...a magisterially epic study ... Meisner has pieced together...stories from other sources and they run in surprising contrast to the image we have now of Petipa as the elder statesman of dance, distinguished and immaculately dressed ... Meisner weaves this biographical material into a much broader picture of ballet under the tsars; she is excellent on the contrasting skills and styles of the ballerinas with whom Petipa worked, and who forged his style just as much as any ethereal notions of dance did. She doesn’t always see the wood for the trees, or separate the glistening solos from the work of the corps de ballet, but there is an amplitude in her creation of Petipa’s world that is worthy of so expansive a creator.
...[a] wonderful, comprehensive biography ... I have always worshipped at the altar of Petipa without knowing much about the man. Marius Petipa: The Emperor’s Ballet Master, the first biography written in English about this extraordinary artist, is a welcome righting of that wrong. Meisner...has meticulously researched the facts of Petipa’s life and presents a full portrait of the man born in Marseilles in 1818, investigating his talent and his temperament ... It’s immensely readable, with tantalising archive photographs and an exhaustive — and invaluable — chronology of all Petipa’s Russian works ... What emerges is a man with impeccable manners, an incredible work ethic, a nasty jealous streak and a mercurial temper.
Nadine Meisner’s meticulously researched and exhaustively detailed study will surely establish itself as the standard authority on the subject in English. The absence of any scorching drama or scandal in Petipa’s life means that it doesn’t make electrifying reading, but its poise and scholarship impress, particularly in its command of the broader cultural context ... Meisner understandably feels sympathetic towards her subject, but the rest of us will find it hard to warm to him. Nobody ever said he was nice.
For all of his influence on classical ballet into the present...there is a notable lack of biographical work about Petipa in English ... Meisner’s Marius Petipa does a great deal to fill this lacuna ... In Marius Petipa, she gestures to the various academic works that have preceded hers and, more importantly, eloquently paints a picture of a past that often feels remote, even for those of us whose lives have long been steeped in ballet history and culture ... Meisner discusses choreography and production details with remarkable precision ... Translating a physical, performance-based art form into words is always a challenge, and Meisner tackles it with agility. Her biography is often as compelling as Petipa’s ballets must have been in their day ... That said, the biography’s nonlinear thematic organization can be a bit disorienting. There are, at times, strange chronological jumps in the narrative, and the whole can come to feel like a series of articles rather than a stand-alone book ... Marius Petipa: The Emperor’s Ballet Master is, in many ways, a rich addition to scholarship on Russian ballet ... enjoyable as well as informative.
The first life of Petipa in English, Nadine Meisner’s Marius Petipa: The Emperor’s Ballet Master is engaging, well-researched and strong on context ... Ms. Meisner’s biography is impressively detailed. She has pored over the memoirs of Petipa’s dancers and assistants, as well as his own...She has also consulted newspaper interviews and reviews...She has studied the copious records of the Imperial Theaters and drawn profitably on the writings of dance scholars and cultural historians. Pulling together the many threads of her research, Ms. Meisner weaves a rich portrait of Petipa, his circumstances, his times.
Ms. Meisner’s book, the first full-length Petipa biography in English, is by far the most detailed and complete survey of his life and work to date. Not all its fascinations are cheering, however. Ms. Meisner retells, in all seriousness, many of the stories of Petipa’s ballets, even though their narratives are all too often dismayingly absurd.