Music by Igor Stravinsky Choreography by Michel Fokine (1911)
Libretto, sets and costumes by Alexandre Benois Musical Director: Valery Gergiev Staging by Gary Chryst Revival Designer: Batozhan Dashitsyrenov Lighting design: Vladimir Lukasevich Coach: Igor Petrov
World premiere: 13 June 1911, Les Ballets Russes de Serge Diaghilev, Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris Premiere of this production: 6 February 2010, Mariinsky Theatre, St Petersburg
Running time: 40 minutes
Igor Stravinsky’s ballet Pétrouchka was first staged by Michel Fokine during the saisons russes in Paris in 1911. Fokine’s ballet was brought to the Mariinsky Theatre’s repertoire by Leonid Leontiev in 1920. Specially for the VI Festival Maslenitsa (Shrovetide), the American dancer and choreographer Gary Chryst has worked to bring back the ballet to the Mariinsky Theatre. Chryst worked on stage rehearsals of Pétrouchka for the acclaimed Joffrey Ballet in New York in 1970 under Diaghilev’s friend Léonide Massine, a soloist with the Ballets russes and an renowned choreographer. In 2006, Chryst staged Pétrouchka for American Ballet Theatre and later for the National Ballet of Canada.
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
”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 <…>. I told Diaghilev of Le Sacre du printemps even before he came to see me in Lausanne in late 1910 <…>. 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.
<…> I made haste to complete Le Sacre as I wanted Diaghilev to stage it in the 1912 season. <…> The fact that the premiere of Le Sacre du printemps 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. “I will count to forty; in the meantime you can play,” Nijinsky said to me, “and we’ll see where we become separated.” He couldn’t understand that if, indeed, we became separated in one particular instance it didn’t mean that the rest of the time we had been together. The dancers chose to follow the counts that Nijinsky beat out rather than the musical tempo. Nijinsky, of course, counted in Russian, and in as much as in Russian numbers after ten are made up of numerous syllables – vosemnadtsat (eighteen), for example – at a fast tempo neither he nor the dancers could follow the music.
After 1913 I saw only one stage production of Le Sacre du printemps – that was Diaghilev’s revival in 1920. Then the accord between the music and the dance was better than in 1913, but Massine’s choreography was too gymnastic and in the style of Dalcroze for meto like it. It was then that I understood that I preferred Le Sacre du printemps to be performed in concert. Twice I reworked a few sections fromLe Sacre du printemps – in 1921 for Diaghilev’s production and then in 1943 (only The Great Sacrificial Dance) for a performance (which never took place) by the Boston Symphony Orchestra. <…> But I could rework my own music endlessly <…>. When composing Le Sacre du printemps I was led by no specific system. <…> 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.”