Riccardo Drigo (Composer)|
Drigo was born in Padua, Italy on June 30, 1846. He studied music in his hometown and at the Venice Conservatory. He attained some local celebrity as a composer and conductor, then moved to Russia in 1878, where he was soon appointed the conductor of the St. Petersburg Italian Opera. After considerable success there, he became conductor and resident composer to the Imperial Ballet. Drigo conducted the premieres of "Sleeping Beauty", "The Nutcracker", and "Raymonda", and composed his own scores for The Magic Flute and Harlequinade. The "Serenade" from this latter ballet and his "Valse Bluette" (not the one from "Swan Lake") became salon repertoire staples and are still occasionally heard.
Drigo is vitally important to the "Swan Lake" story because it was he who took Tchaikovsky‘s 1877 behemoth of a score (Act I runs nearly an hour), and rearranged, reorchestrated, and edited the music into the form most companies use today. Most often, Drigo‘s editions and reworkings seem to flow effortlessly and seamlessly from what Tchaikovsky wrote, and sound so right, that they are indistinguishable in style from their source composer‘s work. In Act III, Drigo took a piano work by Tchaikovsky, "L‘Espiegle" (The Mischievous Child[!]), and fashioned a variation for Odile. In Act IV, he selected a "Valse Bluette" and "Un peu de Chopin" (A Bit of Chopin) from the same series of piano works and fashioned appropriate dances to fill out the somewhat meager score at that point.
Drigo would occasionally return to Italy, and for awhile was Anna Pavlova‘s music director. She used to tell of how hard she used him, and how patient he was with her, when, later in her career, she had to curry favor with every incompetent hack who condescended to play or conduct for her.
Finding life in Post-Revolutionary Russia uncomfortable, Drigo returned to Italy and died in his hometown on October 1, 1930.