#Throwback Thursday: Marco Spada

This week's #ThrowbackThursday is Marco Spada, or The Bandit's Daughter. Following our concert on Sunday, senior ballet students will have the opportunity to watch the Bolshoi Ballet's reconstructed production of Marco Spada, starring David Hallberg, Eugenia Obraztsova, and Olga Smirnova.

David Hallberg as Marco Spada, Bolshoi Ballet

Marco Spada, ou La Fille du Bandit is based on an Opera comique by Daniel-Francois-Esprit Auber and Eugene Scribe, which premiered in Paris in 1852. Shortly afterwards, it was adapted for ballet by choreographer Joseph Mazilier (who also created the original productions of Paquita and Le Corsaire), and premiered at the Academie royale de danse et musique (today's Paris Opera) in 1857. The ballet starred two competing ballerinas, Carolina Rosati and Amalia Ferraris, and it was rumoured that the ballet had been commissioned by Emperor Napoleon III especially for the two talented dancers. However, the ballet was lost after Rosati decided she wanted to pursue her career in Russia.

In 1981, French choreographer Pierre Lacotte achieved a slightly dubious 'reconstruction' of the ballet for the Opera in Rome. This production starred Rudolf Nureyev as Marco Spada and Ghislaine Thesmar as his daughter Angela. At the time, Nureyev was already sick, but insisted on dancing in Marco Spada; according to Lacotte, he proclaimed, 'This part is for me!' and signed a scrap of a restaurant menu, promising to be free for rehearsals.

Lacotte has now restaged his ballet with some minor adjustments for the Bolshoi Ballet. The premiere occurred on November 8 2013 at the Bolshoi Theatre, starring David Hallberg and Eugenia Obraztsova. The Bolshoi has retained exclusive rights to the new production.

The ballet begins in the village square. During the celebration of a wedding, the villagers complain to the Governor of Rome regarding the banditry and crimes of a certain Marco Spada. A regiment of dragoons enters. Their captain, Count Pepinelli, immediately falls for the Governor's daughter, Marchesa Sampietri, but she is already betrothed to Prince Frederici. Unnoticed in all the hubbub, a disguised Marco Spada deftly empties the crowd's pockets. The villagers panic over their missing valuables and a sudden burst of rain scatters the crowd, leaving only Friar Borromeo in the square, whose Marco Spada has relieved of the church alms.

Some time later, the Governor, his daughter, and Count Pepinelli have become lost on a mountain walk. They are offered refuge by Angela, Marco Spada's daughter, who is entirely ignorant of her father's criminal activities. Believing the house to be empty, Marco Spada's bandit accomplices fill the room and just as quickly vanish. Pepinelli, witnessing all this, warns a recently returned Spada that his house has been invaded by bandits. Pepinelli has his dragoons take up posts, but Spada is too clever for them; the next time the room is changed, it reveals only a laden dining table surrounded by maids.

The Governor invites Marco Spada and Angela to a ball. Just as Prince Frederici is about to ask Spada for his daughter's hand in marriage, Friar Borromeo bursts in, complaining that he has been robbed. Before Spada can slip away, the Friar identifies him. Angela realises what her father has been up to, and tells the Prince she cannot marry him. Annoyed, the Prince asks the Governor's daughter instead, upsetting Pepinelli. He decides to declare his love for the Marchesa one last time, and she meets him in her wedding dress; suddenly, both are captured by bandits and taken up into the mountains. They are met by Angela, now dressed as a bandit, and Marco Spada, and are married by a reluctant Friar Borromeo.

The approaching regiment of dragoons is heard in the distance. The bandits retreat to a mountain cave, capturing the Prince and the Governor on the way, but Angela saves their lives. During the fighting that ensues, Marco Spada is wounded. Before he dies, he makes a staggering confession: Angela is not his daughter. The lie saves her from arrest and allows her to marry the Prince.

Thanks for reading!

- Selene

All images courtesy of the Bolshoi Ballet

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