Home: Ballet: Close of Golden Years

The opera was in need of success and many people lost the habit of going to the Opera. Box office receipts droppped to a very low level. Everyone was waiting for the success which would bring back the days of glory. That day eventually came but not with an opera rather a ballet. That break came in the ballet called Le Diable a quatre and although it was not the only great ballet of the time, this ballet brought back the spirit of the eariler years.

The play revealed a story of two couples, one a count and countess and the other a basket maker and his wife. The countess breaks a violin of a blind fiddler who turns out to be a magician. As a result, the magician punishes the countess to have to switch places with the basket makers wife.

The countess discovers the rough manners that the basket makers wife has to go through while the basket maker's wife amazes the Countess' servants with her compassion. In the end, everything is returned to normal and lives happily ever after.

In this ballet, the use of male dancers was few. The lead was still a male named Lucien Petipa but those men that were used were mainly for filling in the background as peasants, lords and ambassadors, and the ensemble dances. This decreasing use of men in ballet is reflected in the paintings by Edgar Degas.

Degas' loved the ballet and most of his paintings were of women or of musicians. Looking at the various paintings that Degas painted were mostly of women and of musicians leads people to believe that the Ballet was dominated by women during his time.

The musical score for Le Diable a quatre was also worthy of note. The music which was light was exactly what the ballet called for. This play was a good foreshadow of what was to become of ballet in Paris over the next couple of decades.