The Bournonvilles were fundamental for the formation of the Royal Danish Ballet and of the Romantic stile in ballet as well.
Antoine (1760 - 1843) was the principal dancer from 1792, then maitre de ballet of the Royal Danish Ballet from 1816 to 1823. He trained his son, August (1805 - 1879), who was born in Denmark, as a dancer.
Napoli in the 2000 production of the Ballet San Jose Silicon Valley
Photo Bob Shomler
As a young man August left his homeland to study and dance in the European capitals; after 1829 he remained in Copenhagen as principal dancer and choreographer of the Royal Danish Ballet.
He directed the company for almost 50 years, defining a national style, with emphasis on excellent dancing and expressive mime. He choreographed 32 ballets, ten of them are still represented in theatres all over the world today.
Napoli, from 1842, is subtitled “the fisherman and his bride”. The libretto was written by August Bournonville: it echoes situations suggested by a visit to Naples on a tour with the company.
Napoli reflects several typical elements of Romantic ballet: interest for the lives of common people, and the importance placed on the plot -- dance is used as an expressive means to tell the story to the spectators.
The music, although it seems so typical and picturesque, was commissioned to four Danish composers: Niels Wilhelm Gade, Edvard Helsted, Hans Christian Lumbye, e Holger Simon Paulli.
Ballet San Jose Silicon Valley in the third act.
Photo Bob Shomler
Teresina, a poor but beautiful girl, has two suitors: one is a travelling lemonade vendor, the other sells spaghetti. She is in love with a fisherman, Gennaro.
To dispel the rumors about Teresina’s infidelity, Gennaro asks her to marry him. They sail off in his boat, but a violent storm sinks it and only Gennaro returns ashore. Teresina’s mother accuses him of killing her daughter.
The desperate Gennaro seeks consolation from a monk, who gives him an image of the Madonna and encourages him to set off in search of Teresina.
Meanwhile, Teresina has been saved by the Nereids who have taken her to the Blue Grotto where the god Golfo resides. The god falls in love with her and transforms her into a Nereid, canceling her memory of her past life.
Gennaro lands in the grotto and sees Teresina, but she doesn't recognize him. He shows her the image of the Madonna and she is miraculously returned to human form and her memory is restored. Golfo, faced with a similar portent, can only send the couple off with a boatful of wedding gifts.
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They return to Naples, planning to make a pilgrimage of thanksgiving to the sanctuary of the Madonna, but the people accuse Gennaro of witchcraft for having brought a drowned woman to life. The monk intercedes, revealing that it was not Gennaro, but the miraculous influence of the Madonna that saved Teresina.
The story ends happily with a lively tarantella, accompanied by the music of Hans Christian Lumbye.