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Spotlight Saturday: Amalia Ferraris

This week's Spotlight Saturday features Italian ballerina Amalia Ferraris.

In 'Cupid in Nemea, or Love's Revenge', possibly in Paris

Ferraris was born either 1828 or 1830, in Voghera, Italy. After beginning her studies in Turin, she was accepted into the La Scala Academy, under the directorship of Carlo Blasis, an extremely influential Italian teacher. Ferraris debuted in Milan in 1844.

Above and Below: Ferraris in 'L'Etoile de Messine', 1861

She then danced at the Teatro di San Carlo in Naples before moving to the Theatre Royal in London in 1848. In 1851 she danced at The Great Exhibition, perhaps better known as the Crystal Palace. Ferraris stayed on in London until 1853, before moving on to performances at Rome (1854), and Vienna (1855). She then joined the Paris Opera in 1856, where she premiered in Joseph Mazilier's Les Elfes. While there, Ferraris was cast with Carolina Rosati, her rival, in the 1857 ballet Marco Spada, ou La Fille du bandit (Marco Spada, or the Bandit's Daughter). It was rumoured that the French Emperor, Napoleon III, had commissioned the ballet especially for the two stars, since Ferraris and Rosati, along with Fanny Cerrito and Giuseppina Bozzacchi, were considered the greatest Italian ballerinas of the era.

Above: Programme for Mazilier's 'Les Elfes'; Below: in 'Vicenza', 1853, lithograph

In 1859, she debuted at the Imperial Ballet in St. Petersburg. It was for Ferraris that Marius Petipa created the Carnival In Venice pas de deux. The composer, Cesare Pugni, based his work on Niccolo Paganini's Il Carnevale di Venezia as a tribute to the Italian ballerina. In 1866, this piece was added to the ballet Satanella, and is still performed today under its more familiar title, the Satanella pas de deux. Ferraris later returned to the Paris Opera, where she had one of her last triumphs in Pasquale Borri's 1861 ballet L'Etoile de Messine (The Star of Messina). Her performance of the tarantella alongside Louis Merante was particularly praised, and the ballerina demonstrated her strength of pointework by performing (with some assistance from Merante) pirouettes sur la pointe... on the edge of an upright tambourine!

Above: Programme for 'L'Etoile de Messine', showing Ferraris and Merante; Below: Ferraris and Merante pose together, 'L'Etoile de Messine', 1861

Amalia Ferraris died in Vienna on April 1, 1904.

Ferraris in a lithograph by Eduard Kaiser, 1852

Thanks for reading! Next week the Spotlight will be on Merce Cunningham.

- Selene

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