet enjoyed success with the audience. In its turn, it triggered the creation of a series of Russian-style ballets on the Imperial scene. Simultaneously, the Moscow Imperial troupe developed a different style, combining classical European choreography with real Russian folk dance.

After two years, 13 December [O.S. 1 December] 1866, the ballet was moved to the Moscow Imperial troupe.

In 1876, Sokolov re-staged the choreography of Saint-Léon in Moscow at the Bolshoi Theatre, using genuine Russian dances.[6][7]

This re-staging separated the two ways the ballet was performed - the classical dance in Saint Petersburg and the dance incorporated into the performance in Moscow.[6] This eventually developed into two schools of Russian Ballet, which survived well into the 1930s. Subsequently, the Moscow school ceased to exist when a large number of Saint Petersburg dancers were moved to Moscow in the 1930s.[8][9]

A hundred years later, in 1960, the Russian composer Rodion Shchedrin created a new ballet on the same subject.

Revivals, re-stagings and alternate versions

A scene from Marius Petipa revival of the ballet in the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre, 1895



  1. «Конек-горбунок»
  2. Craine, Debra; Mackrell, Judith (2010). The Oxford Dictionary of Dance. p. 278. ISBN 9780199563449.
  3. Alastair Macaulay (13 July 2011). "Horseplay for the Staid Mariinsky". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 August 2013.
  4. 1 2 Yuriy Bakhrushin. History of Russian ballet; page 249. // Ю. А. БАХРУШИН. ИСТОРИЯ РУССКОГО БАЛЕТА (М., Сов. Россия, 1965, 249 с)
  5. ru: М. Е. Салтыков (Н. Щедрин). Собрание сочинений в 20 томах
  6. 1 2 Russian ballet. Encyclopedia // ru: Русский балет. Энциклопедия. БРЭ, «Согласие», 1997. СОКОЛОВ Сергей Петрович
  7. Teatre encyclopedia ru: Театральная энциклопедия // СОКОЛОВ, Сергей Петрович
  8. Igor Moiseyev. The memories // ru: Игорь Александрович Моисеев
  9. Solomon Volkov Solomon Volkov at the Liberty (radio); ru: СПб. Консерватория в США: Музыка двух столиц
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