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Ivan Alexandrovich Vsevolozhsky (1835‑1909) was the director of the Russian Imperial Theatres from 1881‑1899. A Parisian diplomat before his appointment, he was a man of wide culture: playwright, essayist and painter.
Vsevolozhsky instituted the rehearsal hall in Theatre Street that is still used today and the first syllabus of the ballet school was drawn up at his insistence. He is credited with establishing a unity of style in the production of ballets and achieving a harmony of dance, music and decor; to achieve this end, he created a system of advisory panels comprised of composer, librettist, choreographer, designer and stage manager.
Vsevolozhsky was a major influence on Marius Petipa and worked closely with him, particularly on The Sleeping Beauty and Raymonda. He was responsible for the conception of The Sleeping Beauty and wrote the libretto for the ballet based on Perrault’s story La Belle au Bois Dormant, which has been the basis for all versions of the ballet.
Vsevolozhsky intended the ballet to show a fascinating contrast in historical style in its two halves; he placed the Prologue and Act I in the middle of the sixteenth century, while the Awakening and Wedding were to be seen in an historically accurate evocation of the golden years of Louis XIV.
In 1886, he abolished the post of official ballet composer to encourage better music in the theatre and in 1888 invited Tchaikovsky to write the score for The Sleeping Beauty.
Vsevolozhsky also designed the costumes for The Sleeping Beauty as well as for twenty‑five ballets, among them: Cinderella, The Nutcracker, La Fille Mal Gardée, The Seasons, Esmeralda, and Raymonda.
As organizer of the Court entertainments, Vsevolozhsky showed considerable elegance and supreme skill for getting the best out of people in the nicest way. Petipa, who dedicated his memoir to him, wrote: “During the long years of Vsevolozhsky’s management, all the artists without exception adored their noble, kind, cultured director. The kindest of men was a real courtier, in the best sense of the word.”
About the House, Volume 2 Number 12, November 1968, Published by the Friends of Covent Garden, London.
The Dance Encyclopedia, Compiled and Edited by Anatole Chujoy and P. W. Manchester, Simon and Schuster, New York, c 1967.
Researched and compiled by Fran Michelman