Quo Vadis is a ballet in five scenes with libretto by
Giovanni Vittorio Rosi and music by Sam Cudworth. Based on the popular 1896 novel
Henryk Sienkiewicz, Rosi’s ballet, composed circa 1904, followed several film
stage adaptations. An epic love story set among the early Christians in Nero’s
Quo Vadis was again adapted as a ballet in 1906
(titled Eunice) by Leonide Massine.
Dancer, choreographer, director, and teacher Giovanni Vittorio Rosi was born in Rome
in 1867 and trained at La Scala in Milan. An ambassador for the systematic training
and technical innovations of the Italian School of ballet teaching and composition,
he directed corps de ballet and taught dancers in
various locations around the world, including Japan and Los Angeles, in the early
twentieth century. From 1904 to 1908, he is known to have directed ballets at
Alhambra Music Hall in London. Although Quo Vadis was
not among them, it may have been choreographed in London during this time period.
Nothing is known of the biography or works of Quo
Vadis’s composer, Sam Cudworth.
The Giovanni Vittorio Rosi Quo Vadis Ballet Collection
is comprised of a "ballet book" of dance notation,
plot synopses, and musical scores. The ballet book is hardbound and contains
handwritten lists of characters, settings, and dances and a scene-by-scene
description of the ballet in French, in addition to the dance notation. The notation
takes the form of stamped and hand-colored figures with hand-drawn lines to indicate
movement, superimposed on paper pre-printed with the backdrops for the scenes.
the facing page, a table lists the dancers and their positions in the scene depicted
on the opposite side.
The description of Quo Vadis written in the ballet
book also exists in the collection in the form of individual manuscripts and
typescripts, written in French, Italian, or English. The remainder of the collection
is made up of musical scores, including the piano score, dated 1904, and the
orchestral score, dated 1905. Scores for individual orchestral parts are undated
may be more recent; a clipping from 1949 regarding the upcoming film version of
Quo Vadis was found among them.