Maximilien Gardel


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(b Mannheim, 18 Dec. 1741; d Paris, 11 Mar. 1787)

French dancer, choreographer, and ballet master. He was born the son of a ballet master at the court of King Stanislas of Poland and studied at the Paris Opera School (Académie Royale de Musique) from 1755, making his official debut at the Paris Opera in 1759. In 1772 he became the first dancer to appear without a mask or a wig when he performed Apollo in Rameau's Castor et Pollux, possibly making this bold move in order to distinguish himself from Gaetano Vestris, who had originally been scheduled to take the role. In 1773 he was appointed ballet master, along with Dauberval, at the Paris Opera. In 1781 he became ballet master, succeeding Noverre. He was a keen exponent of Noverre's revolutionary concept of the ballet d'action, promoting dance as a dramatic art rather than decorative entertainment. He often drew on the comic operas of the period for his stories. In 1787 he suffered a minor cut to his foot which became infected, and he died. He was succeeded by his younger brother Pierre Gardel. A list of his works for the Paris Opera includes Ninette à la cour (1778), Mirza et Lindor (mus. Gossec, 1779), La Rosière (1783), Le Premier Navigateur (mus. Grétry, 1785), Le Coq du village (mus. Favart, 1787), and Le Déserteur (1788).

Subjects: Dance.

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