The Case of the Light Fantastic Toe by Donald Sidney-Fryer
I. The Book
The biography of Pugni becomes a history of ballet theatre in the 1800s, which remains the century of the dance drama – more often than not featuring a strong fantastic element. The first development took place in Western Europe from 1820-1850; then it spread to Russia, where it reached its florescence from 1850-1870 and continued to develop until the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917.
The first half of the five-volume set covers Pugni’s life and career (1802-1870), inducing the Tsarist ballet theatre in detail (1848-1870) mainly at or around the Tsarist capital of St. Petersburg. The second half covers in detail the Aftermath of Pugni, first at St. Petersburg (1870-1904) and then intermittently there and at Moscow through the end of the Tsarist regime.
Supplemental materials aid both beginning and advanced readers with thorough Notes, Bibliography, Glossary of Russian names, and various Appendices – including a checklist of Pugni’s known compositions and strategic library holdings.
II. The Volumes
III. The Author
Carrying on the tradition of “pure poetry” begun in early modern English by Edmund Spenser and revivified by the Romantic poets long after the mainstream poetic establishment had abandoned it, the California Romantics created two monuments in verse: Sterling with A Wine of Wizardry and Smith with The Hashish-Eater.
During his long and inspired career, Sidney-Fryer has given dramatic readings from these poets as well as from Edmund Spenser’s epic The Faerie Queene, in locales across the U.S. and Great Britain. He has written and edited nearly three dozen books and booklets. He edited four books by Smith for Arkham House and three for Pocket Books, in addition to A Vision of Doom by Ambrose Bierce. His Emperor of Dreams: A Clark Ashton Smith Bibliography remains a cornerstone for Smith studies.
As a poet Sidney-Fryer first crafted Songs and Sonnets Atlantean (the first series), which was the final book to appear from Arkham House under the personal supervision of August Derleth. The Second Series was published by Wildside Press; the Third Series by Phosphor Lantern Press; and an omnibus edition is available from Hippocampus Press. Notably, Sidney-Fryer accomplished his chief prosodic innovation – the creation of the Spenserian stanza-sonnet – long before the emergence the New Formalists, who returned to a more traditional approach to poetics.
From 1980 to 2000 Sidney-Fryer assembled The Case of the Light Fantastic Toe (2018), which he considers his magnum opus. Although he resided in California during 1955-2017, the self-styled Last of the Courtly Poets presently lives in East Sandwich, Massachusetts.
Praise for The Case of the Light Fantastic Toe
"Although virtually unknown today, Cesare Pugni created music for dozens of ballets performed in opera houses all over Europe in the nineteenth century. He began his career at La Scala, had a productive relationship in the 1840s with His Majesty's Theatre, London, where he composed the music for several of Jules Perrot's most important ballets, and spent the last twenty years of his life at St. Petersburg's Imperial Theaters, writing music for works by Perrot, Arthur Saint-Léon, and Marius Petipa, including the latter's first great success, Pharaoh's Daughter. Meticulously researched, Donald Sidney-Fryer's study sheds light not only ballet and musical practices of the age, but also on the day-to-day struggles of a composer who lived outside the musical limelight."– Lynn Garafola, Professor Emerita of Dance, Barnard College, Columbia University