"Daphnis et Chloe" one-act ballet
Daphnis et Chloé is a ballet in one act with three parts (scenes) by Maurice Ravel described as a "symphonie chorégraphique" (choreographic symphony). The scenario was adapted by Michel Fokine from a romance by the Greek writer Longus thought to date from around the 2nd century AD. Scott Goddard published a contemporary commentary that discussed the changes to the story that Fokine made to prepare a workable ballet scenario. The story concerns the love between the goatherd Daphnis and the shepherdess Chloé.
Ravel began work on the score in 1909 after a commission from Sergei Diaghilev. It was premiered at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris by his Ballets Russes on 8 June 1912. The orchestra was conducted by Pierre Monteux, the choreography was by Michel Fokine, and Vaslav Nijinsky and Tamara Karsavina danced the parts of Daphnis and Chloé. Léon Bakst designed the original sets.
At almost an hour long, Daphnis et Chloé is Ravel's longest work. In spite of the ballet's duration, four discernable leitmotifs give musical unity to the score. The music, some of the composer's most passionate, is widely regarded as some of Ravel's best, with extraordinarily lush harmonies typical of the impressionist movement in music. Even during the composer's lifetime, contemporary commentators described this ballet as his masterpiece for orchestra. Ravel extracted music from the ballet to make two orchestral suites, which can be performed with or without the chorus. The second of the suites, which includes much of the last part of the ballet and concludes with the "Danse générale", is particularly popular. When the complete work is itself performed live, it is more often in concerts than in staged productions.
Age category 12+
On the island of Lesbos, in a meadow at the edge of a sacred wood stands a grotto hewn out of rock, at the entrance of which is an antique sculpture of three Nymphs. Somewhat toward the background, to the left, a large rock vaguely resembles the form of the god Pan. In the background sheep are grazing. It is a bright spring afternoon. When the curtain rises, the stage is empty. Youths and girls enter, carrying gifts for the Nymphs in baskets. Gradually the stage fills. The group bows before the altar of the Nymphs. The girls drape the pedestals with garlands. In the far background, Daphnis is seen following his flock. Chloé joins him. They proceed toward the altar and disappear at a bend. Daphnis and Chloé enter at the foreground and bow before the Nymphs.
The girls entice Daphnis and dance around him. Chloé feels the first twinges of jealousy. At that moment she is swept into the dance of the youths. The cowherd Dorcon proves to be especially bold. Daphnis in turn seems upset. At the end of the dance, Dorcon tries to kiss Chloé. She innocently offers her cheek, but with an abrupt motion Daphnis pushes aside the cowherd and approaches Chloé affectionately. The youths intervene. They position themselves in front of Chloé and gently lead Daphnis away. One of them proposes a dance contest between Daphnis and Dorcon. A kiss from Chloé will be the victor’s prize. The group sarcastically imitates the clumsy movements of the cowherd, who ends his dance in the midst of general laughter. Everyone invites Daphnis to accept his reward. Dorcon comes forward as well, but he is chased off by the group, accompanied by loud laughter.
The laughter ceases at the sight of the radiant group formed by the embracing Daphnis and Chloé. The group withdraws, taking along Chloé. Daphnis remains, immobile, as if in ecstasy. Then he lies face down in the grass, his face in his hands. Lyceion enters. She notices the young shepherd, approaches, and raises his head, placing her hands over his eyes. Daphnis thinks this is a game of Chloé’s but he recognizes Lyceion and tries to pull away. As though inadvertently, she drops one of her veils. Daphnis picks it up and places it back on her shoulders. She resumes her dance, which, at first more languorous, becomes steadily more animated until the end. Another veil slips to the ground, and is again retrieved by Daphnis. Vexed, she runs off mocking him, leaving the young shepherd very disturbed. Warlike sounds and war cries are heard, coming nearer. In the middle ground, women run across the stage, pursued by pirates. Daphnis thinks of Chloé, perhaps in danger, and runs off to save her. Chloé hastens on in panic, seeking shelter. She throws herself before the altar of the Nymphs, beseeching their protection.
A group of brigands burst on stage, capture the girl and carry her off. Daphnis enters looking for Chloé. He discovers on the ground a sandal that she lost in the struggle. Mad with despair, he curses the deities who were unable to protect the girl, and falls swooning at the entrance of the grotto. As night falls, an unnatural light suffuses the landscape. A little flow shines suddenly from the head of one of the statues. The Nymph comes to life and descends from her pedestal, followed by the second and then the third Nymph. They consult together and begin a slow and mysterious dance. They notice Daphnis, bend down and dry his tears. They revive him and lead him toward the large rock, and invoke the god Pan. Gradually the form of the god is outlined. Daphnis prostrates himself in supplication.
Voices are heard from off stage, at first very distant. A trumpet calls and the voices come nearer. There is a dull glimmer. The setting is the pirate camp on a very rugged seacoast, with the sea as the background. To the right and left is a view of large crags. A trireme is seen near the shore and there are cypresses present. Pirates are seen running to and fro carrying plunder. More and more torches are brought, which illuminate the scene. Bryaxis commands that the captive be brought. Chloé, her hands tied, is led in by two pirates. Bryaxis orders her to dance. Chloé performs a dance of supplication. She tries to flee, but she is brought back violently. Despairing, she resumes her dance. Again she tries to escape but is brought back again. She abandons herself to despair, thinking of Daphnis. Bryaxis tries to carry her off. Although she beseeches, the leader carries her off triumphantly. Suddenly the atmosphere seems charged with strange elements. Various places are lit by invisible hands, and little flames flare up. Fantastic beings crawl or leap here and there, and satyrs appear from every side and surround the brigands. The earth opens and the fearsome shadow of Pan is outlined on the hills in the background, making a threatening gesture. Everyone flees in horror.
Morning at the grotto of the Nymphs. There is no sound but the murmur of rivulets produced by the dew that trickles from the rocks. Daphnis lies, still unconscious, at the entrance of the grotto. Gradually the day breaks. The songs of birds are heard. Far off, a shepherd passes with his flock. Another shepherd crosses in the background. A group of herdsmen enters looking for Daphnis and Chloé. They discover Daphnis and wake him. Anxiously he looks around for Chloé. She appears at last, surrounded by shepherdesses. They throw themselves into each other’s arms. Daphnis notices Chloé’s wreath. His dream was a prophetic vision. The intervention of Pan is manifest. The old shepherd Lammon explains that, if Pan has saved Chloé, it is in memory of the nymph Syrinx, whom the god once loved. Daphnis and Chloé mime the tale of Pan and Syrinx. Chloé plays the young nymph wandering in the meadow. Daphnis as Pan appears and declares his love. The nymph rebuffs him. The god becomes more insistent. She disappears into the reeds. In despair, he picks several stalks to form a flute and plays a melancholy air. Chloé reappears and interprets in her dance the accents of the flute. The dance becomes more and more animated and, in a mad whirling, Chloé falls into Daphnis’s arms. Before the altar of the Nymphs, he pledges his love, offering a sacrifice of two sheep. A group of girls enters dressed as bacchantes, shaking tambourines. Daphnis and Chloé embrace tenderly. A group of youths rushes on stage and the ballet ends with a bacchanale.
1 Theatre Square
Mariinsky-2 (New Theatre):
34 Dekabristov Street
Mariinsky Concert Hall:
20 Pisareva street