Louis Antoine Duport


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(b Paris, 1781; d Paris, 19 Oct. 1853)

French dancer, choreographer, and ballet master. He made his debut at the Paris Opera in 1797 where he rapidly became one of the most successful dancers of his time, rivalling even the legendary Vestris. (In 1804 they agreed to appear on stage together in an unofficial competition of prowess. A contemporary wrote: ‘It would take a Virgil to describe this contest.’) Especially admired for the speed of his pirouettes and the vivacity of his dancing, he also began choreographing ballets, including Acis et Galathée (mus. Darondeau, 1805), with the ambition of unseating the reigning ballet master Gardel. As he sought more and more power at the Opera the authorities, including Napoleon himself, were forced to try to curb his demands. Thwarted, he fled Paris in 1808 disguised as a woman in the company of a former mistress of Napoleon. He went first to Vienna where he produced Figaro or the Barber of Seville, then to St Petersburg where he enjoyed spectacular popularity (he is mentioned in Tolstoy's War and Peace). His outrageous ego infuriated Didelot who was ballet master there until 1811, and in 1812 Duport finally left for Vienna. Here he choreographed many ballets for the Kärntnertor Theater including La Fille mal gardée (after Dauberval, 1814), though according to Elssler ‘he never gives the public anything new’. He also danced in Naples (1817 and 1820) and at London's King's Theatre (1819), before returning to co-direct the Kärntnertor Theatre with the impresario-producer D. Barbaia. In 1836 he retired to Paris.

A talented child dancer of the same name performed in America during the first half of the 1790s though it is not established whether he had any connection with his famous namesake.

Subjects: Dance.

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