Documents from the Manuscripts Department, Written by Hand of M. Petipa
Until now, the epistolary and memoir heritage of Petipa has not been studied. Only a small part of it was published in the book «Marius Petipa. Materials. Memories. Articles» (Leningrad, 1971). The Manuscripts Department of the National Library of Russia helds two documents written by hand of the ballet master: a plan of the ballet «Raymonda» and a letter to an unidentified person.
The plan for the future performance of the ballet «Raymond», was dated 29 June 1896 by Petipa. Written on three sheets, it is an outline of the scenario in acts and scenes. The title of the ballet is followed by a description of the interior of the castle where the action will took place. Each sheet, divided into two parts, is the determination of the course of action (scenes) as well as dances and variations illustrating it.3.
The mentioned autograph is one of the three variants of a letter dated 20 December 1886. After comparing these messages, the publisher concludes that the addressee was likely to be the Director of the Imperial Theaters I. Vsevolozhsky. Judging by the tone, the letter was written in a state of extreme irritation and offence, since Vsevolozhsky intended to create a 'Board of Directors' which would consist of a scenario writer, composer, artist and choreographer of the future performance. It was an innovation that Petipa could not let, because he was accustomed to have complete authority over the theater. In one of the variants of the letter, he demanded 'unlimited power' for himself.
'On the stage <…> Petipa was literally a dictator. <…> Creation of new ballets productions, the repertoire, the status of dancers, the distribution of roles between the first forces (I'm not talking about a smaller brotherhood) – all these issues were in charge of the first choreographer alone'4.
M. Petipa, who served almost forty years for the Imperial Theater, understood that the first versions of the letter violated the court etiquette. So he produced a third variant, written in a more restrained tone,
'Your Excellency, the honour of being entrusted with the first role twenty years ago (<the post of chief choreographer is meant – I.V. >) only strengthens in a modest and celebrated choreographer and dancer the desire to again begin the dissipated life of an expansive southerner. With best wishes and respectful greetings, Yours faithfully, M. Petipa'.