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234th Season

Evening of One-Act Ballets "Le Carnaval. The Firebird. Schhrazade "


Le Carnaval


Music by Robert Schumann (Le Carnaval, Op. 9, orchestrated by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Anatoly Lyadov, Alexander Glazunov, Nikolai Cherepnin, Anton Arensky)
Choreography by Michel Fokine
Set and Costume design by Léon Bakst

The revival team:
Choreography staged by Sergei Vikharev
Sets reproduced by Mikhail Shishliannikov
Costumes reproduced by Tatiana Noginova Lighting by Alexander Naumov and Mikhail Shishliannikov


Preambule. Carnival festivities.
Pierrot. Pierrot is sad.
Harlequin. The colourfully dressed Harlequin swoops down on Pierrot. Harlequin is in good spirits; Pierrot’s wretched looks make him laugh all the more. He sneers and gibes at the poor fellow and vanishes as quickly as he appeared.
Eusebius. Eusebius enters slowly. He is perturbed by the glitter and merriment of the carnival. He is looking for refuge. At the feast there was no girl he was interested in enjoying the amusements together with. Suddenly he meets a stranger such as can only be dreamed of. It is Chiarina. She is dancing on the stage and drawing Eusebius after her.
Florestan. The passionate Florestan runs in, looking for Estrella. Voilà! Estrella feigns disdain. Florestan throws himself at her, wishing to declare his love. Continuing to act hurt, Estrella turns away, but the insistent Florestan succeeds in getting her to dance with him.
Coquette. Chiarina appears again with flowers in her arms. She dances coquettishly, giving her arm to Eusebius, she kisses a flower, throws it to Eusebius and hides.
Papillon. Pierrot is lonely. Papillon flutters past and flits about the stage lighheartedly. Pierrot lies in wait for her. Papillon flaps her wings, trying to fly away. Pierrot, intent on catching her with his hat, takes aim and throws it. Pierrot thinks he has caught Papillon, and retrieves his hat. What a disappointment! Papillon is not there – she has flown away.
Chiarina. Agitated by the events, Chiarina and two friends run in. Chiarina, apparently, has already told them about her adventure with Eusebius.
Reconaissance. The carnival characters arrive. Colombine slips as she moves across the floor; the merry Harlequin grabs hold of her. The happy couple look for the chance to withdraw and share their emotions. Their first wish, when they see no-one is looking, is to kiss.
Pantalone and Colombine. Pantalone, an old man trying to act young, enters in a terrible rush. Colombine had appointed a rendezvous. The clock shows that the time has come, and this is the place appointed in the letter... But his lady is not there. Pantalone decides to wait. In impatience he reads the letter again. Someone’s tender hands cover his eyes and someone else’s grab the letter – Harlequin and Colombine have decided to amuse themselves with the comical old devotee.
Promenade. The lovers appear, couple after couple. They plan on being alone, but they meet others also looking for a quiet spot. Papillon flies in, followed by Pierrot. Pantalone is among the strolling lovers, still trying to find the unknown writer of the letter. She leads him to Harlequin and Colombine who are wrapped in a daydream. Pantalone’s behaviour enfuriates Harlequin. At the top of his voice he declares “Columbine and I are to marry.” Pantalone protests. Pierrot calms everyone down. “No quarrels or arguments. Pantalone and Harlequin – make peace.” Harlequin holds out his hand, and Pantalone reluctantly accepts it. The burst of merriment siezes everyone. In the carnival merriment only two are ill at ease – Pierrot and Pantalone. Columbine calls on Pantalone. He moves towards her. However, Harlequin throws him into the embraces of the gaping Pierrot and attaches Pierrot’s long arms to Pantalone’s back. The last bars of the carnival music can be heard and the curtain falls. Pierrot and Pantalone, cut off from the merriments behind the curtain, knock and bang, in vain begging to be let into the carnival.


Staged in 1910 for a charitable evening, choreographer Michel Fokine and designer Léon Bakst’s Le Carnaval entered the annals of ballet history as a delightful stylisation of commedia dell'arte to music by Schumann. Fokine was inspired to create the production through his familiarity with the real-life peripeteia of the composer, finding a response in pieces from the piano cycle Le Carnaval. The duplicity of Schumann's spirit was reflected in the images of the fervent Florestan and the sentimental Eusebius, the beautiful Estrella brought to mind the composer's fascination with Ernestine von Fricken, and the coquettish Chiarina embodied his love for his future wife Clara Wieck. In Schumann's pieces there was also room for Fokine's beloved ideas of the struggle with philistines, adherents of the old traditions of art. "From all this, from the titles indicated in the sheet music – ‘Harlequin', 'Columbine', 'Pantalone', 'Pierrot' and 'Butterfly’ – I immediately saw a ballet scene,” the choreographer recalled, "It is a series of individual characteristics, mutually linked by the constant appearance of the deadbeat Pierrot, the humorous Pantalone and the always victorious-over-all Harlequin with his pranks and escapades. The brief plot surrounding the love between Harlequin and Columbine, the failures of Pierrot and Pantalone – all of this was literally improvised during rehearsals. The ballet was staged after three rehearsals..." One witness of the first performances of the ballet thus described the harmony of the characters: "A jest, a prank, in combination with the athletic power of Harlequin are reconciled in the tenderness" of his partner Columbine. In the series of enchanting scenes the charm depended on small, imperceptible and fleeting gestures, crafty smiles, coquettish flights and the "steely affectedness that conveys the age." The performers of this ballet did not have to dazzle with their technique in the complex dance passages, the main task of the dancers was to create an atmosphere of unforced play and levity. Famous dancers appeared in Le Carnaval in their day – Tamara Karsavina, Lydia Lopukhova, Leonid Leontiev and Vaslav Nijinsky. The role of Pierrot at the premiere was performed by the emergent stage director Vsevolod Meyerhold. Following the success of the ballet at its premiere, Sergei Diaghilev included it in his Saisons russes programme, in 1911 Le Carnaval was staged at the Mariinsky Theatre, and subsequently Fokine took it to theatres in Stockholm, Copenhagen, Buenos Aires, New York and numerous private theatre enterprises. In Russia, following many years of oblivion, in 1962 Konstantin Sergeyev restored Fokine's stylisation to the repertoire. And in 2008 the production took on a new life and today it delights audiences in reconstructed form after sketches by Fokine in a version by Sergei Vikharev.
Olga Makarova



Running time: 30 minutes
The Firebird


Music by Igor Stravinsky
Libretto by Michel Fokine
Choreography by Michel Fokine (1910)

Reconstruction: Isabelle Fokine, Andris Liepa
Set and costume design: Anna and Anatoly Nezhny
after original sketches: Alexander Golovin, Léon Bakst and Michel Fokine
Lighting Designer: Vladimir Lukasevich
Lighting Adaptation for the Mariinsky II by Yegor Kartashov


Amidst the crags, on a mountain-top lies the castle of the wicked ruler Kashchei the Immortal. So that no-one gets near Kashchei or abducts his captive fair maidens, and so that no-one steals the golden fruits from the enchanted garden, the castle is surrounded by a fretted golden railing and the garden by a high stone wall.
The Firebird flies around the garden. Chasing the bird, Ivan Tsarevich slips into the garden over the high stone defences.
In the depths of the garden Ivan sees a veritable barrier of warriors who have been turned to stone. These are young men who have entered this perfidious kingdom in order to free and save their brides whom the evil Kashchei has abducted. All have died and now stand as immovable stones, covered in moss. And yet Ivan Tsarevich forgets these terrors as he has been dazzled by the Firebird. Initially he wishes to shoot her, but then decides to catch her alive. When the Firebird flies to the tree with golden apples and begins to peck at them, the tsarevich catches her. The bird trembles and beats her wings in his arms, begging to be set free. The tsarevich holds tight and does not let her go. But the bird asks so plaintively and groans so much that the kindly Ivan feels sorry for her. He sets the bird free, and in return she gives him one of her fiery feathers. "You will have need of this," the Firebird says before flying away. The tsarevich hides the feather in his bosom and wants to leave; he is creeping over the barrier when the castle doors open and twelve beautiful tsarevnas appear, followed by the most delightful of all – the Tsarevna of Great Beauty. Unbeknown to the wicked Kashchei, in the moonlight they run into the garden to frolic and play with the apples; the maidens do not see the tsarevich as they throw the apples to each other and laugh with glee. The Tsarevna of Great Beauty's apple lands in the shrubbery. She runs after it, but the tsarevich appears from the bushes and swears he will give her back the apple. The maidens are afraid and run away. But the tsarevich is very handsome, as well as courteous and modest. He has made a good impression on the maidens – particularly the Tsarevna of Great Beauty, and they allow him to join their games and round-dancing. They do not notice the dawn approaching.
The sun emerges. Alarmed, the maidens flee into the castle. The tsarevich follows them. But the Tsarevna of Great Beauty stops him, warning that death awaits him if he passes through the golden gates; she closes them and runs away. But the tsarevich has so fallen in love with the Tsarevna of Great Beauty that he resolves to slip in after her; he fears nothing. As soon as he breaks open the gates with his sabre, magical bells ring out, the entire kingdom falls asleep, and coming down the mountain from the castle are all kinds of monsters, Kashchei's servants. They seize the tsarevich. Ivan is strong, and tries to shake off these repulsive beings, but the incalculable power of the evil kingdom clings to him and overpowers him. Kashchei himself appears – old and fearsome. He summons Ivan to interrogate him. The tsarevich subdues himself and doffs his cap, but as soon as he sees the wizard's ugly face he cannot stop himself – he spits. The whole evil kingdom cries out and snarls. They drag the tsarevich to the wall. The tsarevna runs in and begs the tsar to pardon Ivan, but Kashchei is already beginning to turn him to stone. Just as Ivan is dying he remembers the fiery feather. He grabs the feather and waves it, and the Firebird comes to his aid. She dazzles everyone, spins them all around and throws them into a dance. The monsters dance; they cannot resist. Tsar Kashchei himself dances. The Firebird exhausts them all till they drop to the ground and then flutters over them with a lullaby as they lie there. The monstrous creatures roll over on their sides and together with their tsar they fall asleep. The Firebird leads the tsarevich to a hollow in the tree. In the hollow is a casket, in the casket there is an egg and within the egg lies Kashchei's death. The tsarevich takes the egg and squeezes it – Kashchei is contorted with pain; as Ivan tosses the egg from one hand to the other, Kashchei flies in all directions; the egg smashes on the earth and Kashchei crumbles.
The perfidious kingdom vanishes. In its place a Christian city rises and the castle is transformed into a church. The petrified warriors come to life. Each of them finds his bride – the tsarevna for whom they came to the loathsome Kashchei and for whom he accepted a cruel death. Ivan Tsarevich also finds his beloved, the Tsarevna of Great Beauty. He declares her his wife – Tsaritsa of the liberated kingdom.
Michel Fokine


Igor Stravinsky began his career with The Firebird. It was his first commissioned work, his theatrical debut, followed by a huge success. After the ballet was premiered in Paris, this previously unknown aspiring composer was now ranked among the main newsmakers of the new European art. Stravinsky was invited to write a new score for the Ballets Russes by Diaghilev, since Anatoly Lyadov, composer known for his ability to evoke the world of Russian fairy tales, had failed this order on time. Diaghilev who had a knack for discovering new talents had been impressed by young Stravinsky's Scherzo Fantastique for symphony orchestra, which was “burning and sparkling” as choreographer Michel Fokine put it. It was Fokine who came up with a “glowing image” of the Firebird. By the time Stravinsky became involved with the score, the libretto had already been completed. Fokine had a clear vision of the ballet and guided the composer. Colourful musical themes of the Firebird, the round dance of the Princesses with its Russian femininity, the “Infernal Dance of All Kastchei's Subjects” that turns into a riot of rhythm, it all grew out of discussions between the composer, choreographer and designers, Alexander Golovin and Léon Bakst. In 1910, they created an export Russian fairy tale and it conquered Paris. Yet in Russia, Stravinsky’s The Firebird was performed only in 1921 Fedor Lopukhov's avant-garde production. Fokine's version of The Firebird, for which Stravinsky created his score, became a part of the Mariinsky Theatre’s repertoire only in the late 20th century.
Olga Makarova

World premiere: 25 June 1910, Les Saisons Russes, Théâtre de l´Opéra, Paris
Premiere of Michel Fokin’s version at the Mariinsky Theatre: 26 May 1994

Running time: 50 minutes




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.


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

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