choreographic drama in one act
Music by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
Scenario by Léon Bakst and Michel Fokine after Arabian Nights fairytales
Choreography by Michel Fokine (1910)
Reconstruction by Isabelle Fokine, Andris Liepa
Set and costume design by Anna Nezhnaya, Anatoly Nezhny after original sketches: Léon Bakst
Shahryar is angry because his brother Shakhezman has suggested that his wives are unfaithful to him. To test the harem Shahryar goes off on a hunting expedition.
Almost as soon as the court has departed the wives adorn themselves in jewels and bribe the Chief Eunuch to open the three doors which lead to the quarters where the male slaves live. Two doors are opened and the Chief Eunuch is about to leave when Zobeide, Shahryar’s favourite wife, demands that the third door also be opened. The Eunuch warns her against this, but with further bribes and pleas she insists. The door is opened and the Golden Slave leaps through it to Zobeide’s side. They fall entwined upon the divan. Food is brought in to musical accompaniment. Dancing begins, led by the Golden Slave, and Zobeide joins it. But Shahryar has returned unannounced and bursts in upon the orgy. Slaughter follows and the revellers are indiscriminately cut down. Shahryar kills Zobeide’s lover with his own hands. Only Zobeide remains. Preferring death to dishonour she faces the Shah and then, with a dagger she grabs from him, she takes her own life.
ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
In 1910, Shéhérazade was a great success in Paris. The fashionistas of the time, having just shouted "bravo" at Les saisons russes premiere, hurried to put on serouals and turbans à la Eastern style which were created for the production by artist Léon Bakst. Fabric manufacturers launched the production of linens with ornaments in blue and orange colours, while jewelers sold gaudy trinkets, which were reminiscent of the shiny things worn by the artists on stage, with unprecedented success. Sergei Diaghilev was hoping to make a splash with a Paris performance of the ballet written after One Thousand and One Nights with the fabulous music by Rimsky-Korsakov and oriental exotics. Fokine sought to show all actions and feelings through poses and movements in his choreography. Ida Rubinstein drove the public crazy with her regal beauty, Vaslav Nijinsky – with animal-like flexibility of his half-naked body while soaring over the stage. Such passionate orgies as in Shéhérazade had never been seen by the Parisian ballet-goers before. And while modern theatre-goers would unlikely be stunned by the scenes of passionate embraces and bloody massacre at the harem, juicy musical, artistic and choreographic elements of Shéhérazade can still fire the imagination of a sensitive spectator.
World premiere: 4 June 1910, Les Ballets Russes de Serge de Diaghilev, Théâtre de l´Opéra, Paris
Premiere at the Mariinsky Theatre: 26 May 1994
Running time 45 minutes
Age category: 6+
LE SACRE DU PRINTEMPS
scenes from pagan Russia in two parts
Musiс by Igor Stravinsky
Scene plan: Igor Stravinsky and Nicholas Roerich
Choreography by Millicent Hodson (1987) inspired by Vaslav Nijinsky (1913)
Décor and costumes after Nicholas Roerich
Revival of the sets and costumes and supervision – Kenneth Archer
(Revived sets and costumes © 1987 Kenneth Archer)
Set Revival Designer – Boris Kaminsky
Costume Revival Technologist – Tatiana Noginova
Lighting Designer – Sergei Lukin
ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
”I came up with the idea for Le Sacre du printemps while I was still composing The Firebird. I pictured a scene of some pagan rite in which a girl who was to be the sacrifice dances herself to death. But this vision came with no specific musical idea at all <…>. In July 1911, after the premiere of Pétrouchka, I travelled to the estate of Princess Tenisheva near Smolensk in order to meet Nicholas Roerich there and compile a stage plan for Le Sacre du printemps. <…> I began to work with Roerich and in a few days’ time the plan of the action onstage and the names of the dances had been worked out. Roerich also made sketches of his famous backdrops, Polovtsian in spirit, as well as sketches for the costumes based on actual examples in the collection of Princess Tenisheva. Apropos, our ballet was called Sacred Spring in Russian. Le Sacre du printemps which Bakst came up with is only suitable for French. In English, the title The Coronation of Spring was closer to my original idea than The Rite of Spring. <…>
The fact that the premiere of Le Sacre du printemps in 1913 was surrounded by scandal is a fact probably known by everyone now. Although, however strange it may seem, I myself was totally unprepared for such an explosion of passions. The reaction of the musicians to orchestral rehearsals had not foretold this, while the plot unfolding on the stage didn’t really seem to justify causing such a riot. The ballet dancers had rehearsed for months and knew what they were doing, although what they were doing often had nothing in common with the music. <…>
The music seemed so normal and close to me, I loved it and could not understand why people who had not even heard it were protesting beforehand. Enraged, I came back-stage where I saw Diaghilev, dimming and then raising the lights in the auditorium – the last means of pacifying the audience. To the very end of the performance I stood back-stage behind Nijinsky, holding him by his tail-coat; he stood on a chair and like a helmsman was shouting out the numbers to the dancers. It is with great pleasure that I recall the first concert performance of Le Sacre du printemps the next year – a triumph that a composer rarely witnesses. Whether the acclamation of the young people who filled the hall of the Paris Casino was something greater than a simple review of the damning verdict announced one year ago in such an ugly fashion is not for me to say, but I thought that they meant something greater.
When composing Le Sacre du printemps I was not being led by any system. When I think about other composers of that time who interested me – about Berg whose talent is synthetic (in the finest sense of the word), Webern who was an analysist and Schoenberg who united both of these qualities – the greater it seems to me that their music is more theoretical than that of Le Sacre du printemps; and these composers were referring to a great tradition, while Le Sacre du printemps had been preceded by very little indeed. It was only my sense of sound that helped me. I heard and wrote down only what I heard. I was the vessel through which Le Sacre du printemps passed".
Igor Stravinsky. Dialogues
World premiere of the ballet choreography by Vaslav Nijinsky: 29 May 1913, Les Ballets Russes de Serge de Diaghilev, Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, Paris
Premiere at the Mariinsky Theatre: 9 June 2003
Premiere of the revival: 13 July 2012
Running time 40 minutes
Age category: 12+