The Enchanted Forest (ballet)

La Forêt enchantée (en. The Enchanted Forest) (ru. «Очарованный лес», Ocharovanyi les) is a ballet fantastique in one act, originally choreographed by Lev Ivanov to the music of Riccardo Drigo,[1] first presented by students of the Imperial Ballet School in St. Petersburg, Russia, at the school's theatre on 5 April [O.S. 24 March] 1887.[1]

La Forêt enchantée
Drigo -Foret enchantee frontispiece.jpg
Frontispiece for the piano reduction of Riccardo Drigo's score for Lev Ivanov's La Forêt enchantée as issued by the music publisher Zimmerman, 1909.
ChoreographerLev Ivanov (1887)
Marius Petipa (revival, 1889)
MusicRiccardo Drigo
LibrettoLev Ivanov
Premiere5 April [O.S. 24 March] 1887
Imperial Ballet School

15 May [O.S. 3 May] 1887
Imperial Mariinsky Theatre

25 July [O.S. 13 July] 1889
revival, Peterhof
DesignOrest Allegri
TypeBallet fantastique


La Forêt enchantée was originally produced for the Imperial Ballet School's annual graduation performances of students of the Imperial Ballet School. The ballet was Lev Ivanov's first original work after having recently been appointed second maître de ballet to the St. Petersburg Imperial Theatres.[1] The ballet was also the composer and conductor Riccardo Drigo's first complete score for a full-length ballet after having been appointed to the dual position of director of music and Kapellmeister to the Imperial Ballet, as well as principal conductor of ballet and Italian opera performances at the Mariinsky Theatre.[1][2] The first student performances of La Forêt enchantée featured the graduate Alexandra Vinogradova in the principal role of Valeria.[1]

La Forêt enchantée was soon transferred to the repertory of the Imperial Ballet. Revisions were made to the ballet, among them was the changing of the name of the ballerina's character from Valeria to Ilka, while the danseur's character was changed from Petrus to Josi.[1] Choreographic changes were made as well, among them was Ivanov's expansion of the corps de ballet of dryads.[1] The first performance was given on 15 May [O.S. 3 May] 1887 at the Mariinsky Theatre on a bill with Jules Perrot's ballet La naïade et le pêcheur. For this performance the ballerina Varvara Nikitina led the cast.[1]

Lev Ivanov's staging and choreography were greatly criticized by contemporary critics after the first performance on the Mariinsky stage. The theatre critic of the St. Petersburg Gazette stated in his review that "...this is Mr. Ivanov's first attempt as an independent ballet master ... excepting one variation with classical shadings, there is absolutely nothing in the new ballet deserving of praise."[1] Riccardo Drigo's score was received far more positively. The critic for the newspaper The New Time reviewed that " ... the music of this ballet is outstanding in a symphonic sense, reveals an experienced composer, a man with taste, and an excellent orchestrator. There are beautiful melodies in it, the rhythms are not overdone, and everything is listened to with pleasure from beginning to end."[1] Drigo's score was eventually published in 1909 in piano reduction and orchestral partition by the music publisher Zimmerman.

La Forêt enchantée was chosen by the director of the St. Petersburg Imperial Theatres Ivan Vsevolozhsky for performances attended by the Imperial Russian court at Peterhof in 1889. For this performance the Imperial Theatre's Premier maître de ballet Marius Petipa re-choreographed the ballet and commissioned the composer Riccardo Drigo to expand his original score with music for new dances. Among these additions was a new Grand Pas des dryads arranged for a corps de ballet of dryads led by a new character called the Dryad Queen that Petipa created for his daughter Marie. Also included were two new solo variations for the principal role of Ilka and for the Genie of the forest, respectively. The variation for Ilka featured an obbligato solo for harp arranged by Drigo for the virtuoso harpist Albert Zabel. The revival premiered on 25 July [O.S. 13 July] 1889, again with Varvara Nikitina in the role of Ilka.[1] After the performance of the Peterhof revival, the ballet was performed with regularity on the stage of the Mariinsky Theatre, becoming a favorite of many ballerinas at the turn-of-the 20th century. La Forêt enchantée was performed for the last time during the Imperial Ballet's summer season at Krasnoe Selo on 15 June [O.S. 2 June] 1907.[1]

Pieces of music from Riccardo Drigo's score for La Forêt enchantée appeared in several ballets throughout the Soviet-era and continue to be heard in different works, particularly in Russia. Drigo's 1889 variation for the Genie of the Forest is used to accompany the male solo in the so-called La Fille mal Gardée pas de deux, which is a staple at galas and on the competition circuit. Vladimir Bourmeister's 1950 production of the romantic ballet La Esmeralda (revived in 2009) for the Stanislavsky Musical Theatre includes several pieces extracted from the score. The choreographer Alexei Ratmansky utilized music from La Forêt enchantée for his Grand pas des éventails that appears in the final act of the Bolshoi Ballet's 2007 production of Le Corsaire.


In an old forest in Hungary, Ilka walks with her friends. Suddenly they are taken unawares by a storm. In the confusion Ilka is separated from her friends and cannot find her way out of the forest. As the storm rages on, she becomes frightened and falls faint. She is then discovered by dryads and other forest creatures who take delight in her beauty, but they frighten her upon awakening. The Genie of the Forest enters and soon falls in love with Ilka. With the aid of the forest creatures, the Genie begs Ilka to become his queen. Upon learning that she has a human fiancé, the Genie threatens her and she falls faint again. Mortals are now approaching and the forest creatures withdraw. Peasants find Ilka. Among them is Josy, her intended, to whom she recounts her experiences with the Genie of the Forest. The ballet ends with rejoicing and dances.

Résumé of scenes and dancesEdit

Taken from the published piano score of 1909[3] and Riccardo Drigo's memoirs.[2]

The ballerina Maria Anderson costumed as Ilka in La Forêt enchantée. St. Petersburg, 1892.

Ballet fantastique in one act

  • № 01 Introduction et scène
  • № 02 Entrée et danse des Dryads
  • № 03 L'apparition du Génie de la forêt: Scène dansante et galop
  • № 04 Danse des petits Génies
  • № 05 Pas d'action
  • № 06 Danse des Dryads (coryphées)
  • № 07 Variation pour la Première danseuse
  • № 08 Coda-valse (Danse générale)
  • № 09 Scène du désespoir d'Ilka —
—a. Allegro vivace
—b. Andante
  • № 10 Csárdás —
—a. Vivacissimo: Paysans et Paysannes
—b. Entrée d'Ilka et Josy
  • interpolation: Grand Pas des dryads (for Marie Petipa, 1889)


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Wiley, Roland John (1997). The Life and Ballets of Lev Ivanov. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0198165675.
  2. ^ a b Travaglia, Silvio (1929). Riccardo Drigo, l'uomo e l'artista. Guglielmo Zanibon.
  3. ^ Drigo, Riccardo Eugenio (1909). Piano score of "La Forêt enchantée". Zimmerman.

External linksEdit