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234th Season

Evening of one-act ballets:"Prodigal Son". "The Firebird "


The music for “The Firebird” (1910) — the first classic composition by Igor Stravinsky — is a masterpiece of musical narration. The narrative, though, changes with each choreographic interpreter. Yet the score retains the feeling of myth. Compelling and mysterious, the story Stravinsky tells is about magic, love, danger and liberation.

Prodigal Son


Music by Sergei Prokofiev
Choreography by George Balanchine (1929)
Libretto by Boris Kochno (after the biblical parable)

Scenery and costumes: Georges Rouault
Scenery executed by Prince A. Schervashidze
Costumes executed by Vera Soudeikina
Staging: Karin von Aroldingen and Paul Boos
Original lighting design: Ronald Bates
Lighting: Vladimir Lukasevich


Prodigal Son was the last work Balanchine made for Diaghilev’s Ballets russes in 1929 with Serge Lifar in the role of the Prodigal Son; it was revived in 1950 by the New York City Ballet with Jerome Robbins in the title role. Its music by Prokofiev was written for the ballet, and its costumes and décor were created by Rouault, making it a perfect example of the collaborative efforts among artists that produced some of the best works of the Diaghilev era. New for a Diaghilev ballet was the Biblical theme and the religious spirit. In seeking eternal themes and turning to past artistic devices, western artists were trying to avoid the complete intellectual and artistic degeneration towards which their rootless experimentation was leading. Prodigal Son anticipated the trend toward religion of the 1930s and 40s. It was Diaghilev’s fate that he would always be ahead of fashion, even when he believed he had turned his back on vogue. The return of Prodigal Son to St Petersburg is of great significance. For the first time, a ballet of the most radical, late period of Diaghilev’s Saisons russes has returned to the stage of the Mariinsky Theatre. That period of Russian and world ballet has come home, which until recently was under artistic (avant-garde aesthetics of the late Diaghilev era) and ideological (use of religious motifs) censorship. With the return of Prodigal Son, the Mariinsky Theatre and its generation of young dancers have begun to restore an objective picture of the development of ballet in the 20th century.


The Ballet of George Balanchine Prodigal Son is presented by arrangement with The George Balanchine Trust and has been produced in accordance with the Balanchine Style® and Balanchine Technique® service standards established and provided by the Trust.
The Mariinsky Theatre would like to express its gratitude to Mrs Bettina von Siemens for her support in bringing the "Ballets of George Balanchine" project to life.

Premiere: 21 May 1929, Les Ballets Russes de Serge de Diaghilev, Théâtre Sarah-Bernhardt, Paris
Premiere at the Mariinsky Theatre: 14 December 2001, St Petersburg
Premiere at the Primorsky Stage of the Mariinsky Theatre: 24 March 2017, Vladivostok

Running time: 40 minutes

The Firebird


Production Choreography — Eldar Aliev
Lighting Designer — Eldar Aliev
Set Designer — Semyon Pastukh
Costume Designer — Galina Solovieva


Scene I
On the eve of the Feast of Love girls weave floral wreaths for their chosen ones. Their activity is interrupted by the arrival of a group of carefree and cheerful young men, one of whom, Ivan, stands out for due to his poetic character. His lyrical mood is transferred to his friends, and soon the atmosphere is saturated with love and tenderness. The boys and girls pair up and dance. At nightfall, at the end of the festivities, they disperse. Ivan is left alone.

Scene II
Overcome by strange anxiety and a foreboding sense that he is about to encounter something unknown, Ivan ventures deeper into the forest. Suddenly the young man is blinded by a miracle of fire. Rushing in pursuit of the vision, Ivan finds himself in a beautiful enchanted garden. The fantastical creature was the unearthly beautiful Firebird.

Scene III
Ivan secretly watches the Firebird. Just as she is trying to pluck a golden apple from one of the trees, he leaps from his hiding place and takes hold of her. Hoping to gain her trust he plucks the golden apple himself, and offers it to the magic bird. However, the Firebird whips it out of his hand and disappears in the blink of an eye. In desperation, Ivan rushes off in pursuit of her again.

Scene IV
Still secretly pursuing the Firebird, Ivan finds himself in the realm of the immortal Kastchei. An astonishing scene unfolds before Ivan’s eyes revealing the secret of a terrible enchantment. Kastchei has cast a spell on the Princess, with whom he is in love, and turned her into his captive. Every night she must turn into a wonderful Firebird, and fly out to bring the hated Kastchei a golden apple. After greedily scoffing the apple, Kastchei returns to life and vigor and turns the Firebird into a lovely Princess and begins to beseech her love. This magic is repeated every night and will continue until the Princess accepts Kastchei’s love. Only then will he lift the spell.

Waiting until Kastchei’s kingdom goes to sleep; Ivan makes his way to the Princess and proposes that they run away. The Princess refuses. If the plan fails, the next night she must become a Firebird forever. Ivan is willing to fight the evil creature, but the Princess cautions him for she knows Kastchei’s secret: he can only be killed by a miraculous sword, which is kept at the head of his throne. Ivan, risking his life, climbs without a moment’s hesitation up on the throne, grabs the miraculous sword and cuts off Kastchei’s head. The spell is broken! Joyous celebrations! The beautiful Princess is free.

Scene V
The Princess and Ivan find themselves amongst their friends, and are as happy as can be.


The Firebird opened the historic triade of Stravinsky’s Russian ballets and brought him fame as a composer. Its libretto combined the themes of various fairy-tales and Ballet Master Eldar Aliev has chosen the same path. In his version the Firebird acquires the features of fantastic heroines of Russian operas and closely mirrors the image of the Princess-Swan from The Tale of the Tsar Saltan by Stravinsky’s teacher, Rimsky-Korsakov. She turns out to be an enchanted girl, helping Ivan Tsarevich defeat the evil magician Kashchei and his foul entourage. After Koschei’s death and the destruction of his kingdom, the wonderful bird turns into a beautiful Princess, who becomes Ivan’s bride. In his choreography Eldar Aliev retained the traditional juxtaposition between the kind terrestrial characters (princesses, Tsarevich’s retinue) and the distorted plastique of the dark forces. And the soloist was faced with the creative dual task of showing the transformation from a magical creature, embodying the fire element, into a Russian lyrical heroine.

Nadezhda Koulygina


World premiere: 25 June 1910, Les Ballets Russes de Serge de Diaghilev, Théâtre de l´Opéra, Paris
Premiere in Vladivostok: 20 June 2015

Running time: 1 hour

Mariinsky Theatre:
1 Theatre Square
St. Petersburg
Mariinsky-2 (New Theatre):
34 Dekabristov Street
St. Petersburg
Mariinsky Concert Hall:
20 Pisareva street
St. Petersburg

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