Jean Georges Noverre

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Georges Noverre (born April 29, 1727 in Paris , † October 19, 1810 in Saint-Germain-en-Laye ) was a French dancer and choreographer .

In the spirit of the bourgeois Enlightenment, Noverre fought against the paralysis and splendor of court ballet , against hoop skirts and wigs, for naturalness and humanism in dance and for the dramatic action ballet (for example in Ballet d'action ). He was a teacher of important ballet masters, such as Charles LePicq (* 1744 or 1749; † 1806). Noverre worked in Berlin from 1744 to 1747 , in Strasbourg from 1747 to 1750 , in Stuttgart from 1760 to 1767 and worked in Vienna from 1767 to 1774 with Christoph Willibald Gluck , among others . In 1770/1771 he choreographed the dances to Antonio Salieri's Don Chisciotte alle nozze di Gamace . In Paris, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart contributed music to Noverre's ballet Les petits riens (1778). Noverre's letters on the art of dance (1760), z. T. were translated by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing , are among the most important theoretical writings on ballet .

Jean-Georges Noverre
Jean-Baptiste Perronneau , 1764, Musée du Louvre
Jean-Georges Noverre.
Frontispiece of the Lettres sur les arts imitateurs , Paris, Collin; La Haye, Immerzeel, 1807


Noverre received his first ballet lessons from around 1740 from the Parisian dance master François Marcel and from the dancer Louis Dupré . He made his first appearance as a dancer in Fontainebleau in 1742 at the court of Louis XV. From 1744 he worked under the ballet master Jean-Barthélemy Lany as a figurant at the court opera built by Frederick the Great in Berlin . After staying in Dresden , he worked in Strasbourg from 1747 to 1750, where he married the dancer and actress Marguerite-Louise Sauveur in 1748. Her daughter Victoire Jenamy became a pianist and is very likely the dedicatee of Mozart's 9th Piano Concerto , which for a long time was wrongly called the Jeunehomme Concerto . From 1750 to 1752 the couple was engaged at the Lyon Opera, where Noverre now worked as a solo dancer and in 1751 produced his first own choreography, Le Jugement de Paris . From 1753 they were members of the ballet troupe of the Parisian Théâtre national de l'Opéra-Comique . In 1755/56 he was brought to the Theater Royal Drury Lane in London by David Garrick , where he got to know and appreciate his acting skills.

Back in Lyon he produced several ballets between 1757 and 1760, in which he mainly worked with the composer François Granier. In the same year his first theoretical work, Lettres sur la Danse et sur les Ballets, appeared . In 1760 he followed a call to Stuttgart to the court of the Duke of Württemberg. After the court had to dismiss numerous employees due to excessive indebtedness, Noverre applied in 1766 with an extensive representation of his previous ballet work (Warsaw manuscript) for the theater at the court of the Polish king Stanislaw August . After receiving no answer for almost a year, he went to Vienna in 1767 , where he was patronized by Marie Antoinette , who later became Queen of France . Numerous ballets were written in Vienna, primarily to music by Josef Starzer , Franz Aspelmayr (1728–1786), Christoph Willibald Gluck and other composers. In 1775 Marie-Antoinette brought him to Paris, where he was appointed ballet master of the Opéra National de Paris as the successor to Gaetano Vestris . After another stay in London from 1785 to 1793, Noverre withdrew from 1795 in Saint-Germain-en-Laye , where he died in 1810 while he was still working on a Dictionnaire de la danse .

Noverre is certainly one of the most important choreographers of the 18th century. The importance for his contemporaries as well as for posterity is based not least on the publication of numerous works on the theory and practice of the art of dance. He also wrote numerous detailed scenarios (= libretti , table of contents) for his ballets, which were subsequently taken up and danced by other choreographers. Since we do not have a written record of step material for any of the ballets, we can only have a rough idea of ​​what these ballets will look like. Apart from the scenarios for his ballets, the already mentioned Lettres sur la danse were available in 1760 , which were soon translated into several languages. Noverres Lettres sur la danse subsequently served many choreographers as a template for their own writings, including Carlo Blasis , August Bournonville and others until well into the 19th century . a. In 1766 Noverre wrote an approximately 2000 page "application letter" to the King of Poland. This writing (Warsaw manuscript) contains a total of 11 large-format volumes, 18 ballet scenarios, 13 scores and a volume with theoretical reflections on the art of dance. Part of it appeared in print in 1781 under the title Observations sur la construction d'une nouvelle salle de l'Opéra , while other parts from the Warsaw manuscript were incorporated into the expanded edition of his letters, the Lettres sur les arts imitateurs of 1807.

Jean-Honoré Fragonard
Le colin-maillard (around 1770), Paris, Musée du Louvre

Noverre was friends with Voltaire , Friedrich II. And David Garrick . He had a strong affinity for the fine arts. One of his main concerns was to paint tableaux with ballets, which in turn can serve as a template for the visual artists for their works. Volume 1 of the Warsaw manuscript reads in the chapter Le Ballet mis en parallele avec la Peinture : "  Le Ballet est l'Image du Tableau bien composé, s'il n'en est l'Original  " (p. 25). Accordingly, the subjects of his ballets can already be found in the paintings of French Rococo painters such as Jean-Antoine Watteau , François Boucher and Jean-Honoré Fragonard : Les Amusemems champetres , La Toilette de Vénus , Le Jugement de Pâris , Jason et Médée , Les Horaces et les Curiaces , Les Petits riens etc. Although the connections between fine arts and dance art are particularly obvious in Noverre, a detailed investigation is still pending . For example, in Les petits riens (Paris 1778, partly with music by WA Mozart), the image motifs of Amour en cage (Watteau) and the blind man's cow game / Colin Maillard (Fragonard) appear. Snapshots with erotic connotations with bared nipples are a topos of Rococo painting, but they also appear in the ballet Les petits riens . The dancer Madeleine Guimard , who was one of the shepherds in the “piquant” scene in Les petits riens , was painted by Fragonard, among others.

The theorist

Following on from a reform of stage dance already outlined by Louis de Cahusac , Noverre is of the opinion that a dramatic event must be presented in ballet without flattening out in divertissements , i.e. in unimportant dance scenes. Ballet should show and generate passions, but also represent the manners and customs of the people. The ballet composer must follow nature and truth with his choreography. It has to tell a logically structured and credible story, which has to be based on the three-part basic structure of the drama, namely its division " exposure - knot - dissolution". The dance should be more expressive and natural than technical and virtuoso. The danse en action is intended to move the viewer through an expressive pantomime , with Noverre being inspired by the theatrical sign play of David Garrick . Noverre criticized the hierarchical organization of the ballet. He opposed the wearing of masks because they "stifle the affects of the soul". He promoted realistic costumes that correspond to the presented subject and allow the dancers greater freedom of movement. The dancers should have a wide range of education, especially in the study of poetry, history, painting, geometry, music and anatomy, all of which are necessary for the success of a perfect dance art.

Writings: original editions

  • Lettres sur la danse et sur les ballets, by M. Noverre, Maître des Ballets de Son Altesse Sérénissime Monsieur le Duc de Wurtemberg… ' , Lyon / Stuttgart 1760; Vienna 1767; Paris 1783; St. Petersburg, 1803/04 (expanded edition), Reprint New York, Broude Brothers, 1967; Paris 1807 (extended edition). Letters online (Bibliothèque Nationale de Paris); Letters online (Wolfenbüttel library)
  • Deux lettres de M. Noverre à Voltaire (on Garrick, 1801).
  • Lettres à un artiste sur les fêtes publiques (1801).
  • Théorie et pratique de la danse en général, de la composition des ballets, de la musique, du costume, et des décorations qui leur sont propres , 1766 (Warsaw manuscript).
  • Letters on the art of dance and on ballets, from Mr. Noverre. Translated from the French , Hamburg / Bremen 1769; Reprint Leipzig, 1977/1981 (with detailed commentary); Reprint Munich, 1977. Letters online (Wolfenbüttel Library)
  • Recueil de Programmes de ballets de M. Noverre, Maître des Ballets de la cour imperiale et royale , Vienna 1776.
  • Observations sur la Construction d'une Salle d'Opéra , Paris 1781. Observations Online (Bibliothèque Nationale de Paris)
  • The Works. Translated from the French , 3 vols., London 1783.
  • Réflexions sur le costume , 2 vols., 1791.
  • Lettres a un artiste sur les fetes publiques , Paris 1800/01.
  • Lettres sur la Danse, sur les Ballets et les Arts , St. Petersbourg, 2 vols., Chez Jean Charles Schnoor, 1803 [1. Volume contains the 15 letters from Ed. from 1760, the 2nd volume contains the 20 new letters].
  • Lettres sur la Danse, sur les Ballets et Les Arts , 4 vols., Petersburg 1803-1804.
  • Lettres sur Les Arts Imitateurs en général, et sur la Danse en particulier dédiées a Sa Majesté L'Impératrice des Français et Reine d'Italie… , 2 vols., Paris 1807. Volume 1 online , volume 2 online

Modern editions

  • Lettres sur la danse et sur les ballets, précédées d'une vie de l'auteur, by André Levinson . Paris, 1927.
  • Letters on Dancing and Ballets. Translated by Cyril W. Beaumont . London, 1930; Reprint New York, 1966/1975; Reprint Alton, 2004.
  • Lettres sur la danse et les arts imitateurs . Paris, Lieutier, 1952; Reprint Paris, 1977.
  • Lettres sur la danse et the ballets . Moscow, 1965.
  • Lettres sur la danse. Presentation de Maurice Béjart . Editions Ramsay, Paris 1978, ISBN 2-85956-042-4 , most recently Lettres sur la danse. Presentation de Maurice Béjart. Sandre, Harmattan, Paris 2006. ISBN 2-7475-9862-4 .
  • Lettres sur la danse, sur les ballets et les arts (1803), edited by Flavia Pappacena, LIM, 2012.
  • Jean Georges Noverre, letters on the art of dance and ballets , Hamburg and Bremen: Johann Heinrich Cramer, 1769; Documenta Choreologica, Vol. XV, ed. by Kurt Petermann, Leipzig 1977.
  • Jean Georges Noverre, Letters on the Art of Dance. Newly edited and commented by Ralf Stabel . Henschel Verlag, Leipzig 2010. ISBN 978-3-89487-632-6 .
  • Lettres sur la danse, sur les ballets et sur les arts (1803) , edited by Flavia Pappacena, LIM, Lucca, 2012

Works (selection)

  • Les Fêtes chinoises (Paris 1754)
  • La Fontaine de jouvence (Paris 1754)
  • La Toilette de Vénus: François Granier (Lyon 1757)
  • L'Impromptu du sentiment F. Granier (Lyon 1758)
  • La Mort d'Ajax F. Granier (Lyon 1758)
  • Alceste (Stuttgart 1761 - Vienna 1767)
  • La Mort d'Hercule (Stuttgart 1762)
  • Psyché et l'Amour (Stuttgart 1762)
  • Jason et Médée (Stuttgart 1763; Vienna 1767, Paris 1776 1780; London 1781)
  • Hypermnestre (Stuttgart 1764)
  • Diane et Endymion: J. Starzer (Vienna 1770)
  • Don Chisciotte alle nozze di Gamace : A. Salieri (Vienna 1770/71)
  • Le Jugement de Pâris (Vienna 1771)
  • Roger et Bradamante (Vienna 1771)
  • Agamemnon vengé (Vienna 1772)
  • Iphigénie en Tauride (Vienna 1772)
  • Thésée (Vienna 1772)
  • Acis et Galathée (Vienna 1773)
  • Adèle de Ponthieu (Vienna 1773; London 1782)
  • Alexandre et Campaspe de Larisse (Vienna 1773)
  • Les Horaces et les Curiaces (Vienna 1774; Paris 1777) scenario online (Bibliothèque Nationale de Paris)
  • Renaud et Armide (Milan 1775 - London 1782)
  • La nuova sposa Persiana (Milan 1775; Vienna 1775)
  • Apelle et Campaspe (Paris 1776; Lyon 1787)
  • Les Caprices de Galatée (Paris 1776; London 1789)
  • Annette et Lubin (Paris 1778)
  • Les Petits Riens: F. Aspelmayer? / Chr. W. Gluck? (Vienna 1767); WA Mozart (Paris 1778)
  • Les Amours d'Énée et de Didon (Lyon 1781)
  • La Fête du Sérail (Paris 1788)
  • L'Amour et Psyché (London 1788)
  • La Fête de Tempé (London 1788)
  • Admète (London 1789)
  • La Bergère des Alpes (London 1794)
  • La Vittoria (London 1794)
  • Windsor Castle (London 1795)


  • Rudolph Angermüller: "Jean-Georges Noverre" and the Paris Académie Royale de Musique around 1780 . In: Mozart-Jahrbuch 1984/85 (Kassel 1986), pp. 147–175.
  • Sibylle Dahms: Jean Georges Noverre . In: MGG , Volume 12, 2004, Col. 1227-1231.
  • Sibylle Dahms: Jean Georges Noverre . In: Piper's Enzyklopadie des Musiktheaters , Volume 4, 1991, pp. 476-484.
  • Sibylle Dahms: The Conservative Revolutionary: Jean Georges Noverre and the Ballet Reform of the 18th Century . epodium, Munich 2010 (with numerous erroneous information about Noverre's biography).
  • Sabine Huschka: Dance as a medium of feelings. A historical consideration . In: Margit Bischof, Claudia Rossiny, Claudia Feest-Lieberknecht (eds.): E_motion . lit-Verlag, Münster 2006, pp. 107–122.
  • Sabine Huschka: "When passions become driving forces". On the dance style of the ballet d'action . In: Matthias Rothe, Hartmut Schröder (Ed.): Style, break in style, taboo. Style experience based on rhetoric. A balance sheet . lit-Verlag, Münster 2008, pp. 95–110.
  • Sabine Huschka: The paradox of techné. Perspectives on the ballet d'action . In: Proceedings of the Thirtieth Annual Conference Society of Dance History Scholars , Co-Sponsored with CORD, Center national de la danse. Paris 21.-24. June 2007, pp. 261-266.
  • Manfred Krüger: Jean-Georges Noverre and his influence on ballet design . Publishing house Lechte, Emsdetten 1963.
  • Michael Lorenz : "Mademoiselle Jeunehomme". To solve a Mozart riddle . In: Experiment Enlightenment . DaPonte Institut, 2006, pp. 423-29.
  • Michael Malkiewicz: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's sketch sheet for Le gelosie del serraglio KV Anh. 109 (135a) . In: G. Oberzaucher-Schüller, D. Brandenburg, M. Woitas (eds.): Prima la Danza! Festschrift for Sibylle Dahms . Königshausen & Neumann, Würzburg 2004, pp. 107–129.
  • Michael Malkiewicz: Reflections on the ballet compositions in Mozart's work . In: G. Ammerer, J. Brügge (Ed.): Mozart Interdisciplinary. Contributions from the series of lectures on the Mozart Year 2006 . Verlag Mueller-Speiser, Anif / Salzburg 2007, pp. 120–142.
  • Michael Malkiewicz: Concealment and Exposure. To depict the eroticism in Noverre's ballet scenarios . In: Uwe Schlottermüller, Howard Weiner, Maria Richter (eds.): Vom Schäferidyllzur Revolution. European dance culture in the 18th century (= 2nd Rothenfels dance symposium). fa-gisis, Freiburg 2008, pp. 133–146.
  • Michael Malkiewicz: Tres ballets sobre Dido y Eneas creados por Noverre, Angiolini y Le Picq . In: Dorothea Link, Leonardo L. Waisman (Ed.): Actas del congresso internacional: Los siete mundos de Vicente Martín y Soler, Valencia 14-18 November 2006 . Institut Valencià de la Música - Generalitat Valenciana, Valencia 2010, pp. 380–395.
  • Elena Randi: Pittura vivente. Jean Georges Noverre e il Balletto d'action . Corbo e Fiore, Venice 1989.
  • Mathias Spohr: Noverre's “Lettres sur la danse, et sur les ballets” (1760) from a media history perspective . In: Kodikas , Vol. 26 (2003), H. 3-4, pp. 209-216.
  • Matthias Sträßner : dance master and poet. Literary history (s) in the vicinity of Jean Georges Noverre; Lessing, Wieland, Goethe, Schiller . Henschel, Berlin 1994.
  • Arnold Szyfman: Nowe drogi do baletu (New ways to ballet). In: Teatr , November / December 1951, Rok IV, No. 11-12, pp. 64-86.
  • Arnold Szyfman: Ocalony rękopis i znalezione listy Noverre'a (Saved manuscript and found letters from Noverre). In: Pamiętnik Teatralny , Zeszyt 3-4, 1954, pp. 63-68.
  • Rainer Theobald: Noverre's beginnings in Berlin. On the history of the ballet at the court opera of Frederick the Great . In: Tanzwissenschaft Nr. 4, last accessed on October 31, 2018, and in: Der Bär von Berlin. Yearbook of the Association for the History of Berlin , 46th episode, 1997, pp. 7–26.
  • Irena Turska: Nieznane dzieło Noverre'a (An unknown work by Noverre). In: Teatr , 67, 1953.
  • Karyna Wierzbycka: Jeszcze o warszawskich projektach Noverre'a (Again about Noverre's Warsaw projects). In: Pamiętnik Teatralny , Zeszyt 1, 1956. [Edition and translation of an exchange of letters regarding possible employment at the court of the King of Poland].

University publications

  • Susanne Schoenfeldt: Choreography: dance composition and dance description, on the history of choreographed dance . Lang, Frankfurt am Main / Berlin / Bern / New York, NY / Paris / Vienna 1997, ISBN 978-3-631-31958-1 (dissertation University of Hamburg 1995, 327 pages, 21 cm).

Web links

Commons : Jean Georges Noverre  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files
This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on May 4, 2006 .