Maria Mosina and Igor Vassine by Terry Shapiro
Colorado Ballet Premiere: 2009
New Orleans-born composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk (1829-1869) began playing piano at the age of four, and gave his public debut at eleven. Although he was rebuffed from the Paris Conservatory (his examiner reportedly remarked with disdain, “America is a country of steam engines”), he pursued private lessons and went on to become one of the first internationally acclaimed American pianists.
Gottschalk toured extensively. Female fans were known to faint at his appearance, and followers competed to retrieve his white playing gloves after a performance. At forty, Gottschalk collapsed after playing his Morte (Death) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and died shortly thereafter. More than one hundred years later, Mikhail Baryshnikov, then artistic director of American Ballet Theatre in New York, invited choreographer and Denver-native Lynne Taylor-Corbett to create a new work for the company. Her search for inspiration led her to a local record store, where Taylor-Corbett says “one cover jumped out at [her] purely because of its vibrant colors. It was the piano music of Louis Moreau Gottschalk.”
“When I listened to the music later I thought, ‘No, no, it’s too simple,’” she explains. “The tunes, however, would not leave me alone and eventually I had to surrender to their whimsy and uncanny power.” Taylor-Corbett chose Gottschalk’s Souvenirs de Porto Rico, The Dying Poet, Tournament Galop, La Savane, Oh Ma Charmante, Le Bananier, and La Mancheiga for the score.
Great Galloping Gottschalk premiered at the Miami Beach Theatre of the Performing arts in January 1982. Beginning that year, Colorado Ballet Artistic Director Gil Boggs performed in Great Galloping Gottschalk with American Ballet Theatre. “It’s all about the comedy,” Boggs notes. “It’s fun to be funny.”