“A Dream from the Past” — such was the sign, written in bold letters so it was visible through the thick clouds covering the stage, that appeared at the end of the prologue to the ballet La Fille du Pharaon, at its premiere performance in 1862. And this was followed by a grandiose spectacle, the like of which had never been seen by imperial ballet. Here there was something for all tastes. A desert storm, a lion-hunt, various chases, several suicide attempts, a fantastic celebration of all the world’s rivers and also of nereids and nymphs at the bottom of the majestic Nile. The cast included an English aristocrat traveler, his servant, a Sancho Panza-like character, a Nubian King, Armenian merchants who, after smoking opium, had found themselves in Ancient Egypt...And in the heavens there appeared Egyptian gods, under the command of Osiris and Isis.
La Fille du Pharaon was immensely popular with the public. To obtain a box for a performance of this ballet, which started at 7.30 in the evening and ended just before midnight, was considered a great feat. La Fille had a long and happy performance history. First produced by Marius Petipa in 1862, at Petersburg’s Bolshoi Theatre, it was given several revivals. It was adored by Petersburg ballerinas, especially Mathilda Kshessinska who regarded the ballet as her ’personal property’ and shone in it not only by virtue of her technique, but also thanks to her Romanov Faberge diamonds. In La Fille, Kshessinska felt herself to be the ’queen of the ball’.
La Fille du Pharaon was danced to acclaim in Moscow too. In 1864, the ballet was transferred from Petersburg to Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre. But in Soviet times it was considered to be ideologically immature and, dropped from the repertoire, it was virtually forgotten.
Pierre Lacotte, the famous researcher into our ballet legacy, who has breathed new life into more than one forgotten masterpiece of past centuries, had long ago been fired with enthusiasm by the idea of resurrecting Petipa’s mighty, pseudo-Egyptian fresco: ever since, in fact, he had begun to realize the fascinating discoveries to be made by the would-be restorer of ancient ballets, an art genre that one might think did not lend itself to restoration.
The second birth of La Fille du Pharaon took place in Moscow in the year 2000 — the reconstruction was undertaken by Pierre Lacotte in answer to an exclusive commission from the Bolshoi Theatre.
La Fille’s third birth, may be considered to be the video recording of this production taken by the French Bel Air Media Company.