Salvatore Vigano (1769-1821)

If Noverre was the grandfather of ballet then Carlo Blasis was the father. There is a direct link between the two men. Noverre was followed by two disciples, M. Gardel and Jean Dauberval. Vigano carried on the tradition of Noverre through his teacher Dauberval. Vigano was the teacher of Carlo Blasis.

Salvatore Vigano was born in Naples of a family of dancers. He was the nephew of the composer Boccherini. As a youth Vigano's main interests were literature and music. Dance gradually took over his interest and he made his debut in a woman's role, in Rome. His uncle took him to Madrid to take part in a festival. This move charted his future. While in Madrid Vigano met and married Spanish dancer Marie Medina. But, more important, he became acquainted with Jean Dauberval. Dauberval taught him the principles of Noverre.

Vigano accompanied Jean Dauberval to London, and this friendship stimulated his interest in choreography. Vigano and his wife returned to Venice where he produced his first ballet. As a team they toured Central Europe using Vienna as home base with great success (1793-95). His ballets were very dramatic. He often wrote the music himself when he couldn't get what he wanted from other composers. Beethoven respected him so much that he composed PROMETHEUS especially for Vigano, first produced in 1801.

Noverre's theories, which Dauberval had taught him, never left him and he kept them alive. We owe it to Vigano that Noverre's principles did not die with him.

From 1813 until his death Vigano was Ballet Master at la Scala di Milano. A rich female admirer left her fortune to him. His money worries were over and he could spend months choreographing and rehearsing his ballets until he thought they were ready to be seen. His salary was great also. He worked in peace and had every reason to be completely happy except that the flagrant infidelities of his wife, whom he adored, caused him constant anguish.

Marie Medina, Vigano's beautiful Spanish wife was adored in Vienna. Vigano contrived a dance in which she appeared all but naked under tranparent veils. Her voluptuousness more probably resembled a composition made up of selections from different works of Canova (Italian sculptor). The Viennese were enchanted. The Empress became jealous, and the court could not frequent the theatre. The public however continued to pack the theatre. She was so popular that when Marie became pregnant, Viennese society ladies tied small false stomaches to simulate pregnancy. The Viganos ended their stay in Vienna in disgrace because Marie created such intrigues too close to the court.

(First published February 1992)

Next: Pierre Vladimirov (1893-1970)