Parade is a realistic ballet in one scene, based on a theme by Jean Cocteau. The music was done by Erik Satie, choreography by Massine, curtain, décor and costumes designed by Pablo Picasso. The first performance of Parade was at Theatre du Chatelet in Paris on May 18, 1917.
Cocteau says that the first draft of the Parade ballet was a brief ballet project called David, something he had sketched out in 1914. The ballet was to take place in front of the entrance booth of a traveling fair. David was never written, but Cocteau’s first contact with Satie was in 1915, with his collaboration with Picasso beginning the following year.
Diaghilev met Picasso in the spring of 1916 when a mutual friend, Mme. Eugenia Errazuriz brought him to Picasso’s studio. It was then that Diaghilev commissioned Picasso to do the mise-en-scene for Parade. Both Picasso and Cocteau left for Rome in February of 1917, where Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes was dancing. There they met and worked with Massine.
Among the costumes Picasso designed was a horse, initially with a mannequin-rider. During the dress rehearsal, the rider fell off of the horse causing the audience to laugh, so it was removed for the remaining performances. The costume for the American Girl, which Picasso had not sketched, was actually bought the day before at a sporting goods store. The costume for the Female Acrobat that Massine had added at the last minute was made of hand-painted spiral designed Picasso painted directly onto Lydia Lopoukhova’s legs.
After a three year absence, Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes returned to Paris’s Theatre du Chatelet with Parade, a pioneer Cubist theatrical spectacular. Satie and Cocteau often disagreed regarding the noises that Cocteau wanted added to Satie’s scores. But, Cocteau was over ruled by Diaghilev and they were left out.
When the curtain went down on Parade, the audience was violent and contradictory. It was acclaimed by many intellectuals, but the public didn’t like it. It was well ahead of its time and was never added to the regular repertoire of the Ballets Russes.
In 1923, when Diaghilev wanted to restage the ballet, he asked Picasso to touch up the curtain which had been taken over by mildew. Picasso refused saying that it resembled the deteriorated frescoes of Pompeii and should remain that way!
(photo, left, of Massine)
Read "DIAGHILEV And the Ballets Russes" by Boris Kochno, 1970.
Le Dieu Bleu is a one act ballet by Jean Cocteau and Federigo de Madrazo. Fokine was the choreographer and music was by Reynaldo Hahn with décor and costume by Leon Bakst. Le Dieu Bleu premiered May 13, 1912 at Theatre du Chatelet in Paris.
Cocteau wrote the scenario for Ballets Russes’s Le Dieu Bleu after working with Diaghilev since 1911, and designing posters for Spectre de la Rose using portraits of Nijinsky and Karsavina, in 1912. Cocteau and Hahn were inspired by Hindu legends, and Fokine the bas-reliefs of Brahman temples and Siamese dancers. Sadly, Le Dieu Bleu was not successful and removed from the repertoire the following year.
Les Femmes De Bonne Humeur (The Good-Humored Ladies) was first performed on April 12, 1917 at Teatro Constanza, Rome. It is a comic one act ballet. The libretto adapted from a comedy La Donne di Buon Umore, by Carlo Goldoni. The music is by Domenico Scarlatti, and was orchestrated by Vincenzo Tommasini.
The choreography was by Leonide Massine, the first of Massine's series of ballets in the Italian Commedia del'Arte tradition. The scenery designed by Leon Bakst. It was composed in Italy during the war. Lydia Lopokova danced the role of Mariuccia. Massine and Stanislas Idizikowsky, Lubov Tchernicheva, Leon Woizikovsky made up the rest of the original cast.
L’Epreuve D’Amour (The Proof of Love) or Chung-Yang and the Mandarin, a comedic ballet in one act was first performed on April 4, 1936 in Theatre de Monte Carlo in Monte Carlo. Libretto by André Derain and Michel Fokine, music by Mozart, choreography by Michel Fokine and scenery and costumes by Andre Derain. The discovery of Graz of an unknown score by Mozart in his Chinese style suggested the idea to this ballet.
Vera Nemchinova originated the role of Chung-Yang with Andre Eglevsky as her lover, Jean Javinsky as the Mandarin and Anatole Obukhov as the ambassador from the Western world.
Narcissse is a classical ballet performed in one act. Narcisse premiered on April 26, 1911 at Casino, Monte Carlo. Narcisse was a replacement ballet for Daphnis Et Chloe. Diaghilev had invited Ravel to St. Petersburg, to work with Bakst and Fokine on Daphnis Et Chloe. However, Ravel was late in producing the score, and Fokine could not begin the choreography, so Narcisse was done in its place.
Narcisse was originally danced by the legendary Tamara Karsavina, Bronislava Nijinska and Vaslav Nijinsky. In the photo on the right, is Bronislava Nijinska dancing in Narcisse with Fokine's wife Vera Fokina.
Le Spectre de La Rose was choreographed by Michel Fokine, music by Carl Maria von Weber and designs by Leon Bakst. Le Spectre de la rose premiered on April 19, 1911 in Monte Carlo by Diaghilev's Ballet Russe. Dancers at the premiere were Vaslav Nijinsky as the Spirit of the Rose and Tamara Karsarvina as the Young Girl.
The ballet tells the story of a young woman who returns from a ball and brings home a rose. She falls asleep in a chair and dreams of dancing with the spirit of the rose until the spirit disappears with a spectacular leap through the window and she awakes.
Australian audiences first saw the Fokine version as part of the very first performance by the Monte Carlo Russian Ballet on its 1936-1937 tour to Australia. It opened on 13 October in Adelaide's Theatre Royal and featured Valentina Blinova and Igor Youskevitch. Spectre was subsequently performed by the Covent Garden Russian Ballet on its 1938-1939 tour to Australia and by the Original Ballet Russe on the tour of 1939-1940. It was given over 120 performances during the three Ballets Russes tours.
The Ballets Russes performances of Fokine's Le Spectre de la rose were followed in the 1940s by those of the Borovansky company, initially during their first Australian tour in 1944. In 1947, Kathleen Gorham performed as the Young Girl after her promotion to the rank of junior ballerina with this company. The work entered the repertoire of the Ballet Guild in 1953, featuring Laurel Martyn and Raymond Trickett. Australian audiences also saw Ballet Rambert performing Fokine's Spectre during their 1947-9 tour, and, in 1962, Margot Fonteyn performing as the Young Girl while touring with an ensemble of 8 dancers from the Royal Ballet. Fonteyn was personally coached in this role by Karsavina.
Paquita is a ballet in two acts and three scenes, with libretto by Joseph Mazilier and Paul Foucher. Originally choreographed by Joseph Mazilier to the music of Edouard Deldevez. First presented by at the Salle Le Peletier by the Paris Opera Ballet on April 1, 1846.
In 1847, Paquita was staged for the first time in Russia for the Imperial Ballet of St. Petersburg by Marius Petipa and Pierre-Frédéric Malevergne. Paquita was the first work ever staged by Petipa in Russia. In 1881, Petipa produced a revival of the ballet for which he added new pieces specially composed by Ludwig Minkus. This included the Pas de trois for the first act, and the Paquita Grand pas classique and the Mazurka des enfants for the last act. Petipa's version of Paquita was retained in the repertory of the Mariinsky Theatre until 1926.
In 2001, the Ballet Master Pierre Lacotte produced a revival of full-length, two act Paquita for the Paris Opera Ballet.
Le Sacre du Printemps or The Rite of Spring follows the story of a pagan Russian sacrifice ritual. The music was composed by Igor Stravinsky; choreography by Vaslav Nijinsky; and concept, set design and costumes by Nicholas Roerich. It was produced by Sergei Diaghilev for his Ballets Russes ballet company and had its premiere in Paris on May 29, 1913 at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées.
The premiere involved one of the most famous classical music riots in history. The intensely rhythmic score and primitive scenario and choreography shocked the audience that was accustomed to the elegant conventions of classical ballet.
The complex music and violent dance steps depicting fertility rites first drew catcalls and whistles from the crowd. At the start, some members of the audience began to boo loudly. There were loud arguments in the audience between supporters and opponents of the work. These were soon followed by shouts and fistfights in the aisles. The unrest in the audience eventually degenerated into a riot. The Paris police arrived by intermission, but they restored only limited order. After the premiere, Diaghilev is reported to have commented to Nijinsky and Stravinsky at dinner that the scandal was "exactly what I wanted."
After nine performances by the Ballets Russes, Nijinsky's ballet was not produced again. His choreography was documented only in contemporary written eye-witness accounts, in photographs, and in detailed notes preserved by the English ballet director Marie Rambert.
Although Nijinsky's choreography was poorly preserved, his choreography and Roerich's costuming and set design were reconstructed in 1987 by dance historian Millicent Hodson, art historian Kenneth Archer, and choreographer Robert Joffrey, for performance by the Joffrey Ballet.
Since Nijinsky's original version, some 180 choreographies have been created to the score of The Rite of Spring. The second version was created in 1920 by Leonide Massine, again for the Ballets Russes. It was based on the original scenario by Roehrich and used the sets and costumes of the 1913 premier production.
Sleeping Beauty premiered January 15th in St. Petersburg, Russia. Choreography by Petipa, music by Tchaikovsky and starring Carlotta Brianza in the role of Aurora. The ballet's premiere received more favorable accolades than Swan Lake from the press but Tchaikovsky never had the luxury of being able to witness his work become an instant success in theatres outside of Russia. He died in 1893. By 1903, The Sleeping Beauty was the second most popular ballet in the repertory of the Imperial Ballet (the Petipa/Pugni The Pharaoh's Daughter was first), having been performed 200 times in only 10 years.
The Sleeping Beauty is Tchaikovsky's longest ballet, lasting nearly four hours at full length - counting the intermissions. Without intermissions, it lasts nearly three hours. It is nearly always cut.
At the premier Tsar Alexander III summoned Tchaikovsky to the imperial box. The Tsar made the simple remark 'Very nice,' which seemed to have irritated Tchaikovsky, who had likely expected a more favorable response.
The Dying Swan (originally The Swan) is a ballet choreographed by Mikhail Fokine in 1905 to Camille Saint-Saëns's cello solo Le Cygne from Le Carnaval des Animaux as a pièce d'occasion for the ballerina Anna Pavlova.
The short ballet follows the last moments in the life of a swan, and was first presented in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1905.
Inspired by swans that Pavlova had seen in public parks and Alfred, Lord Tennyson's poem "The Dying Swan", Anna Pavlova asked Michel Fokine, who had also read the poem, to create a solo ballet for her for a 1905 concert being given by artists from the chorus of the Imperial Mariinsky Opera.
Le Pavillion d'Armide premiered on November 25, 1907 in St. Petersburg at the Maryinsky Theatre staring Pavlova, Gerdt, and Nijinsky. It is a ballet in one-act, choreographed by Mikhail Fokine, designs by Alexandre Benois and composed by Nikolai Tcherepnin. Benois wrote the libretto of the ballet in 1903 and Tcherepin composed the music to suit the plot. The ballet was brought and presented to the Maryinsky but left unstaged until Fokine.
The ballet is based upon a story by Gautier. The ballet tells of the Vicomte de Beaugency who seeks refuge in a mysterious castle during a storm. Inside the pavillion where he spends the night, he is transfixed by a tapestry of Armide and dreams that he falls in love with her. In the morning he returns to his senses, only to discover that he is left holding Armide's scarf in his hand.
Fokine originally created Le Pavillion d'Armide for the Imperial Ballet Academy's graduation performance in 1907. Fokine then expanded it for the Mayinsky company. Diaghilev presented Le Pavillion d'Armide on its first night at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris on May 19, 1909. The lead roles were danced by Vera Karalli, Vaslav Nijinsky and Mikhail Mordkin.
The Firebird is a 1910, neoclassical ballet with music by Igor Stravinsky and choreography by Michel Fokine. The ballet is based on Russian folk tales of the magical glowing bird of the same name that is both a blessing and a curse to its captor.
The music premiered as a ballet by Diaghilev's Ballets Russes in Paris on June 25, 1910 conducted by Gabriel Pierné. It was the first of their productions with music specially composed for them.
Originally the music was to have been written by Russian composer Anatol Liadov but when he was slow in starting to compose the work, Diaghilev transferred the commission to the 28-year old Igor Stravinsky. The ballet has historic significance not only as Stravinsky's 'breakthrough piece, but also as the beginning of the collaboration between Diaghilev and Stravinsky. They would later produce Petrushka and The Rite of Spring.
The ballet Les Orientales premiered June 25, 1910 at the Theatre National de l'Opera in Paris. During the second season of the Ballets Russes, Diaghilev replaced Le Festin with a new suite of dances, Les Orientales.
Nijinsky appeared in two of the danced he choreographed by himself - - La Danse Siamoise to music by Sinding and Variation to music by Grieg that Stravinsky orchestrated.
Petrouchka premiered in Paris at the Chatelet Theatre on 13 June 1911. The work was created for Diaghilev's Ballet Russe and the opening night featured Vaslav Nijinsky as Petrouchka, Tamara Karsarvina as the Ballerina, Alexandre Orlov as the Blackamoor and Enrico Cecchetti as the Showman. It was danced to a score by Igor Stravinsky, its choreography was by Michel Fokine and it was designed by Alexandre Benois. Stravinsky and Benois were responsible for the libretto.
The first performance of Petrouchka in Australia was produced by Louise Lightfoot for the First Australian Ballet. Lightfoot choreographed her version (called Petrouschka on the program) without ever having seen the Fokine original or any other version. It featured Trafford Whitelock as Petrouchka, Moya Beaver as the Ballerina and Mischa Burlakov as the Blackamoor. It was presented on 18 and 20 July 1936 at the Conservatorium of Music, Sydney.
A few months afterwards, on November 14, 936, the Monte Carlo Russian Ballet, on tour in Australia, opened its production of Petrouchka in Melbourne. Helene Kirsova starred as the Ballerina, Leon Woizikowsky as Petrouchka and Thadee Slavinsky as the Blackamoor. Between 1936 and 1940 the work was performed over 70 times in Australia by three touring Russian Ballet companies, the Monte Carlo Russian Ballet, the Covent Garden Russian Ballet and the Original Ballet Russe.
Chopiniana premiered in 1907 at the Maryinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg as Rêverie Romantique: Ballet sur la musique de Chopin. However, this also formed the basis of a ballet, Chopiniana, which took different forms, even in Fokine's hands. The second version was performed March 21,1908 at the Maryinsky Theatre, danced by Pavlova, Karsavina, Nijinsky and Preobrajenska.
Chopiniana premiered as Les Sylphides, with Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes on June 2, 1909 at Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris. The Diaghilev premiere is the most famous, as its soloists were Tamara Karsavina, Vaslav Nijinsky (as the poet, dreamer, or young man), Anna Pavlova, and Alexandra Baldina. The London premier, in the first season of the Diaghilev Ballets Russes, was at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. With more sylph-like elusiveness, the North American premiere might be dated by an unauthorized version in the Winter Garden, New York, on 14 June 1911, featuring Baldina alone from the Diaghilev cast. However, its authorized premiere on that continent, by Diaghilev Ballets Russes, was at the Century Theater, New York City, 20 January 1916, with Lopokova . Nijinsky danced it with Ballets Russes at the Metropolitan Opera, April 14, 1916.
Les Sylphides has no plot, but instead consists of many white-clad sylphs dancing in the moonlight with the poet or young man dressed in white tights and a black top. New York City Ballet produced its own staging of the standard version, omitting the Polonaise in A major and leaving the Prelude in A major in its original position, under the original title, Chopiniana. The NYCB premiere was staged by Alexandra Danilova and took place 20 January 1972, at the New York State Theater, Lincoln Center. The original cast included Karin von Aroldingen, Susan Hendl, Kay Mazzo, and Peter Martins.
Jeux (Games) is the last work for orchestra written by Claude Debussy. It was written for the Diaghilev's Ballets Russes and choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky. Set and costume design were done by Leon Bakst.
Jeux premiered under conductor Pierre Monteux on May 15, 1913 in Paris at Theatre des Champs-Elysees. Jeux was not well received, and soon eclipsed by Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring, which was premiered on May 29, 1913.
Jeux seems to be a preliminary study for Nijinsky in developing Le Sacre. The high point of the ballet, according to Diaghilev, was its opening, when Nijinsky, with a grand jete, appeared onstage in pursuit of a tennis ball.
The first version of Cleopatre was performed on March 8, 1908 at the Maryinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, as a part of a benefit performance. Fokine did the choreography and a this time it included only the score of Arensky. Cleopatra premiered June 2, 1909 in Paris at the Theatre du Chatelet.
For the Paris premiere, Diaghilev ordered a new mise-en-scene from Leon Bakst, and, on the advice of Benois, added to the Arensky score symphonic excerpts by several other Russian composers. In addition, Diaghilev replaced the "happy ending" of Nuit d'Egypte with a dramatic pantomime.
Ida Rubenstein, a young nonprofessional who was studying with Fokine, made her first stage appreance in Cleopatre as Cleopatre, performing in the Dance of the Seven Veils.
In 1917, during a Latin tour, the set designed by Leon Bakst for Cleopatre was destroyed in a fire; in 1918, Diaghilev ordered a new decor from Robert Delaunay, and his wife Sonia, sketched new costumes for Lubov Tchernicheva and Leonide Massine, who would be dancing the roles created by Ida Rubinstein and Fokine.
Daphnis et Chloe is a choreographic symphony in one act and three scenes, by Michel Fokine and Maurice Ravel. The décor and costumes were done by Leon Bakst. Daphnis et Chloe premiered at Theatre de Chatelet in Paris on June 8, 1912.
Maurice Ravel accepted a commission from Diaghilev to write Daphnis et Chloe, in 1909. He was slow to deliver, so Diaghilev sent him to St. Petersburg to work with Fokine and Bakst. The three men got along so well that it just extended the creative process and Ravel did not finish Daphnis et Chloe until 1912.
The idea itself for adapting the Longus pastoral tale for the stage was Fokine’s. His friend Isadora Duncan had influenced his interest in ancient Greece. The ballet was originally scheduled for the 1911 repertoire, but Narcisse was substituted when Daphnis et Chloe was not yet finished. When rehearsals for Daphnis et Chloe finally began in 1911, Diaghilev was completely distracted by Nijinsky’s L’Apres-Midi and Diaghilev’s lack of interest in Daphnis et Chloe was said to be the main reason for Fokine leaving the Ballets Russes Company in June of 1912, right after its premiere.
A few years later, in 1919, Ravel was commissioned again by Diaghilev to do La Valse, but they disagreed on the scenic concept, that topped with Massine’s departure led Diaghilev to abandon the ballet’s production. Ravel was so stunned by Diaghilev’s behavior that years later they ran into one another in the lobby of the Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo, and Ravel would not shake hands with Diaghilev.
The ballet Coppélia premiered on May 25, 1870 at the Théâtre Impérial de l´Opéra, with the 16-year-old Giuseppina Bozzacchi in the principal role of Swanhilde. Coppélia is a sentimental comic ballet with original choreography by Arthur Saint-Léon to a ballet libretto by Saint-Léon and Charles Nuitter and music by Léo Delibes. It was based upon two macabre stories by E. T. A. Hoffmann, Der Sandmann (The Sandman), and Die Puppe (The Doll). Its first flush of success was interrupted by the Franco-Prussian War and the siege of Paris - which also led to the early death of Giuseppina Bozzacchi, on her 17th birthday - but eventually it became the most-performed ballet at the Opera Garnier. The team of Saint-Léon and Nuittier had a previous success with the ballet La Source (1860), for which Délibes had composed the music jointly with Ludwig Minkus.
The story of Coppélia concerns a mysterious and faintly diabolical inventor, Doctor Coppélius who has made a life-size dancing doll. It is so lifelike that Frantz, a village swain, is infatuated with it, and sets aside his true heart's desire, Swanhilde, who in Act II shows him his folly by dressing as the doll and pretending to come to life. The festive wedding-day divertissements in the village square that occupy Act III are often deleted in modern danced versions, though one of the entrées was the first czardas presented on a ballet stage.
Giuseppina Bozzacchi was an Italian ballerina, noted for creating the role of Swanhilda in Léo Delibes' ballet Coppélia at the age of 16. She came to Paris to study with Mme Dominique. The choreographer, Arthur Saint-Léon, and the director of the Académie Royale de Musique, Émile Perrin, had been searching for a suitable Swanhilda, after deciding that none of the ballerinas previously considered – Léontine Beaugrand, Angelina Fioretti and Adèle Grantzou – were suitable. They even asked the composer Léo Delibes to seek out a suitable Swanilda on his trip to Italy. He returned empty-handed, but in the meantime Saint-Léon and Perrin had discovered Bozzacchi.
Giuseppina created Swanhilda on May 25, 1870 in the presence of Emperor Napoleon III. In July, an international dispute broke out between France and Prussia over the succession to the Spanish throne, and on July 19, France declared war. Giuseppina Bozzacchi danced Swanhilda for the 18th and last time on August 31st, when the Paris Opéra closed for the duration of the Franco-Prussian War. The Opéra had stopped paying salaries, and Giuseppina, weakened by lack of food, became ill. She contracted smallpox and fever, and died that same year on the morning of her 17th birthday ,November 23, 1870.
The ballet Thamar, premiered on May 20, 1912 at Theatre du Chatelet in Paris. It starred Tamara Karsavina and Adolph Bolm as the Principal dancers. The ballet is a drama, in one scene based upon a poem by Mikhail Lermontov. The music was by Mily Balakirev with Fokine as choreographer. Leon Bakst did both the décor and the costumes.
The ballet itself was set in the castle of the Queen of Georgia, Thamar enticed passing suitors by fluttering her scarf out of the window. The action centers around one particular Prince, who enters the castle and dances ecstatically for Queen Thamar.
The queen enjoys his savage movements. She joins in the dance and their lips meet in a passionate kiss. Then she twists from his grasp and runs through the green door. He follows in pursuit. The ballet ends violently with Queen Thamar murdering her guest and disposing of his body through a trap door. She then returns to her window luring new victims with the waving of her scarf.
As Thamar was set in Georgia, Leon Bakst drew on authentic Georgian architecture for inspiration in designing the set for Thamar’s castle. Mikhail Fokine, too, used elements of traditional Georgian dance in the choreography.
Le Carnaval is a ballet based on the music of Robert Schumann's, Carnaval, for piano. It was orchestrated by Aleksandr Glazunov, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Anatole Liadov, Alexander Tcherepnin. Carnaval was choreographed by Ballets Russes’ Mikhail Fokine, with the costumes designed by Léon Bakst. Fokine created Carnaval for a benefit given in St. Petersburg, Russia and it premiered on February 20, 1910 in Pavlova Hall.
Some of the leading dancers of the Imperial Ballet were cast in Carnaval: Tamara Karsavina (Columbine), Leonid Leontiev (Harlequin), Vera Fokina (Charina), Ludmila Schollar (Estrella), Bronislava Nijinska (Papillon), Vsevolod Meyerhold (Pierrot), Vasily Kiselev (Florestan), Aleksandr Shiryaev (Eusebius).
Carnaval did not become world-famous until after it was performed by Diaghilev's Ballets Russes at the Teater des Westens, in Berlin on May 20, 1910. Lydia Lopokova performed as Columbine and Vaslav Nijinsky as Harlequin.
Scheherazade premiered on June 4, 1910 in Paris with Ida Rubenstein, Cecchetti and Nijinsky. Rimsky-Korsakov was the composer of Scheherazade. The ballet is one act,
and was choreographed by Fokine with decor and costumes by Leon Bakst. It premiered in the Theatre National de l'Opera, Paris. Scheherazade was the first true creation of the Ballets Russes because except for the dances from the opera Prince Igor, the Fokine choreographed for the company in 1909, all other ballets by Diaghilev's first Paris season were fresh works of already existing ballets.
In the autumn of 1910, Diaghilev ordered a proscenium curtain for the ballet from Valentin Serov, who had designed the Ballets Russes poster. It ws inspired by Persian miniatures and was completed by Serov in Paris in 1911. it graces the stage for Scheherazade until 1914, when sadly, a warehouse fire destroyed it and other Ballets Russes props.
The mime, or acting of Ida and Nijinsky were so strong and unusual for a dance performance, that word of it got to famed actress Sarah Bernhardt. She came to see the ballet and became so overwrought she exclaimed, "Let's get out of here! Quickly! I'm afraid, they are all mutes!" She did not know that there was no talking in ballet.
Prince Igor was first performed in St.Petersburg, Russia, in 1890. It is an opera by Alexander Borodin, written in four acts with a prologue. The composer adapted the libretto from the East Slavic epic The Lay of Igor's Host, which recounts the campaign of Russian Prince Igor Svyatoslavich against the invading Polovtsian tribes in 1185. The opera was left unfinished upon the composer's death in 1887 and was edited and completed by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Alexander Glazunov.
The world premiere of the ballet was given in St. Petersburg on November 4, 1890 at the Mariinsky Theatre. Set designers were Yanov, Andreyev, and Bocharov, while Lev Ivanov was balletmaster.
Other notable premieres were given in Prague in 1899, and in Paris on May 19, 1909, with Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes and Fokine’s choreography. London saw the same production in 1914 conducted by Thomas Beecham.
In 1915, the United States premiere took place at the Metropolitan Opera, but staged in Italian and conducted by Giorgio Polacco.
Chout (Le Bouffon) is a Russian legend in six scenes. Music by Serge Prokofiev, choreography by Michel Larionov and Tadeo Slavinsky with décor and costumes also by Larionov. First performance was May 17, 1921 at Theatre de la Gaite-Lyrique, Paris.
Chout was considered more of a pantomime than a ballet. It put Paris audiences off because there was no harmony between Prokofiev’s cool music and Larionov’s aggressive use of folk motifs in his sets and Constructivist costumes.
Diaghilev had to threaten the dancers before Dress Rehearsal with fines to persuade them to appear on stage in the costumes that were so heavy and cumbersome they interfered with the dances movements.
Chout was included in the company’s repertoire for the last time in Paris, in June 1922 at the Theatre Mogador. The Principal role of Buffoon, created for Slavinsky, was danced by Bronislava Nijinska.
L'Apres-midi d'un faune was choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky for the Diaghilev Ballets Russes and was first performed in Paris on May 29, 1912, with Nijinsky dancing the role of the Faun. Both the ballet and score to which it was set, Claude Debussy's 'Prelude a l'apres-midi d'un faune', were inspired by the poem of the same title by Stephane Malarme. Design was by Leon Bakst. Choreographic features of the work include a frieze-like archaic design, profiled stance, and alternation of movement and pose. The spare libretto centres on the faun's meeting and flirtation with nymphs, and the piece concludes with a scene of simulated masturbation that scandalized early audiences.
The de Basil Ballets Russes revival of L'Apres-midi d'un faune premiered in London on October 2, 1933, and Australian audiences first saw the work during the 1936-1937 tour by the Monte Carlo Russian Ballet. Its first performance was in Adelaide on October 20,1936. The review in The Advertiser the following day noted that the work 'struck a new note in ballet', and hailed Leon Woizikowsy as 'magnetis[ing] the audience with his amazing delineation of the part of The Faun'. The ballet was subsequently seen in Sydney and Melbourne. During the second Ballets Russes tour by the Covent Garden Russian Ballet a truncated solo version was performed by David Lichine in a 'principles only' farewell gala in Sydney on 27 April 1939.
The ballet Le Coq d'or (The Golden Cockerel) was originally staged in 1914 in London and Paris, by Michel Fokine for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes. This work was an opera-ballet, a danced interpretation of the Rimsky-Korsakov's epic opera of the same name, with the dancers accompanied by a chorus and solo singers.
In 1937, Fokine revised the work for the Ballets Russes company of Colonel W de Basil, creating a single-act ballet in three scenes which premiered at Covent Garden on September 23, 1937. For this straight-dance version, the Rimsky-Korsakov score was adapted and arranged by Nicolas Tcherepnin, and Fokine condensed the original opera libretto, which Vladimir Bielsky had adapted from a Pushkin poem. Artist Natalia Gontcharova based her neo-primitive set and costume designs on those she had made for the 1914 version, recreating the original curtain and modifying other elements to produce a brilliantly colourful tableau. Her costume for the Cockerel, using real gold thread, was introduced in the 1937 production, the 1914 version having used a prop to represent this character.
The United States premiere took place in the Metropolitan Opera on March 6, 1918 with Marie Sundelius in the title role, Adamo Didur and Maria Barrientos in the actual leads, and Pierre Monteux conducting.
The story of Le Coq d'or concerns the fate of the lazy King Dodon when he renegs on his promise to reward an astrologer with anything he desires in exchange for the gift of a magical golden cockerel. Dodon is seduced by the beautiful Queen of Shemakhan, against whom he has been waging war, and brings her home as his bride. When the astrologer claims the Queen as his reward, the King kills him in a fit of rage and is, in turn, killed by the cockerel. Despite the surface naivety and humour, the story has strong undercurrents of both sensuality and satire.
There is an emphasis in the 1937 version on the contrast between fantasy and reality, with the Astrologer reminding the audience at the end that, apart from himself and the Queen, all was illusion. The Golden Cockerel and the Queen are the only roles danced on pointe. Both are technically demanding, and provide strong balletic highlights amid the mime and burlesque elements.
The three act ballet Raymonda, premiered in January 19, 1898 at the Maryinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg. with choreography by Marius Petipa. Prima Ballerina, Pierina Legnani danced the title role, with Sergei Legat as her suitor, the chivalrous knight Jean de Brienne. Glazunov's score for the ballet Raymonda, Op. 57, supports a fanciful narrative by novelist-journalist Lydia Pashkova. The libretto was by Petipa and Lydia Pashkova, music by Glazunov, sets by O. Allegri, K.
Raymonda is regarded as Petipa's last true masterpiece and has been constantly revived in Russia. It was kept unchanged in the Kirov repertoire until 1938 when Vainonen staged a new version with a revised libretto by himself and Slominsky. In 1948, Sergeyev staged a version which reverted to a close approximation of Petipa. The Bolshoi danced their first production in 1900 and in 1908 showed a brand-new version by Gorsky. Lavrovsky staged a later revival (1945) with much of Petipa's choreography restored.
In the West, Petipa's ballet has appeared in many different forms. The Grand Pas hongrois (Act III) formed part of an evening of divertissements danced by Diaghilev's Ballets Russes in Paris (1909) and Pavlova presented a two-act version of the ballet staged by Ivan Clustine in New York (1914). The complete ballet was danced in Nicholas Zvereff's staging for the National Opera Ballet of Lithuania in London (1935) while the first US production was a shortened re-creation of Petipa's work by Danilova and Balanchine for the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo (New York, 1946).
Nureyev staged a complete version in 1964 for the Royal Ballet Touring Company at the Spoleto Festival although only Act III remained in the permanent repertoire. Nureyev subsequently re-staged the complete production for Australian Ballet (1965), Zurich Opera Ballet (1972), and for American Ballet Theatre (1975). Berlin Opera Ballet also staged the complete ballet in a production by T. Gsovsky (Acts I and II) and Beriozoff (Act III). Balanchine choreographed his own ballet, Pas de dix, to the music from the Grand Pas hongrois (1955), later developed into Cortège hongrois (1973), and also Raymonda Variations (to other extracts from Glazunov's score) in 1961.
Le Jeune Homme et La Mort is a ballet by Roland Petit, choreographed in 1946 to Bach's Passacaglia in C Minor, BWV 582, with a one-act libretto by Jean Cocteau. It tells the story of a Young Man driven to suicide by his faithless lover. Sets were by Georges Wakhévitch and costumes by Jean Cocteau. Roland Petit is purported to have created Le Jeune Homme et La Mort for his wife Zizi Jeanmaire, but it is also reported to have been danced by Jean Babilée and Nathalie Philippart at its June 25th premiere at the Ballets des Champs-Elysées.
Petit staged it at American Ballet Theatre in 1951, where it was revived by Mikhail Baryshnikov in 1975, and in the 1985 movie "White Nights" Petit arranged Le Jeune Homme et la Mort for Baryshnikov. It has been in the repertoire of the Paris Opera Ballet since 1990 and was danced at its premiere there by Kader Belarbi. It has also been danced by the Ballet National de Marseilles (1984), the Berlin Opera Ballet (1985) and the Boston Ballet (1998).
Les Millions d'Arlequin (a.k.a. Harlequinade) is a ballet in two acts with libretto and choreography by Marius Petipa and music by Riccardo Drigo. First presented at the Imperial Theatre of the Hermitage by the Imperial Ballet in St. Petersburg, Russia on February 10, 1900. The ballet was given a second premiere on the stage of the stage of the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre with the same cast on February 26th.
The Ballet Master Fyodor Lopukhov later restaged the ballet as Harlequinade in a one act version for the Ballet of the Maly Theatre of Leningrad. The production premiered on 13 June 1933. Audiences outside of Russia are perhaps most familiar with George Balanchine's revival, which the Ballet Master staged as Harlequinade for the New York City Ballet. This production that premiered at the New York State Theater in New York City on February 4, 1965.
The original cast for both performances was Mathilde Kschessinskaya as Columbine, Georgi Kiaksht as Harlequin, Olga Preobrajenska as Pierrette, Sergei Lukianov as Pierrot, Enrico Cecchetti as Casandré, and Anna Urakhova as the Good Fairy. Included at the first performance were Tsar Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorvna.
Les Saisons ballet premiered on February 20, 1900. It was choreographed by Marius Petipa and composed by Alexander Glazunov. Les Saisons was performed by the Imperial Ballet in the Theatre of the Hermitage. Les Saisons is an allegorical ballet in one act, with four scenes.
In 1907, Nikolai Legat staged a revival of Les Saisons at the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre. This production was performed on occasion by the Imperial Ballet after the Russian Revolution, being performed for the last time in 1927.
Les Saisons lived on in an abriged edition in the repertory of Anna Pavlova's touring company.