Initially, Walpurgis Night was a ballet scene that Charles Gounod wrote for the second edition of his opera Faust, based on the tragedy of the same name by Johann Wolfgang Goethe. The episode was first shown at the Paris Opera in 1869 and has since grown into an independent one-act ballet.
The action takes place in the domain of Mephistopheles. In an effort to distract Faust from thinking about the evil he has done, Satan brings the philosopher to the witches’ Sabbath. However, this is not a gloomy orgy of monsters, but a luxurious celebration of life, which was started by the young god of winemaking Dionysus, the gracious Faun and charming bacchantes. Looking at them, Faust is distracted from painful thoughts, but … not for long.
Walpurgis is called the night from April 30 to May 1, when Saint Walpurgia (Waldburgia) is commemorated in the Christian calendar. According to legend, at the same time, on the mountain, inaccessible to a mere mortal, the Broken flies on revelry, evil spirits led by Satan. The origins of this tradition go back to early Christian Europe. The Celts, who did not accept the new religion, celebrated the spring festival of Beltine on this day, and the Germans danced around the May tree. For their rituals, the pagans chose hard-to-reach places, which contributed to the emergence of superstitions about witches’ sabbats. Traveling through the Harz mountains, Goethe became interested in this legend and used it as the basis for describing the Satanic Sabbath in Faust.
In the 19th century in Russia “Walpurgis Night” was staged by Marius Petipa. In 1949, the outstanding choreographer Leonid Lavrovsky created his own original version of the ballet. His variation – one of the brightest incarnations of classical ballet of the 20th century – still adorns the stage of world theaters.