Catherine I is an Estonian ballet performance by Toomas Edur to the music of Tauno Aints, which has been a part of the Estonian National Opera repertoire since March 2018. Presenting this particular relatively young performance is of a great importance to Estonian culture as it is not aimed at just paying tribute to the history but at telling a story of Catherine I of Russia, who is believed to have been born in Estonia. Who is Catherine I and why Toomas Edur chooses her story to be staged at the main Estonian theatre?

Catherine I, whose original name was Marta Skowrońska, was a peasant woman who made her way from a maiden to the second wife of Peter I the Great and later – an empress of Russia. Orphaned at the age of 3, she was raised by a Lutheran Priest. During the Great Northern War, Marta was taken a prisoner and handed over to a close adviser of Peter I. Shortly thereafter, she became lovers with the Tsar.

After the birth of their first child, she joined the Russian Orthodox church and became Peter’s companion, following him wherever he went. Some years later, she became his wife and after his death – was crowned empress-consort of Russia.

It is not her companionship or assistance to the Tsar that is celebrated. The main accent is on her own personality and how her character and attitude influence Peter the Great’s decisions and choices. The author certainly does not share the common opinion about Catherine I being extremely lucky to become what she has become. Toomas Edur wants to tell a story of a smart and self-sufficient woman, who was not an accessory but someone worth being loved by the Tsar and becoming an empress of Russia.

This ballet seemed different from the majority of the Estonian National Opera shows as it equally emphasizes the importance of the plot and the beauty of the dance, while it is usually the choreography that gets the most attention.

Has Toomas Edur managed to make a truthful story attractive to all the kinds of audiences? Yes! Is it worth seeing? Totally!

More information on the upcoming performances: