A Russian Prince Visiting Chantilly

Until 31 October, Living Horse Museum, Domaine de Chantilly

On June 10, 1782, the Prince of Condé, son of Louis-Henri de Bourbon (the builder of the Grand Stables), welcomed the future Tsar Paul I of  Russia, Paul Petrovich, and his wife, Maria Feodorovna. The royal couple were travelling anonymously as the Comte and Comtesse du Nord. This Russian chapter in the history of Chantilly is the starting point for the show playing at the Living Horse Museum.

Sumptuously received by Louis-Joseph de Bourbon, Prince of Condé, the future Tsar and his wife were treated to Chantilly’s renowned hospitality and festivities. The 150 members of the royal entourage (accompanied by an equal number of servants!) wanted to see everything, beginning with the Grand Stables, but were also eager to visit the great lawn, which was not yet a racetrack, the practice arena and the kennels. The luncheons, dinners and candlelit balls were dazzling. Paul, a half-mad prince, but also kind and generous, was so thrilled with everything he saw at Chantilly that, two years later, the Prince of Condé had the famous Album du Comte du Nord sent to him in St. Petersburg. This illustrated volume held annotated plans of all the architectural marvels of the Chantilly estate.

“The show is built around this visit from the future Tsar and that of his great-grandson, Prince Vladimir, who was welcomed to Chantilly himself a century later by the Duke of Aumale. I want the audience to experience this vast country that has such a rich equestrian culture,” explains Sophie Bienaimé. Presented under the Dome of the Grand Stables, the show is, just like the Chantilly tradition, festive and colourful and, of course, imbued with the Slavic soul.

This new show grew out of Bienaimé’s trip from Moscow to St. Petersburg, where she met people and performers who love horses and toured monuments like the Pavlovsk Palace, home of Paul I. An introduction to an equestrian Russia, the show features a parade of troikas, Cossack trick riders and Buryat horsemen (from an area near Mongolia) performing a series of exciting haute école movements and liberty play, to the sounds of violin and accordion that together create a colourful score blending music, exuberance and emotion.

New horses will enter the ring under the Dome and though some of the costumes are directly from Russia, the majority were designed by Monika Mucha, a stylist and costume designer originally from Czechoslovakia who has lived in France for the past thirty years.