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Carlotta Grisi

Lithograph by an unknown artist of the ballerina Carlotta Grisi in the tite role of Adam's Giselle, Paris, 1841.

Carlotta Grisi, real name Caronne Adele Josephine Marie Grisi (June 28, 1819 May 20, 1899) was an Italian ballet dancer born in Visinada, Istria (now part of Croatia). She was trained at the ballet school of Teatro alla Scala in Milan and later with dancer/balletmaster Jules Perrot. She was especially noted for the role of Giselle.



At her 1836 debut in London Grisi performed with the accomplished danseur Jules Perrot.[1] She next appeared in Paris at the Th tre de la Renaissance (1840) and a year later, toured with Perrot to other parts of Europe. Through Perrot's contacts, the pair worked in Paris, London, Vienna, Munich, and Milan where she sang and danced. Of her two talents, it was her dancing that was acclaimed. By dancing Perrot's choreography, which at that time was receiving great attention, she gained notable attention of both the public and the critics.

Her greatest role however was that of Giselle. The world premi re of this two-act ballet was on June 28, 1841 at the Th tre de l'Acad mie Royale de Musique, Paris. The part of Albrecht was danced by Lucien Petipa, (the brother of the great Marius Petipa), with the part of Myrtha, Queen of the Wilis danced by Adele Dumilatre. It caused a sensation and inspired its reviewers to proclaim Giselle to be the greatest ballet of its time and a triumphant successor to the Romantic masterwork La Sylphide. As such, it immediately established Grisi as a star in her very first full-length ballet in Paris. Her salary grew from 5,000 francs to 12,000 in 1842 and 20,000 by 1844, with additional performance fees on top. It also marked the beginning of a change in her relationship with Jules Perrot.

"The Opera Polka as danced by Mlle. Caroltta Grisi & Mons. Perrot" by Cesare Pugni (Boston: William H. Oakes, ca.1840s)

Grisi's last performance in the west was in Paul Taglioni's Les M tamorphoses (aka Satanella, 1849).

In 1850, she joined Perrot in St. Petersburg, Russia, where he had been appointed balletmaster, and she danced Giselle at the Imperial Bolshoi Kamenny Theatre. The first Giselle in Russia had been danced by Fanny Elssler, and so the initial reaction to Grisi's interpretation of the role was not enthusiastic. However, over time the Russians appreciated her talents. She was Prima Ballerina of the St. Petersburg Imperial Theatres in St. Petersburg from 1850 to 1853, working not only with Perrot but also Joseph Mazilier who staged for her La Jolie Fille de Gand and Vert-Vert especially for her.

Saint-Jean, the district of Geneva in which Carlotta retired in 1856
Saint-Jean, the district of Geneva in which Carlotta retired in 1856
In 1854, with her daughter, she left Russia for Warsaw, where she intended to continue dancing, but she became pregnant by Prince L on Radziwill who then persuaded her to retire from ballet at the height of her fame. Grisi gave birth to her second daughter, L ontine Grisi, and, at the age of 34, settled in Saint-Jean, Geneva to spend in villa Grisi (also called villa Saint Jean)[2] the next forty-six years of her life in peaceful retirement. She died in this district of the town on May 20, 1899,[3] a month before her 80th birthday.
Carlotta's sepulcral vault in a cemetery near Saint-Jean
Carlotta's sepulcral vault in a cemetery near Saint-Jean
One of the Giselles creators, Th ophile Gautier (who was married to Carlotta's sister Ernestina), described her dancing as having a childlike artlessness, a happy and infectious gaiety. Carlotta Grisi was the cousin of the famous soprano singers, the sisters Giuditta and Giulia Grisi.

Notable Roles

  • Created the title role of Giselle (Jules Perrot, Jean Coralli and Adolphe Adam. 1841).
  • Created the dual role of Peri/Leila in the oriental La P ri (Jean Coralli and Friedrich Burgm ller. 1843)
  • Created the title role in Paquita (Joseph Mazilier and Edouard Deldevez. 1844)
  • Second ballerina in Pas de Quatre (Jules Perrot and Cesare Pugni. 1845)
  • Created the role of Mazourka in Le Diable Quatre (Joseph Mazilier and Adolphe Adam. 1845)


  1. Review: King's Theatre, in The Times, Wednesday 13 April 1836, p. 5, column C.
  2. A villa which doesn't exist any more (see picture of it under the Th ophile Gautier Society, France (text in French):
  3. Burial took place on May 23, 1899, her tomb is located in Cimeti re de Ch telaine, Ward 10, Grave 1 (Certified by the Cemeteries and Crematorium Services of the City of Geneva, 2011

External links

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