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234th Season

Main Stage

4 April
2021 | Sunday
Days of Stravinsky: Apollo. Le Sacre du printemps. Les Noces
Artists Credits


Music by Igor Stravinsky
Choreography by George Balanchine (1928)
Libretto by Igor Stravinsky

Staging by Francia Russell
Original lighting design by Ronald Bates
Lighting: Vladimir Lukasevich

Premiere: 12 June 1928, Les Ballets Russes de Serge de Diaghilev, Théâtre Sarah Bernhart, Paris
Premiere at the Mariinsky Theatre: 26 January 1992
Premiere of last revived version at the Mariinsky Theatre: 30 April 1998

Running time 35 minutes

The Ballet of George Balanchine Apollo 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.

Apollo, the son of Zeus and Leto, achieves stunning levels of brilliance in dance and citherplaying. He is followed in his sequence of dance by his ever-present companions the three muses – Calliope (the muse of epic poetry), Polyhymnia (the muse of sacred hymns) and Terpsichore (the muse of dance). When Apollo, accompanied by his muses, appears on Mount Olympus everything around him falls silent in adoration of his divine art.

“I regard Apollo as a turning point in my life. In terms of discipline, restraint, the perpetual unison of sound and mood this score was a revelation for me. It seemed to be telling me that I didn’t have to use it all, that I could leave something out. In Apollo and all of the composer’s subsequent music it is impossible to imagine any one given extract to be an extract from another score. Each of them is unique, nothing can be replaced. I examined my own work in the light of that lesson.
It was when studying Apollo that I first understood that the gestures, like tones in music and shades in painting, find certain ‘native ties’ between themselves. Like any group they are subject to their own special laws. And the more solid the artist the more clearly he will understand and consider these laws. Starting with Apollo I developed my choreography along these lines, dictated by these mutual ties.
“Apollo has sometimes been criticised for its ‘lack of theatricality.’ It may be true that there is no vividly expressed story there (although there is a plotline that runs throughout). But its technique is that of classical ballet which in every sense is theatrical, and it is here that we see the start of the literal transformation of sound into visual movement.”

George Balanchine. The Dance Element in Stravinsky’s Music

Age category 12+

Le Sacre du printemps


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


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 from Le 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.”  Igor Stravinsky. Dialogues

Age category 12+

Les Noces

Scene plan, music and text by Igor Stravinsky (1923)
Choreography by Bronislava Nijinska (1923)

Décor and Costumes: Natalia Goncharova (1923)
Musical Director: Valery Gergiev
Staged: Howard Sayette
Décor reproduced: Boris Kaminsky
Costumes reproduced: Tatiana Noginova
Lighting: Vladimir Lukin
Lighting Adaptation for the Mariinsky II by Yegor Kartashov

For over ten years Stravinsky was consumed with the idea of Les Noces, a choral work as "a sequence of typical wedding episodes, a reproduction from fragments typical of this ceremony of conversations." The composer sought out the musical form, the orchestral ensemble and the traditional folkloric text, which would represent a genuine Russian rite, and not describe a wedding plot in an a la russe stylisation.
Stravinsky's proposed "idea of ritual and impersonal action" found its dazzling embodiment in the choreography of Bronislava Nijinska. It was to her, a classical dancer who had once been a worthy partner and co-conspirator of her brother Vaslav, and who in the post-revolutionary years had dedicated herself to seeking out a new movement, that Diaghilev entrusted the staging of this work that was so precious to him. And, as usual, he had not miscalculated. The Paris premiere of Les Noces in 1923 emerged as a forum, and it revealed to the world a choreographer for whom this production alone would have been enough to ensure entry to the pantheon of great 20th century choreographers.
Responding to the nuances of the capricious rhythms and metrics of the music, in Les Noces the movement spoke and lived, needing no pantomime, stage props and realistic costumes. A dance of the ensemble. In the choreographer's mind, each dancer was to blend with the whole through the movement. The Bride and the Groom are mere parts of the combined ensemble, which conveyed the dramatic character of fate and the perpetuity of the protagonists in an old-style peasant wedding: just like in the maiden's braids, which before the wedding are unplaited into two parts and redressed in a woman's hairstyle, the maidens leaned their heads on each other's shoulders, bowing in ritual lamentation, leaned their heads as on an executioner's block. The extreme minimalism in subordination to the dance in the rather cool geometry of the choreographic drawing, in the insistent repetition of the monotonous movements, in the simplicity of the bicoloured brown and white costumes conceived by Natalia Goncharova and in the intentional impassivity of the performers – everything in the ballet was of its time in the context of the avant-garde of the 1920s. And in the sharp, contemporary nature of the ballet the primordial Russian nature of Les Noces was not lost – not cheaply popular and souvenir-like, but conditionally ritualistic, where the plot unfolds as if in a clockwork mechanism: the figures of the dancers intermingle monotonously, literally submitting to the will of one master, the ancient and immutable ritual.
Olga Makarova

Premiere: 13 June 1923, Ballets Russes de Serge de Diaghilev, Théâtre de la Gaîté-Lyrique, Paris
Premiere at the Mariinsky Theatre:9 June 2003

Running time 20 minutes

Age category 12+

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