1848: the Austrian dancer Elssler hissed off the stage in Milan

The Risorgimento in ballet – Episodes between chronicle and legend from the world of the dance – 2nd instalment

1848 was a revolutionary year in Milan. During the Carnival season one of the most celebrated divas of the romantic ballet, the Austrian Fanny Elssler also admired by field marshal Radetzky, incurred the censure of the public – while performing at La Scala in the première of Jules Perrot’s Faust – by refusing to dance unless the pupils of the dance school stopped wearing a medal with the portrait of Pius IX, the pope on whom the hopes of the Italian patriots were gathering. Overwhelmed by the merciless boos that greeted her as she entered, Fanny Elssler fainted and was forced to hastily leave Milan.

In those days a note was circulating in relation to the fame of  seductress that accompanied Elssler.  About her it had been even rumoured that under instructions by the Austrian chancellor Metternich she had become the lover of the sickly son of Napoleon Bonaparte thus shortening his life. Such was the anonymous note:

“Contempt, hisses, lapidation to the infamous German prostitute Elssler, foul instrument of one among the infinite vile crimes of detested Austria, the slow murder of the great Napoleon!”


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