Domenico Angiolini

Dancer, choreographer and composer
Born: Florence - 9 February 1731
Died: Milan - 5 February 1803

Little known outside Russia, Domenico Angiolini is a key figure in the development of Russian ballet, and an early pioneer of ballet as psychological drama rather than merely spectacle. As a youth, he danced in Italy, Germany and Austria, and in 1757 he staged his first ballet in Turin.

Between 1766 and 1786, Angiolini spent around 15 years at the court of Catherine the Great. During his first visit, from 1766 to 1772, he worked as ballet master and principal dancer, and immediately began staging his own ballet scores. He worked in Moscow and St. Petersburg, returning 1776-1779 and 1782-1786.

Angiolini staged only a few established European ballets in Russia, preferring to develop his own works, often composing the music as well. He used a wide range of source material, and quickly allowed Russian styles and themes a place in his work. Among his most notable ballets were Semira (1772), adapted from a tragedy by Russian playwright Alexander Sumarokov, and his adaptation of Voltaire's L'orphelin de la Chine (1777).

After leaving Russia, Angiolini became involved in the struggle for liberation against Austria in northern Italy. He was imprisoned 1799-1801 and died in Milan in 1803.