Drigo is most noted for his long career as kapellmeister and Director of Music of the renowned Imperial Ballet of St. Petersburg, Russia, for which he composed music for the original works and revivals of the choreographers Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov. Drigo also served as Chef d'orchestre for Italian opera performances of the orchestra the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre. During his career in St. Petersburg, Drigo conducted the premieres and regular performances of nearly every ballet and Italian opera performed on the Tsarist stage, and was considered to be one of the finest theatrical conductors in Europe.
Drigo is equally noted for his original compositions for the ballet, his adaptations of already-existing scores, and the myriad of supplemental music he composed ad hoc for insertion into already-existing ballets. Many of these pieces are still performed regularly today, though the composer is often not properly credited for them. Among Drigo's original scores for the ballet, he is most noted for Le Talisman (Petipa, 1889); La Flûte magique (Ivanov, 1893); Le Réveil de Flore (Petipa, 1894); and Les Millions d’Arlequin (a.k.a. Harlequinade) (Petipa, 1900). Drigo's score for Les Millions d’Arlequin spawned a popular repertory piece, the Serenade, which the composer later adapted into the song Notturno d'Amour for Beniamino Gigli. Drigo's work on Tchaikovsky's score for Swan Lake — prepared for the important revival of Petipa and Ivanov — is certainly his most well-known adaptation of existing music. Drigo's supplemental Pas de deux of 1903 for the ballet La Tulipe de Haarlem spawned another popular repertory piece, the Valse Bluette, which is most often performed in an arrangement by the great violinist Leopold Auer.
There are many pieces set to the music of Drigo that are still performed today, many of which are considered cornerstones of the classical ballet repertory. Many of these pieces were arranged long after Drigo left Russia, and/or were set to music fashioned from his full-length scores: Le Corsaire Pas de Deux; La Esmeralda Pas de Deux; La Esmeralda Pas de Six; the Diane and Actéon Pas de Deux; The Talisman Pas de Deux; the Harlequinade Pas de Deux; and the Ocean and the Pearls Pas de Trois. Many of Drigo's supplemental variations, etc. can be found in such repertory pieces as the Paquita Grand pas classique, La Fille mal gardée pas de deux and the ballets La Esmeralda, The Fairy Doll, Le Corsaire and La Bayadère.
Riccardo Eugenio Drigo was born in Padua, Italy on 30 June 1846. His father Silvio Drigo was a barrister and his mother, a noble Lupati, was active in politics. None of Drigo's family was distinguished in music, but at the age of five he began taking his first piano lessons from a family friend, the Hungarian Antonio Jorich. Drigo excelled quickly, and by his early teens he attained some local celebrity as a pianist. His father eventually agreed to allow Drigo to attend the prestigious Venice Conservatory, where he studied under Antonio Buzzolla, a student of Gaetano Donizetti. Drigo scored his first compositions in his early teens, which were primarily romances and waltzes. In 1862 he was allowed to perform some of his pieces with the local amateur orchestra in Padua. Through this performance, the young Drigo began to show interest in conducting.
Drigo graduated from the conservatory in 1864, and was hired as a rehearsal pianist at the Garibaldi Theatre in Padua. His experience as a rehearsal pianist soon lead him to find work as a conductor for various amateur opera troupes in Vicenza, Rovigo, Udine and Venice.
At age twenty-two, Drigo presented his first opera at the Garibaldi Theatre. The two-act Don Pedro di Portogallo (Don Pedro of Portugal) premiered to considerable success on 25 July 1868, but performances had to be cancelled due to a cholera epidemic which closed all theatres in the vicinity of Padua for some time.
Drigo's first major opportunity as a conductor occurred in 1868 when the Garibaldi Theatre's kapellmeister fell ill on the eve of the first performance of Costantino Dall'Argine's 1867 comic opera I Due Orsi (The Two Bears). When the concertmaster refused to conduct the performance, he recommended Drigo, if only because the rehearsal pianist would know the score intimately. Drigo's conducting successful, and soon he was named second kapellmeister.
Drigo gained experience serving as a conductor in provincial theatres throughout Italy and various parts of Europe for almost a decade, conducting many celebrated works in the great theatres of Europe. These included performances of Bizet's Carmen in Seville, Rossini's The Barber of Seville in Marseille, Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore and Caterina Cornaro in Venice, Gounod's Faust in Paris, and Bellini's La sonnambula and Norma at La Scala. In time he was conducting some of the first performances of Wagner's operas at La Scala.
In 1878 Drigo's life would change drastically. During the opera season in Padua the director of the St. Petersburg Imperial Theatres, Baron Karl Karlovich Kister, attended a performance of Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore which Drigo conducted. Kister was much impressed with Drigo's conducting talent, which was done without the aid of a score. Drigo then presented Kister with some of his own compositions, which prompted Kister to offer Drigo a six-month contract to conduct the St. Petersburg Imperial Italian Opera.
Almost immediately after arriving in St. Petersburg, Drigo was conducting the entire repertory of the Imperial Italian Opera, which at that time performed at the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre. He impressed the management a great deal, conducting such works as Verdi's Aida and Un ballo in maschera from memory. It was custom in Imperial Russia for all theatrical performances to be reported in detail in the newspapers, and Drigo's performances were always reported with praise — " ... the young gentleman will stay here a long time ..." commented one columnist after attending an opera which Drigo conducted.
By 1879 Drigo's contracts had been renewed for seven consecutive one-year terms, allowing him three months out of the year to travel to Padua and to pursue other conducting assignments abroad. At the opera in Seville, Drigo conducted seventeen performances of twelve operas in seventeen days. Upon returning to St. Petersburg the Spanish ambassador to Russia awarded Drigo the Order of Charles III on behalf of the government of Spain in honor of this feat.
In 1884 Drigo conducted the St. Petersburg premiere of Ponchielli's I Lituani, which was presented under the title Aldona. That same year Drigo traveled to Italy at the behest of Giacomo Puccini to conduct the Venetian premiere of his opera Le Villi at the Teatro La Fenice. The great composer was so pleased with Drigo's conducting that he telegraphed his appreciation to Drigo for years to come on the anniversary of the premiere. In 1884 Drigo conducted the inaugural performance at Padua's Teatro Nuovo, which was renamed the Teatro Verdi and renovated by the architect Achille Sfondrini. For the performance, the Mayor of Padua granted Drigo the Order of the cavaliere di Gran Croce. In 1885 Drigo returned to Milan's Teatro dal Verme to conduct the premiere of Ponchielli's Marion Delorme.
Drigo's was held in high regard for his abilities as an accompanist. At La Scala he often accompanied the great violinist Antonio Bazzini during concerts, while in Russia he regularly accompanied touring musicians for recitals at the Imperial Bolshoi Theatre (principal theatre of the Imperial Russian Opera and Ballet until 1886). Drigo was a close friend and colleague of Anton Rubinstein, and the two musicians were known to play piano for many hours into the night.
On 6 March [O.S. 22 February] 1884 Drigo presented his second Italian operetta, the comic-opera La Moglie Rapita (The Abducted Wife). The work was well received, but did not last long in the repertory due to the reforms which soon took over the St. Petersburg Imperial Theatres.
Composer and conductor
In 1884 Emperor Alexander III disbanded the Imperial Italian Opera in an effort to solidify the art of Russian operetta, which left Drigo, the company's kapellmeister, without a position. In 1886 the St. Petersburg Imperial Ballet's kappellmeister, Alexei Papkov, retired after thirty-four years of service, leaving the company without a principal conductor. Drigo took over the position before the beginning of the 1886–1887 season. He made his debut as ballet conductor on 7 October [O.S. 25 September] 1886 with a performance of the old grand ballet The Pharaoh's Daughter, set to the score of Cesare Pugni, which was the most popular work in the repertory of the Imperial Ballet. In attendance for the performance was the Emperor and his wife, the Empress Maria Fyodorovna, both of whom were fanatic balletomanes and maintained the Imperial Theatres lavishly. So impressed was the Emperor by Drigo's conducting that during the final curtain calls he gave the conductor a standing ovation, and ordered the rest of the house to follow suit.
In 1886 the Imperial Theatre's official composer of ballet music, the Austrian Ludwig Minkus, retired from his post. In light of this the director of the St. Peterbsurg Imperial Theatres, Ivan Vsevolozhsky, abolished the position of staff ballet composer in an effort to diversify the music supplied for new works. Minkus was the second composer to occupy the position of Ballet Composer of the St. Petersburg Imperial Theatres, a position originally created in 1850 for Cesare Pugni. Both composers were known as "specialists", i.e. being highly skilled in creation of the musique dansante then in vogue for the ballet. They were required by contract not only to create the scores for new works quickly and "to order", but to compose supplemental pas, variations, incidental dances, etc. whenever requested, as well as the endless task of correcting and adapting existing scores for the numerous revivals put on by the ballet company. Since Drigo was well known as a capable composer, the director Vsevolozhsky employed him in the dual capacity of kapellmeister and Director of Music, a position which would require Drigo to fulfill all of the duties of the staff composer with regard to adapting and correcting scores at the behest of the Ballet Master.
In 1886 the Imperial Theatre's renowned Premier Maître de Ballet, the Frenchman Marius Petipa, revived Jules Perrot's 1841 romantic masterpiece La Esmeralda for the visiting Italian ballerina Virginia Zucchi. For the revival Drigo was assigned the task of refurbishing the old score of Cesare Pugni. As was the custom at that time when reviving an old work, Petipa wanted to add new numbers to the ballet, and in particular a novelty for the ballerina. The Ballet Master had no desire to look outside of the theatre for a composer to score the dances he required, and so approached Drigo, whose four-part Pas d'action not only showcased the dramatic gifts of the ballerina Zucchi, but also included a virtuoso solo for violin crafted by Drigo especially for the great Leopold Auer, who served as principal violinist in the Imperial Theatre's orchestra. The revival of La Esmeralda premiered to great success on 29 December [O.S. 17 December] 1886 with the Imperial family in attendance. After the performance the Emperor met with Drigo on stage to congratulate him on his additional material as well as his conducting. Placing his hand on Drigo's shoulder, he commented that " ... the music was magnificent! Under your direction the orchestra has made much progress." Drigo's Pas d'action remains part of the performance score for La Esmeralda to the present day, and is often extracted from the full-length work as La Esmeralda Pas de Six.
With the success of his work on the score of La Esmeralda, the director Vsevolozhsky gave Drigo his first commission to compose for a complete score. This was La Forêt enchantée (The Enchanted Forest), which was not only Drigo's first full-length ballet but also the first original work choreographed by the Imperial Theatre's newly appointed Deuxieme Maître de Ballet Lev Ivanov. La Forêt enchantée was staged especially for the annual graduation performance of the Imperial Ballet School, with the top graduates in the leading roles. The work premiered on 12 April [O.S. 6 April] 1887 on the stage of the school's theatre, and was subsequently transferred to the stage of the Mariinsky Theatre, where it premiered on 1 June [O.S. 15 May] 1887 with the Italian ballerina Emma Bessone in the lead role of Ilka. Although Ivanov's choreography was not well-received, Drigo received considerable praise for his score. A critic from the St. Petersburg newspaper The New Time complimented Drigo's music: "The music of this ballet is outstanding in a symphonic sense, reveals an experienced composer, a man with taste, and an excellent orchestrator. There are beautiful melodies in it, the rhythms are not overdone, and everything is listened to with pleasure from beginning to end."
Marius Petipa was equally impressed with Drigo's score for La Forêt enchantée. In 1888 the Ballet Master was preparing his next work, La Vestale, a colossal ballet set in the ancient Roman Empire. The score was written by the music critic Mikhail Ivanov, who counted Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky among his instructors. Ivanov provided what was at that time considered to be a highly symphonic score for the ballet, and the visiting ballerina for whom the work was produced, the Italian Elena Cornalba, appealed to Petipa for additional, more "dansante" music for her solo numbers. Having just witnessed a performance of La Forêt enchantée, she requested that Drigo should be the composer responsible for supplemental dances she required. Drigo composed two additional variations for Cornalba known as L'echo (The Echo), which was written as a canon; and a Valse mignonne (Sweet Waltz). Drigo also wrote an extra variation for the character of Cupid known as L'amour, and a variation for the ballerina Maria Gorshenkova. Three of these pieces were later published.
When plans were made for the next ballet starring Elena Cornalba, the ballerina requested that Drigo should be the composer responsible for the entire score. This was Le Talisman (The Talisman), a work which told the story of a Hindu Goddess who descends from heaven in order to test her heart against the temptations of earthly love. The ballet premiered on 12 February [O.S. 6 February] 1889 on the occasion of Cornalba's benefit performance. Despite a sumptuous production with many inspired choreographic episodes, the ballet's mise-en-scène proved to be a mediocre success. Nevertheless Drigo's score was hailed as a masterwork of ballet music. The artist Alexander Benois told in his memoirs of his extreme delight with Drigo's score, which he said inspired a "short infatuation" in him as a young student at the Saint Petersburg State University:
|“||It was Drigo's simple and charming music that had attracted me (to Petipa's Le Talisman). In fact (I) had been so delighted with it at the premiere that I could not stop applauding and even felt compelled to exclaim "Mais puisque, excellence, c'est un chef-d'œuvre!"||”|
Following the successes of his additional music for La Esmeralda and La Vestale and his scores for La Forêt enchantée and Le Talisman, Drigo repeatedly received commissions from both Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov to compose supplemental variations, pas and incidental dances for insertion into older ballets. By the time Drigo left Russia in 1919, nearly every ballet in the repertory of the St. Petersburg Imperial Theatres contained many of the composer's own additional pieces, and it even became a symbol of one's status as a dancer for Drigo to supply new music for a solo or pas choreographed by Petipa. Drigo later commented in his memoirs that he composed about 80 such pieces, and rarely received any additional payment for them. During the late 19th century, Petipa began to mount revivals of older ballets with increasing frequency, and the Ballet Master invariably called upon Drigo to revise the scores accordingly.
In 1889 Drigo took up residence in the St. Petersburg Grand Hotel, which was to remain his home for the next thirty years. It was at this time that Drigo developed a close friendship with Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, who was in the process of composing the score for Marius Petipa's The Sleeping Beauty for the Imperial Ballet. On the eve of the general rehearsal of the ballet Drigo fell ill, and asked Tchaikovsky if he could conduct the orchestra himself. To Drigo's astonishment Tchaikovsky insisted that if he conducted the orchestra he would ruin his score, and so Drigo, still ill, consented to conduct the rehearsal. The shy and reserved Tchaikovsky was ever after grateful to Drigo for his exceptional conducting, particularly after the premiere on 3 January [O.S. 15 January] 1890. Drigo eventually conducted nearly 300 performances of The Sleeping Beauty at the Mariinsky Theatre. Two years later Drigo conducted the premiere of Tchaikovsky's next work, The Nutcracker, on 12 December [O.S. 6 December] 1892.
La Flûte magique and Le Réveil de Flore
In 1893 Drigo composed another score for the annual graduation performance of the Imperial Ballet school. This was the one-act ballet La Flûte magique (The Magic Flute), which told the story of an enchanted instrument that compelled all within earshot to dance when it was played. The ballet was staged by Lev Ivanov, and premiered on 22 March [O.S. 10 March] 1893 to great success on the stage of the ballet school's theatre, with a cast that included the young Mikhail Fokine in the lead role of Luc. Due to the success of the student performance, La Flûte magique was transferred to the Mariinsky Theatre, where it was presented in an expanded staging on 31 March [O.S. 12 April] 1894. Drigo's score was highly praised by critics:
|“||Mr. Drigo astounds the listener with his ability to create a near limitless variety of beautiful dansante rhythms and melodies, all the while including rich, almost symphonic orchestration.||”|
Drigo's next score was written for Petipa's ballet Le Réveil de Flore (The Awakening of Flora), an anacreontic ballet in one-act that was produced especially for the celebrations held at Peterhof Palace in honor of the wedding of the Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna to the Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich. The premiere on 6 August [O.S. 25 July] 1894 was a grand occasion, with an audience composed of the whole of the Imperial court. For his score for Le Réveil de Flore, Emperor Alexander III granted Drigo the Order of St. Anna.
As with La Flûte magique, Le Réveil de Flore was transferred to the stage of the Mariinsky Theatre, where it was given for the first time on 20 January [O.S. 8 January] 1894. The ballet soon became a favorite of the ballerinas of the era, among them Mathilde Kschessinska (who created the principal role of Flora), Tamara Karsavina and particularly Anna Pavlova, who included an abridged version of the work on her legendary world tours.
In late 1894 Drigo prepared an important revision of Tchaikovsky's score for Swan Lake, originally produced at the Imperial Bolshoi Theatre of Moscow in 1877. Following the success of The Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker, Ivan Vsevolozhsky—director of the St. Petersburg Theatres—expressed interest in reviving the ballet. Drigo later recalled:
|“||...I knew of (Tchaikovsky's) dissatisfaction with the instrumentation of (Swan Lake), and that he intended to take up the matter, but he never managed to do this.||”|
Tchaikovsky died on 6 November [O.S. 25 October] 1893 just as plans to revive Swan Lake were beginning to come to fruition. A revival of the complete work was then planned for the Imperial Ballet's 1894–1895 season, in a staging by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov. Tchaikovsky's brother Modest approved that Drigo should be entrusted with the task of revising the score, which the composer did in accordance with Petipa's instructions. In his memoirs Drigo touched on his revision to the score:
|“||...it was my lot, like a surgeon, to perform an operation on Swan Lake, and I feared that I might not grasp the individuality of the great Russian master.||”|
The revival premiered on 27 January [O.S. 15 January] 1895 at the Mariinsky Theatre with the Prima ballerina assoluta Pierina Legnani in the dual role of Odette/Odile. Drigo's version of Tchaikovsky's score has remained the definitive performance edition of Swan Lake, and is still used to one degree or another by ballet companies throughout the world. Nevertheless, Drigo is rarely given credit when his revisions are performed.
Drigo's next score for the ballet was the grand piece d'occasion La Perle (sometimes known in Russian as Чудесная жемчужина — The Miraculous Pearl), produced especially for the gala held at the Imperial Bolshoi Theatre of Moscow in honor of the coronation of Tsar Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna. The ballet's scenario was based on the danced tableau La Pérégrina from Verdi's opera Don Carlos, and was produced lavishly by Marius Petipa. La Perle premiered on 29 May [O.S. 17 May] 1896 after a performance of Glinka's A Life for the Tsar, with the ballet companies of both Moscow and St. Petersburg participating in the performance. Set in an under-water kingdom, La Perle told the story of how the Earth Genie attempted to abduct the White Pearl, causing a colossal battle of the elements of the earth and of the sea. The ballet featured elaborate stage transformations and a grand apotheosis called The Triumph of the Amphitrions. The performance included six first-class ballerinas from both the St. Petersburg and Moscow troupes: Pierina Legnani in the principal role of the White Pearl, Adelaide Giuri, Lyubov Roslavleva, Mathilde Kschessinska, Claudia Kulichevskaya and Anna Johanssen. Drigo later commented in his memoirs of how difficult it was to compose effective variations for the ballerinas while still maintaining variety. The score—which boasted offstage choruses—impressed the new Emperor, and Drigo was granted the Order of Saint Stanislaus.
Music extracted from Drigo's score for La Perle was later used for the so-called Ocean and the Pearls pas de trois. In 1912 the Ballet Master Alexander Gorsky added the piece to his revival of Arthur Saint-Léon and the composer Cesare Pugni's 1864 ballet The Little Humpbacked Horse at the Mariinsky Theatre. The piece has survived in an independent form and remains a popular repertory excerpt with ballet companies throughout the world. Drigo's music is often erroneously credited to Cesare Pugni.
Les Millions d’Arlequin
In 1899 Petipa began work on the scenario for a ballet based on episodes from the Italian commedia dell’arte, which he called Les Millions d’Arlequin (The Millions of Harlequin). At the same time he also produced a libretto for an allegorical ballet titled Les Saisons (The Seasons), a plot-less ballet that represented the four seasons through Petipa's classical formula of danced tableaux. Originally Petipa intended to commission the score of Les Millions d’Arlequin from Drigo's close friend and colleague, the great composer Alexander Glazunov, while Drigo was originally intended to compose the score for Petipa's Les Saisons. Soon both composers developed an affinity for the other's assigned ballet, with Glazunov adamantly expressing that the subject of Les Millions d’Arlequin was perfect in every respect for the Italian composer's talents. In the end Glazunov composed the score for Les Saisons, and Drigo that of Les Millions d’Arlequin.
While working on the score for Les Millions d’Arlequin, Drigo took daily walks through the St. Petersburg Summer Garden and along the banks of the Neva River, all the while thinking of his native Italy. During one such daily walk, Drigo composed the ballet's famous Serenade, which he set to the accompaniment of a solo mandolin. Other pieces of note were the Berceuse de Columbine, written especially for the harpist Albert Zabel and the melodious Valse des alouettes.
The ballet premiered at the Imperial Theatre of the Hermitage on 23 February [O.S. 10 February] 1900 with Mathilde Kschessinska in the role of Columbine and the danseur György Kyaksht in the role of Harlequin. The audience included the Emperor and Empress as well as the whole of the Imperial court. Within moments of the final curtain, the typically subdued courtly audience erupted into thunderous applause. The composer received a tumultuous reception as he went before the curtain and was mobbed by several Grand Dukes who tripped over one another in their enthusiasm to congratulate him. Due to her delight in Drigo's score, the Empress commanded two additional court performances of Les Millions d’Arlequin on the stage of the Mariinsky Theatre, the first given on 26 February [O.S. 13 February] 1900. When plans were under way to publish Drigo's score in piano reduction by the publisher Zimmermann, many of Drigo's colleagues urged the composer to dedicate his score to the Empress. Drigo's request was then submitted to the Minister of the Imperial Court, which brought about a lengthy correspondence by a commission set up to investigate whether or not Drigo's character, background and music were worthy of his offering a dedication to a Russian Empress. The response was favorable and the dedication was graciously accepted.
Later years in Russia
In the spring of 1902, Drigo and a group of dancers from the Imperial Ballet were invited by Raoul Gunsbourg, director of the Opéra de Monte-Carlo, to produce a ballet in Monaco. Drigo composed the music for the ballet-divertissement titled La Côte d'Azur (The French Riviera), set to a libretto by Prince Albert I. The ballet premiered at the Salle Garnier on 30 March 1902, and featured the Prima ballerina Olga Preobrajenska.
Drigo's final original full-length ballet score was also Marius Petipa's final work — the fantastical La Romance d'un Bouton de rose et d'un Papillon (The Romance of a Rosebud and a Butterfly). The ballet was to have had its premiere at the Imperial Theatre of the Hermitage on 5 February [O.S. 23 January] 1904 but was abruptly canceled, the official reason given being the outbreak of the Russo-Japanese War. It was the belief of the newly appointed director of the St. Petersburg Imperial Theatres, Vladimir Telyakovsky, that the Imperial Ballet had become stagnant under Petipa's leadership. In light of the fact that Petipa still legally held the position of Premier Maître de Ballet of the company, Telyakovsky began to make efforts to drive the eighty-five year old Ballet Master from the theatre; the cancellation of the premiere of La Romance de la rose et le papillon was one such attempt that finally led to Petipa's retirement in 1905.
Drigo also fell victim to Telyakovsky's disfavor. When the composer and conductor Gustav Mahler visited a ballet performance conducted by Drigo in 1902, he was invited by the directorate to watch the performance in the Director's lodge. Mahler expressed to Telyakovsky his surprise at the fact that Drigo rarely used his left hand when conducting, and that he had been impressed by his ability to synchronize the music and stage action. Mahler had informed Telyakovsky that he wished to meet Drigo and congratulate him for his abilities as a conductor. Telyakovsky purposefully avoided arranging the meeting, and it was only days later that the Secretary of the Italian Embassy—who had been sitting directly behind Mahler—informed Drigo of the exchange.
In 1909 Drigo prepared a new version of his score for Le Talisman for a revival staged by the Ballet Master and former danseur Nikolai Legat. The revival premiered on December 12 [O.S. November 29] 1909 at the Mariinsky Theatre, with an audience consisting of the Dowager Empress Marie Fyodorovna. The cast featured Olga Preobrajenska as the Goddess Niriti and Vaslav Nijinsky, who caused a sensation in the role of Vayou, the God of Wind. Drigo was then invited by Giulio Gatti-Casazza to assist in mounting Le Talisman at La Scala. The ballet was presented as Le Porte-bonheur (The Bracelet) in a staging by the Ballet Master Luigi Tornelli, which premiered on 18 July 1908.
Drigo was vacationing in his native Italy during the outbreak of World War I in 1914, which prevented him from returning to Russia for another two years. Soon after his arrival in Petrograd he was evicted from his home at the Grand Hotel, which was converted to offices for the newly established Soviet government. For a time Drigo was forced to live in considerable poverty in a camp with a group of his fellow Italian émigrés. He later recalled in his memoirs of the many cold evenings he spent with his close friend and colleague Alexander Glazunov waiting for hours in bread lines and subsequently carrying their rations home through the snow on a sled. Upon his first engagement as conductor after his return to the former Imperial Mariinsky Theatre, Drigo received a fifteen-minute standing ovation from the audience.
Drigo returns to Italy
In 1919 Drigo was finally repatriated to his native Italy. For his farewell gala at the former Imperial Mariinsky Theatre, the Ballet Master Fyodor Lopukhov mounted a new version of Drigo and Petipa's final collaboration, the ballet La Romance d'un Bouton de rose et d'un Papillon which Lopukhov staged under the title Le Conte du bouton (The Tale of the Rosebud). At the close of the gala, the renowned bass Feodor Chaliapin read an emotional farewell speech in both Italian and Russian. Allowed to take only 60 kilograms with him, Drigo left all of his belongings in Russia with the exception of a collection of his manuscript scores, which he used as a pillow during his two-month journey to Padua via Odessa and Constantinople.
In 1920 Drigo accepted the post of kapellmeister to the Teatro Garibaldi in Padua where he had begun his career many years before. In 1926 he composed the comic opera Flaffy Raffles for the Opera company of Padua's Teatro Verdi, and in 1929 his last work was given, the opera Il garofano bianco (The White Carnation) at the Teatro Garibaldi. He spent the remainder of his life conducting and composing masses and various songs, including a vocal version of the famous Serenade from Les millions d’Arlequin, which Beniamino Gigli made a world-wide hit with under the title Notturno d'amour.
Riccardo Drigo died on 1 October 1930 at the age of 84, in his birthplace, Padua. There is now a street in Padua which is named Via Riccardo Drigo in his honour.
- La Forêt enchantée. Ballet fantastique in one act. Choreography by Lev Ivanov. 12 April [O.S. 6 April] 1887, Imperial Ballet School. 15 May [O.S. 3 May] 1887, Imperial Mariinsky Theatre.
- Le Talisman. Grand ballet in four acts and seven tableaux with prologue and apotheosis. Choreography by Marius Petipa. 12 February [O.S. 6 February] 1889, Imperial Mariinsky Theatre.
- La Flûte magique. Ballet comique in one act. Choreography by Lev Ivanov. 22 March [O.S. 10 March] 1889, Imperial Ballet School. 23 April [O.S. 11 April] 1889, Imperial Mariinsky Theatre.
- Le Réveil de Flore. Ballet anacréontique in one act. Choreography by Marius Petipa. 8 August [O.S. 28 July] 1894, Imperial Theatre of Peterhof. 9 August [O.S. 28 July] 1894. 20 January [O.S. 8 January] 1894, Imperial Mariinsky Theatre.
- Les Dryades prétendues. Ballet in one act, two tableaux. Choreography by Pavel Gerdt. 11 April [O.S. 23 April] 1899, Imperial Theatre of the Russian Museum of His Majesty Emperor Alexander III. Music based on airs from Cesare Pugni's score for the ballet Éoline, ou La Dryade.
- La Perle. Ballet divertissement in one act with apotheosis. Choreography by Marius Petipa. 29 May [O.S. 17 May] 1896, Imperial Bolshoi Theatre of Moscow. 5 February [O.S. 23 January] 1900, Imperial Mariinsky Theatre.
- Les Millions d’Arlequin (a.k.a. Harlequinade). Harlequinade in two acts. Choreography by Marius Petipa. 23 February [O.S. 10 February] 1900, Imperial Theatre of the Hermitage. 26 February [O.S. 13 February] 1900, Imperial Mariinsky Theatre.
- La Côte d’Azur. Ballet comique in two acts. Choreography by Alexander Shiryaev. 30 March 1902, Salle Garnier, Monte-Carlo.
- La Romance d'un Bouton de rose et d'un Papillon. Ballet fantastique in one act, three tableaux. Choreography by Marius Petipa. 5 February [O.S. 23 January] 1904, Imperial Theatre of the Hermitage (never premiered).
- Le Porte-bonheur (revival of Le Talisman). Choreography by Luigi Tornelli. 18 July 1908, La Scala, Milan.
- Le Conte du Bouton de rose (revival of La Romance d'un Bouton de rose et d'un Papillon). Choreography by Fyodor Lopukhov. 16 April 1919, Mariinsky Theatre.
Revisions to existing scores
- Catarina, ou La Fille du bandit, 1888. Original score by Cesare Pugni, 1846.
- Le Roi Candaule, 1891. Original score by Cesare Pugni, 1868.
- Les Élèves de Dupré, 1897 (one act version of Marius Petipa's L'Ordre du Roi). Original score by Albert Vizentini (based the airs of Johann Strauss II, Léo Delibes, Daniel Auber, Jules Massenet, and Anton Rubinstein), 1886.
Supplemental pieces for various ballets
- La Vestale. Original score by Mikhail Ivanov (1888).
- Variation for Elena Cornalba known as L'echo (1888)
- Variation for Elena Cornalba known as the Valse Mignonne (1888)
- Variation for Maria Anderson known as L'amour (1888)
- Variation for Maria Gorshenkova (1888)
- The Pharaoh's Daughter. Original score by Cesare Pugni (1862).
- Pas de sabre (1885)
- Variation orientale for Virginia Zucchi (1885)
- Pizzicato (1898)
- Variation for Mathilde Kschessinska (1898)
- Polonaise variation for Anna Pavlova (c. 1902)
- La Esmeralda. Original score by Cesare Pugni (1844).
- Pas d'action (aka La Esmeralda pas de six) for Virginia Zucchi (1886)
- Adaptation of the Pas des fleurs into a Grand pas classique (1899)
- Pizzicato variation for Olga Preobrajenska as Fleur-de-Lys (1899)
- Variation for Nikolai Legat (ca. 1900)
- Pygmalion, ou La Statue de Chypre. Original score by Prince Nikita Trubestkoi (1883).
- Pas de deux for Pierina Legnani (1895)
- L’Ordre du Roi. Original score by Albert Vinzentini (1886).
- Pas d'action known as Le Pêcheur et la Perle (c. 1887)
- Variation for Mathilde Kschessinska (1897)
- Variation for Nikolai Legat (1897)
- Le Roi Candaule. Original score by Cesare Pugni (1868).
- Pizzicato for Carlotta Briaza (1891)
- Adaptation of the Pas de Vénus (1891)
- Adaptation of the scene La Naissance du papillon (1891)
- Adaptation of the Pas de Vénus (1891)
- Bacchanale (1891)
- Variations for the three graces (1903)
- The Little Humpbacked Horse. Original score by Cesare Pugni (1864).
- Music for a new prologue (1895)
- Variation for Pierina Legnani for the final Grand Pas de deux (1895)
- Variation for Lyubov Egorova for the Grand Pas des Nereids (1912)
- Variation for Olga Preobrajenska for the final Grand Pas de deux (1912)
- Le Miroir magique. Original score by Arsenii Koreshchenko (1903)
- Adage (1903)
- Variation for Sergei Legat (1903)
- La Source. Original score by Léo Delibes and Ludwig Minkus (1866)
- Grand pas de deux (1903)
- Male variation (1903)
- La Fille mal gardée. Original score by Peter Ludwig Hertel (1864)
- Variation for Hedwige Hantenberg (1894)
- Variation for Alexander Gorsky (1897)
- Le Corsaire. Original score by Adolphe Adam (1856)
- Grand pas de deux for Emma Bessone and Enrico Cecchetti (1887)
- Pas d'action (aka Le Corsaire pas de deux) adagio set to Drigo's nocturne Dreams of Spring and a coda (1915)
- La Bayadère. Original score by Ludwig Minkus (1877)
- Variation for Mathilde Kschessinska (1900)
- La Naïade et le pêcheur (The Naiad and the Fisherman; aka Ondine, ou La Naïade). Original score by Cesare Pugni (1843 and 1858)
- Pas de deux for Anna Pavlova (1903)
- Pas de bouquet (1903)
- Two variations for the Grand pas des Naïades (1903)
- Mlada. Original score by Ludwig Minkus (1879)
- Variation for Mathilde Kschessinska (1896)
- Danse des slaves (1896)
- La Camargo. Original score by Ludwig Minkus (1872)
- Grand pas de deux for Pierina Legnani and Sergei Legat (1901)
- Don Quixote. Original score by Ludwig Minkus (1869)
- Variation for Mathilde Kschessinskaya for the Grand pas des Dryades (1902)
- Variation for Mathilde Kschessinskaya known as L'Éventail (1902)
- La Sylphide. Original score by Jean-Madeleine Schneitzhoeffer (1832)
- Pas des Sylphides (1892)
- Danse écossaise (1892)
- Variation for Varvara Nikitina (1892)
- Adage for Varvara Nikitina and Pavel Gerdt (1892)
- Paquita. Original score by Edouard Deldevez (1846)
- Variation for Anna Pavlova (1904)
- Variation for Varvara Rykhliakova (c. 1900)
- La Tulipe de Haarlem. Original score by Baron Boris Vietinghoff-Scheel (1887)
- Pas de deux (Romance, Valse bluette, Pizzicato, Galop) for Vera Trefilova (1903)
- Danse des Gobelins (1903)
- The Fairy Doll. Original score by Josef Bayer (1888)
- Pas de trois (aka The Fairy Doll Pas de trois) for Mathilde Kschessinskaya, Sergei Legat and Nikolai Legat (1903)
- Variation for Olga Chumakova as the French Doll (1903)
- Leshkov, Denis Ivanovich. The Personal Reminiscenes of R. E. Drigo. Muzykal'naya Zhizn (Musical Life). No. 23, 1973.
- Petipa, Marius. The Diaries of Marius Petipa. Trans. and Ed. Lynn Garafola. Published in Studies in Dance History – 3.1 (Spring 1992).
- Petipa, Marius. Memuary Mariusa Petipa solista ego imperatorskogo velichestva i baletmeistera imperatorskikh teatrov (The Memoirs of Marius Petipa, Soloist of His Imperial Majesty and Ballet Master of the Imperial Theatres).
- Scherer, Barrymore Laurence. Riccardo Drigo: Toast of the Czars. Published in Ballet News – January, 1982, pp. 26–28.
- Schueneman, Bruce R. Minor Ballet Composers: Biographical Sketches of Sixty-six Underappreciated Yet Significant Contributors to the Body of Western ballet Music.
- Travaglia, Silvio. Riccardo Drigo: l'uomo e l'artista.
- Wiley, Roland John. Tchaikovsky's Ballets
- Wiley, Roland John. The Life and Ballets of Lev Ivanov.
- Wiley, Roland John. Memoirs of R. E. Drigo, Part I. Published in The Dancing Times – May, 1982, pp. 577–578
- Wiley, Roland John. Memoirs of R. E. Drigo, Part II. Published in The Dancing Times – June, 1982, pp. 661–662.