Cesare Pugni


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(b Genoa, 31 May 1802; d St Petersburg, 26 Jan. 1870)

Italian composer. It is believed he wrote more than 300 ballets, which arguably made him the most prolific ballet composer in history. He wrote his first ballet for La Scala, Milan, in 1823: Il castello di Kenilworth (chor. Gaetano Gioja). In 1832 he was appointed director of music at La Scala, although he left precipitately two years later (disgraced, some said, by his gambling habits). He worked in Paris for several years and in 1843 was appointed ballet composer at Her Majesty's Theatre in London where for the next seven years he worked with the choreographers Perrot, Saint-Léon, and Paul Taglioni. In 1851 he became official ballet composer in St Petersburg (probably on Perrot's recommendation). He was a hard-working journeyman composer who wrote ballet music to order, but he also had a drinking problem which left him frequently in debt. Saint-Léon records that at one point in 1869 Pugni was so impoverished the dancers of the Imperial Ballet took up a collection to help him feed his large family. His most important collaborations were with Perrot, Saint-Léon, and Petipa. For Perrot he wrote Ondine (London, 1843), La Esmeralda (1844), La Vivandière (1944), Éoline ou la dryade (London, 1845), Pas de quatre (London, 1845), Lalla Rookh, or The Rose of Lahore (London, 1846), Le Jugement de Pâris (London, 1846), Catarina ou la Fille du bandit (London, 1846), The Naiad and the Fisherman (St Petersburg, 1851), Gazelda (St Petersburg, 1853), and Faust (St Petersburg, 1854). For Saint-Léon he wrote La Fille de marbre (Paris, 1847) and The Humpbacked Horse (St Petersburg, 1864). For Petipa he wrote The Blue Dahlia (1860), La Fille du Pharaon (St Petersburg, 1862), The Beauty of Lebanon (1863), and Le Roi Candaule (St Petersburg, 1868).

Subjects: Dance.

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