ballet by P.I. Tchaikovsky

About Performance

Great Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) in summer of 1876, after spending some time in Vichy, went to the first music festival in Bayreuth to see Wagner’s The Ring of the Nibelung. While travelling he was reading the Fifth canto in Hell of The Divine Comedy by Dante (1265-1321). The book delighted him so he decided to compose music for the story about Francesca da Rimini. The symphony with the same title was performed for the first time in Moscow on 25 February, 1877.
After more then three decades in 1915 a famous Russian dancer and choreographer Michel Fokine (1880-1942) staged a ballet to this music in the Imperial Theatre in Sankt Peterburg.
Libretto of this ballet is based on the verses from the Fifth Canto in the Second circle of Hell of The Divine Comedy by Dante.
In Hell the poet meets shadows of the tragic couple – Francesca and Paolo and tells us of their destiny. Francesca is married to Gianciotto Malatesta, whom she does not love. (Malatesta means “a bad head”, and it is a family name of a very old and respected Italian family from the XIII century, originally from Rimini). Happiness is not on her side, because she and her husband’s brother Paolo fall passionately in love. Gianciotto Malatesta walks in on them and kills them both with one swing of a sword.
The ballet begins by Gianciotto’s remembering his wedding to his great love Francesca, which is, according to Dante’s verses, very dangerous because “there is no greater trouble in misfortune than reminiscence of what used to be happiness”. Then comes the great duet (Pas de deux) of Francesca and Paolo, which anticipates the tragedy to come. Then the vision of ideal love appears (danced by four ballet couples). Older Malatesta sees his wife and brother embracing, and a duel occurs. Francesca wants to help her lover but Gianciotto kills both of them. According to Dante all three expiate their punishment in hell. Francesca is no heroine. She is a victim of her own  passion which she could not overcome. Her life reaches its climax and its end in a love stronger than herself.
 The Dobrijevićs as choreographers of this ballet follow in detail Dante’s verses and Tchaikovsky’s music. Their staging is concise, and this love tragedy is told in 25 minutes with suggestive dancing movements and sentences. It is their opinion that each choreographer must be inspired by those he works for and works with, i.e., he must adapt his ideas to ballerinas and dancers he works with taking into account their physical and spiritual abilities and possibilities in order to achieve the symbiosis of dance and music. Ljubinka and Petar Dobrijević think that their choreography of Francesca da Rimini  for the Belgrade ballet has a new creativity, because they tried to inspire the performers and develop their artistic aspirations, and that enriched their staging of this ballet.
Francesca da Rimini was first performed at the stage of the National Theatre in Belgrade on 2 June 1939, in Anatoly Žukovski’s choreography, based on D.Lišin. Soloists were Janja Vasiljeva, Anatoly Žukovski, Anica Prelić and Oleg Grebenščikov. Vladimir Žedrinski was the set designer, Milica Babić costume designer. Lovro Matačić was the conductor.


”One can not say what is the most admirable thing in Tchaikovsky’s work: the symphony value of his ballets, their dancing qualities or the strength of expression and emotion. They are real dancing dramas.”
Serge Lifar

While searching for vivid, real dramatics and psychologic truth in opera, Tchaikovsky thought that ballet art was represented by fantasy of a fairy-tale. In this sense Tchaikovsky follows the line of the romantic ballet that is based on numerous fantastic scenes and theatrically-expressive effects. He has creatively understood nad approached the problem of ballet, therefore reforming the traditional basis of this genre. Tchaikovsky followed two main lines in developing style characteristics of the romantic ballet. First of all, he has made the pure choreography principale by extraordinary elastic and characteristically diverse. Tchaikovsky renovates the already known types of dance giving them extraordinary freshness nad abundanceof rhuthmics and music plasticity, and, at the same time, showing a great talent for finding out the characteristic forms of dance movements of modern French ballet, and, especially, the art of Delybe, whom he appreciated very much. Another Tchaikovsky’s novelty in the area of ballet music was the development of symphony mime elements. Tchaikovsky has shown the way to ballet symphonization, the path later followed by Glazunov and Stravinsky in Russian music, and, in France, by Ravel and his followers.
Tchaikovsky is probably best known for his ballets which he composed in his mature years and those ballets brought him the recognition of his contemporaries.
1872 Swan Lake – op.20 – his first ballet performed at first with some shortcomings (faults) which would be straighten out later on. First performance in the Bolshoi Theatre.
1890 The Sleeping Beauty – op.66 – Tchaikovsky himself thought this ballet to be his best. First performance in Mariinsky Theatre in Sankt Peterburg.
1892 – Op.71 – The composer was not terribly pleased with his last ballet.
Tone poem Francesca da Rimini, op 32 . It was composed in Bayreuth in the autumn of 1876, in a very short period of time, inspired by the episode from Dante’s The Divine Comedy



Premiere performance

Premiere, February 9, 2005 / Main Stage

Choreography Ljubinka And Petar Dobrijević
Conductor Miodrag Janoski
Orchestration And Adaptation Wolfgang Heinzel
Music Peter Ilitch Tchaikovsky
Choreography Ljubinka And Petar Dobrijević
Sets And Costumes Germinal Casado
Sets Realization Nevenka Vidak
Costumes Realization Olga Mrđenović