This website is part of The New York Public Library's Online Exhibition Archive. For current classes, programs, and exhibitions, please visit

Cia Fornaroli

Bucci drypoint
Bucci drypoint

Born in Milan in 1888 and trained at La Scala, Cia Fornaroli made her debut as première danseuse at the Metropolitan Opera during the 1910-1911 season.  She danced at the Met until 1913, went to Spain, and made her first visit to Argentina, where she performed at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires.  Returning to Italy, she made several films, then in 1920, with a contract from the Italian impresario Walter Mocchi and accompanied by her mother, an orchestra, and a chorus of sixty from Rome's Teatro Costanzi, she embarked on a five-month tour of South America in 1920 that took her to Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paolo, Montevideo, and the Teatro Coliseo in Buenos Aires.  The end of the year found her back on Rome at the Teatro Costanzi, where she appeared in Mârouf, savetier du Caire (Marouf, [CHECK] of Cairo), an opera by Henry Rabaud, and other works.  In 1922 she was engaged by Arturo Toscanini, then general manager of La Scala, as prima ballerina of the celebrated house.  She appeared in a number of historic productions, including Il Convento Veneziano (The Venetian Convent) to a score by Alfredo Casella, Petrouchka (with Enrico Cecchetti as the Old Showman and Anatole Oboukhoff in the title role), and Legend of Joseph, to Richard Strauss score originally commissioned by the Ballets Russes.  After Enrico Cecchetti's death in 1928, she became director of the La Scala school, a post she held until 1932.  In 1933, with financial and creative support from Walter Toscanini, she formed a short-lived chamber company based in San Remo, for which she choreographed a number of works, to scores by classical as well as contemporary Italian composers such as Francesco Malipiero and Ildebrando Pizzetti.  In 1938 she joined her husband Walter Toscanini in New York, where she established herself as a popular teacher.  She founded the Cecchetti Method School of Classical Dancing in 1948 and four years later assumed the post of ballet mistress at the Metropolitan Opera.  She died in 1954.

Cia Fornaroli in Marouf at the Teatro Costanzi, Rome, [1920]

Photo by Bragaglia. Cia Fornaroli Collection, Jerome Robbins Dance Division.

Cia Fornaroli

Drypoint by Anselmo Bucci, signed and dated 1918.  Anselmo Bucci was a Milan-based painter who belonged to the "Novecento" (1900s) group founded by Margherita Safatti, one of the most authoritative Italian art critics of the 1920s.  Walter Toscanini commissioned Bucci to portray Cia Fornaroli in several poses.  Cia Fornaroli Collection, Jerome Robbins Dance Division.

Cia Fornaroli and Ricardo Nemanoff at the Teatro Coliseo, Buenos Aires, 1920

Samson e Dalila
Samson e Dalila
Tinted photographs by Kitzler, Buenos Aires, 1920.  Clockwise from upper left:  "Ballet de la tentation" (Temptation Ballet) from the opera Thaïs, an unidentified pas de deux (possibly from the opera Carmen or La Gioconda), a dance from the opera Samson e Dalila (possibly the Bacchanale), and La Midinette (probably a concert number).  Ricardo (or Richard) Nemanoff (also known as Neumanoff) was a dancer, teacher, and choreographer active in Buenos Aires in the early twentieth century.  Jerome Robbins Dance Division.

Teatro alla Scala, 1925-1926 Season

Poster.  This poster records not only the growing interest in musical modernism at La Scala during the 1920s but also the musical impact of Diaghilev's Ballets Russes.  Among the season's announced offerings were the Italian premieres of Igor Stravinsky's Le Rossignol, Modest Mussorgsky's Khovanschchina, Maurice Ravel's L'Enfant et les sortilèges (which was not actually performed until 1948), as well as a new production of Stravinsky's Petrouchka--all previously staged by the Diaghilev company.  The season also included the Italian premiere of Gabriele d'Annunzio's multimedia play Le Martyre de Saint-Sébastien (The Martyrdom of St. Sebastian) starring Diaghilev alumna Ida Rubinstein.  Despite La Scala's seemingly renewed interest in dance, its ballet personnel--Enrico Cecchetti (Director of the School of Ballet), Giovanni Pratesi (Choreographer), Angelina Gini (Mistress of the School of Ballet), and Cia Fornaroli (Prima Ballerina)--were definitely second-class citizens.  The Toscanini Legacy Papers, Music Division.

Cia Fornaroli in Casanova a Venezia (Casanova in Venice)

Etching and aquatint by Fusetti, [Milan, 1929].  Cia Fornaroli as Lauretta in Heinrich Kröller's ballet Casanova a Venezia, which premiered at La Scala in 1929.  Cia Fornaroli Collection, Jerome Robbins Dance Division.

Cia Fornaroli in various roles

Photographs.  Clockwise from upper left:  Cia Fornaroli in the divertissement from the opera Khovanshchina, La Scala, 1926; Legend of Joseph, La Scala, 1928; as Fanny Elssler in the ballet Cupido in Schönbrunn, Sironi-Ballet, Vienna, 1923 (Residenz Atelier, Vienna); Histoire d'un Perrot (History of a Perrot), Compagnia di Balletto Italiano da Camera (Italian Chamber Ballet Company), San Remo, 1933.  The image of Fornaroli as Fanny Elssler was one of Walter Toscanini's favorite photographs of his wife.  Jerome Robbins Dance Division.

Diploma for Cia Fornaroli's private ballet academy, with the celebrated image of Jules Perrot's Pas de Quatre

In early 1930s Cia Fornaroli established her Academy of Classical Ballet in Milan.  Although inspired by the the traditions of La Scala, as embodied in the teachings of Enrico Cecchetti, her school remained unaffiliated with the theater.  The celebrated image of the Pas de Quatre, which Walter Toscanini adopted as the emblem for her school, is displayed on the south wall of this exhibition.  Cia Fornaroli Collection, Jerome Robbins Dance Division.

Walter Toscanini

With his father, the conductor Arturo Toscanini.  The Toscanini Legacy Papers, Music Division.

At work in the recording studio.  Photograph by Ken Heyman, 1955.  The Toscanini Legacy Papers, Music Division.

L'Arte della danza e l'Arte di Cia Fornaroli (The art of the dance and the art of Cia Fornaroli)

Milan, 1923.  Although uncredited, this published tribute to Cia Fornaroli's art was written by her future husband, Walter Toscanini.  Walter Toscanini Collection, Jerome Robbins Dance Division.

Cia Fornaroli in street dress, 1915

Postcard. Jerome Robbins Dance Division.

Cia Fornaroli in the early 1910s

Photograph.  Jerome Robbins Dance Division.

Arena di Verona (Verona Arena)

Handbill announcing the Arena's summer 1922 program, which included the operas Lohengrin and Pagliacci and the ballet Carillon Magico, with Cia Fornaroli.  Walter Toscanini Collection, Jerome Robbins Dance Division. 

Letter from Enrico Cecchetti to Cia Fornaroli after his appointment as director of dance at La Scala, 1925

The letter reads in part:  "I am very grateful for your kind and lovely letter of congratulations at my honorary [sic] appointment as Director of the Academy of Dance of La Scala...[and] assure you...that I shall do everything possible to render me worth of it and to return our glorious temple of Terpsichore to its former splendor."  It was Walter Toscanini who had urged his father, Arturo Toscanini, as La Scala's artistic director and principal conductor, to engage Cecchetti.  This letter, although written to Cia Fonaroli, was actually intended for the Maestro.  Walter Toscanini Collection of Research Materials in Dance, Jerome Robbins Dance Division.

Portrait of Enrico Cecchetti

Photograph, inscribed by "Maestro Prof. Enrico Cecchetti" to his "dear, adorable, most intelligent pupil Cia Fornaroli," with "affectionate" regards, Easter 1927.  Walter Toscanini Collection of Research Materials in Dance, Jerome Robbins Dance Division.

Accademia di Danza Classica Italiana (Academy of Italian Classical Dance)

Brochure of the private academy financed by Walter Toscanini and directed by Cia Fornaroli in Milan in the early 1930s.  The curriculum followed the "Enrico Cecchetti Method."  Walter Toscanini Collection of Research Materials in Dance, Jerome Robbins Dance Division.

Letter from Victor Dandré to Cia Fornaroli, 30 November 1928

Written on behalf of Anna Pavlova after the death of Enrico Cecchetti, Dandré implores the Italian ballerina to relay "all the details of the last moments of our poor Master."  Cecchetti died suddenly.  One day he felt ill in class, and the next day he was dead.  Fornaroli, Walter Toscanini, and many of Cecchetti's pupils were with him during his dying hours.  Walter Toscanini Collection of Research Materials in Dance, Jerome Robbins Dance Division.

Cia Fornaroli in New York

The ballerina's personal photo album, with snapshots taken in Central Park in 1912.  Walter Toscanini Collection, Jerome Robbins Dance Division.