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Madame Celeste as the Wild Arab Boy in The French Spy

Madame Celeste as the Wild Arab Boy in The French Spy
Madame Celeste as the Wild
Arab Boy in The French Spy

Lithograph by John P. Hall, New York, 1834.  Beginning in the 1820s European dancers braved long sea journeys to tour the United States.  Among the first of these pioneers was the French dancer known as Madame Celeste, who made her American debut at the Bowery Theater, New York, in 1827.  She spent the early 1830s in Europe, performing Romantic roles such as Fenella in La Muette de Portici and Zoloe in Le Dieu et la Bayadère, which she subsequently danced on her second, extended American tour from 1834 to 1837.  Her most successful vehicle was The French Spy, a melodrama in which she mimed the role of a refined French lady, a dashing cadet of the Lancers (the spy of the title), and an Arab boy who performed a "wild" dance that unfailingly brought down the house.  Trouser roles, which bared the legs that nineteenth-century fashion covered, added to ballet's naughty flavor.  Cia Fornaroli Collection, Jerome Robbins Dance Division.

The Celeste-al Cabinet

Celeste-al Cabinet
Celeste-al Cabinet

Color lithograph by Henry R. Robinson, New York, 1836.  During her second tour of the United States, Madame Celeste caught the eye of President Andrew Jackson, who had a weakness for the ladies.  During the 1836 presidential campaign, the political caricaturist Henry R. Robinson used this imaginary scene of the ballerina charming the President and his "Celeste-al Cabinet" at the White House, to attack Jackson's candidate, Martin Van Buren (seated on the extreme right).  This is one of several exceptionally rare American prints collected by Walter Toscanini.  Cia Fornaroli Collection, Jerome Robbins Dance Division.

Augusta Maywood
Lithograph, [Bologna], 1852.  Born into a theatrical family in New York, Augusta Maywood made her debut in Philadelphia in 1837 at the age of twelve, earning the nickname "La Petite Augusta."  She danced briefly in New York, then left for Europe, where she spent most of her adult life.  In Paris she studied with Jean Coralli and Joseph Mazilier, and made her debut at the Opéra, partnered by Charles Mabille, with whom she subsequently eloped.  In Vienna in the mid-1840s she worked with the Italian choreographers Antonio Guerra and Domenico Ronzani.  Engaged by La Scala in 1848, she replaced Fanny Elssler as Marguerite in Jules Perrot's Faust.  (On opening night Elssler was booed by the audience because she was Austrian.  A month later the revolt against the Austrians known as the "cinque giornate di Milano"--the five days of Milan--would break out.)  Maywood spent the next twelve years almost exclusively in Italy, becoming a frequent guest at La Scala (where she had a great success in Giovanni Rota's Bianchi e Negri [Whites and Blacks]) and touring extensively with her own company.  (This print, for instance, commemorates a season in Ravenna.)  The first American dancer to win a place among Europe's top-ranking ballerinas, she excelled at works, such as Giselle, Catarina, and Faust, that called for expressive acting and a virtuoso technique.  Cia Fornaroli Collection, Jerome Robbins Dance Division.

Mons. Paul Taglioni, Madame Taglioni.  In the characters of La sylphide & James Reuben, at the Park-Theatre, New York, May 22d, 1839.  Principal dancers of the Opera House, [Berlin, London, etc.].
Color lithograph by Napoleon Sarony, New York, 1839.  This lithograph of Paul and Amalie Galster Taglioni commemorates their American debut at New York's Park Theatre in 1838 as well as the first complete production of La Sylphide in the United States.  In 1832, shortly after the ballet's premiere in Paris, Paul had danced the role of James to his sister's Sylphide in Berlin and London, where Amalie had played the role of Effie.  Paul's New York production followed his father's Paris staging and used the original Jean Schneizhoeffer score.  Cia Fornaroli Collection, Jerome Robbins Dance Division.

Ronzani's Grand Ballet Troupe; from the theatre La Scala in Milan, the Royal Theatre in Turin, Her Majesty's Theatre London, Academy of Music Philadelphia
Color lithograph by B. F. Smith, Jr., New York, [1857].  In 1857 Domenico Ronzani, after a distinguished career as a dancer, choreographer, and producer, assembled the finest company yet seen in the United States to inaugurate the new Philadelphia Academy of Music.  The company, which included dancers from La Scala and other Italian theaters (in this category were the principal mimes Cesare and Serafina Cecchetti and their seven-year-old son Enrico), opened with Ronzani's production of Faust, one of the many ballets by Jules Perrot that he reproduced at La Scala and elsewhere.  This lithograph, which may show a scene from the ballet, was probably used as a poster.  Cia Fornaroli Collection, Jerome Robbins Dance Division.

M'lle Marietta Bonfanti, danseuse, leader of the great Bonfanti ballet troupe, which will appear at the Olympic Theatre, Monday, August 16


Newspaper clipping, with a wood engraving from a drawing by Reed, from the Olympic Pictorial, issued by the Olympic Theatre, Boston, 14 August 1869.  Born in Milan, Maria Bonfanti trained privately with Carlo Blasis and at La Scala.  In 1860, at the age of fourteen, she made her debut in Vercelli and, two years later, left Milan for engagements in Lyon, Paris, London, and Madrid.  In 1866 she made her New York debut at Niblo's Garden as the prima ballerina assoluta of The Black Crook, a thinly plotted melodrama combining elaborate scenery, lavish costumes, European ballerinas, and scantily clad showgirls that became the prototype of nineteenth-century American musical spectacles.  The show was a huge success, revived again and again throughout the nineteenth century.  Bonfanti remained in the United States until the end of her life, dancing and touring in numerous shows, appearing as prima ballerina at the new Metropolitan Opera in 1885/1886, and eventually opening a school in New York.  Jerome Robbins Dance Division.

Maria Giuri
Lithograph by Ferdinando Perrin, [Turin?, 187-?].  Born in Milan, Maria Giuri trained with Caterina Beretta and made her debut in Paul Taglioni's ballet Fantasca in Berlin when she was only fourteen.  In 1879 she danced in the La Scala production of Luigi Manzotti's Sieba, and, later, in the same house, in revivals of his ballets Excelsior and Pietro Micca.  In 1885 she appeared in St. Petersburg and two years later with the National Opera Company at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York, performing the divertissements in several operas and the role of Swanilda in Coppélia.  "The dancing of Mlle Giuri (Swanilda)," wrote The New York Times, "was by all odds the best ever seen in this house, and, as a combination of grace, strength, and quickness, we doubt if it has ever been surpassed in this city."  Giuri was one of numerous La Scala dancers to appear at the "old Met" in its early decades.  Cia Fornaroli Collection, Jerome Robbins Dance Division.

Rita Sangalli
Carte de visite.  Photo by Fradelle & Leach, London.  A student of Auguste Hus at La Scala, Rita Sangalli starred (along with Maria Bonfanti and Giuseppina Morlacchi) in the enormously popular, long-running spectacle The Black Crook, which opened at Niblo's Garden Theatre in New York in 1866.  Returning to Europe, she spent several seasons at the Paris Opéra, creating (among other parts) the title role in Sylvia (1876).  Walter Toscanini Collection of Research Materials in Dance, Jerome Robbins Dance Division.

Rosina Galli performing with her sister
Photograph, ca. 1900.  Born in Milan in 1896 and trained at La Scala, Rosina Galli (the "girl" of the twosome) spent most of her professional life in the United States.  She made her American debut with the Chicago Grand Opera in 1911 and three years later, when the company temporarily disbanded, accepted an engagement at the Metropolitan Opera, where she would spend the next two decades.  Until 1930, when her marriage to the Met's general manager, Giulio Gatti-Casazza, brought her performing career to an end, she appeared in the traditional opera-ballet repertory in addition to performing lead roles in Adolph Bolm's stagings of Le Coq d'Or (1918) and Petrouchka (1919), and other ballets that acknowledged innovative trends in music and choreography.  In 1919 she became the Met's ballet mistress, a position that involved teaching as well as "compos[ing] dances for the operas, ballets, etc." (as her contract stated).  She choreographed a remarkable array of divertissements as well as more serious works, such as the ballet La Giara (The Jar) (1927) to music by the twentieth-century Italian composer Alfredo Casella.  By the 1930s her artistic approach, increasingly viewed as old-fashioned, had come under criticism, and in 1935, the new Metropolitan management, headed by Edward Johnson, engaged George Balanchine's fledgling company, the American Ballet, to become the Met's resident dance troupe.  With the departure of Galli and Gatti-Casazza, the Italian presence at the Met largely came to an end.  Walter Toscanini Collection of Research Materials in Dance, Jerome Robbins Dance Division.

Rosina Galli
Photo by Guigoni e Bossi, Milan.  Inscribed to "my dear companion Cia," 27 May 1910.  Walter Toscanini Collection of Research Materials in Dance, Jerome Robbins Dance Division.

"Opera Loses Singer in Gaining Star Dancer"
Clipping from Musical America, 22 Jan. 1916, with photos by Mishkin.  The caption reads:  "Rosina Galli, 'Première Danseuse' of the Metropolitan Opera House, as She Appears in the Dances of 'Prince Igor.'  Her Associate is Giuseppe Bonfiglio."  Although the Metropolitan Opera House was an Italian bastion, the impact of Diaghilev's Ballets Russes could be felt during the war years, when the company made two heavily publicized tours of the United States that included seasons at the Met.  In fact, the Met's premiere of the Alexander Borodin opera Prince Igor with its "Tartar Ballabile" (to the music of the Polovtsian dances) took place only a few weeks before the Ballets Russes performed its version of the Polovtsian Dances at New York's Century Theatre.  The hugely popular number had figured in the Ballets Russes repertory since 1909.  Walter Toscanini Collection of Research Materials in Dance, Jerome Robbins Dance Division.