The Igor Stravinsky Connection The virtually unknown Russian composer Igor Stravinsky was commissioned by Diaghilev to create the score for the full-length ballet The Firebird, choreographed by Fokine for the Ballets Russes’s 1910 Paris season. Stravinsky composed three further works for the company — Petrushka, a ballet in four scenes (1911) with choreography by Fokine; the two-part ballet The Rite of Spring (1913), with choreography by Vaslav Nijinsky; and, his ‘ballet with song’ in one act, Pulcinella (1920), with choreography by Léonide Massine and sets by Pablo Picasso. Stravinsky would attain international fame through his work with the Ballets Russes.
The Avant-gardes Collaborations for set and costume designs included such avant-garde artists as Léon Bakst, George Braque, Pablo Picasso, André Derain, Coco Chanel, Henri Marisse, Joan Miró, Giorgio de Chiroco, Salvador Dalí and Nicholas Roerich.
The Russian Greats Many of Russia’s greatest dancers, trained at the Imperial Ballet of Saint Petersburg, danced for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, including Mikhail Fokine, Adolph Bolm, Tamara Karsavina, Anna Pavlova and the legendary Vaslav Nijinsky.
An Assured Scandal The Rite of Spring emerged from the imaginations of four Russians: Sergei Diaghilev, Igor Stravinsky, Vaslav Nijinsky and Nicholas Roerich. On the creative process for The Rite of Spring, Paul Serotsky notes (musicweb-international.com): “At every turn and at all levels, there was a defined relationship between all the production components: music, costume, scene, colour, form and movement were all interlocked. It was all so radical that a scandal was assured.” The original piece, however, was never seen by Russians, and performed only nine times in 1913 after its premiere, five in Paris and four in London. Under strict instructions by Diaghilev, no recording was ever made of any works by the Ballets Russes.
The Idea The idea for the score came to Stravinsky as a “vision” in March 1910 while he was creating The Firebird, one of a girl dancing herself to death in a pagan ritual. By summer he had approached Nicolas Roerich, a painter and specialist in the field of Russian pagan history, to collaborate on the project, which was given the working title “Great Sacrifice.” He spent over a year and a half working on the two-part score; Part I: The Adoration of the Earth and Part II: The Sacrifice. When completed, he famously wrote: “Today 17 November, 1912, Sunday, with an unbearable toothache I finished the music of the Sacre.”
Read Paul Serotsky’s programme notes about The Rite: http://www.musicweb-international.com/Programme_Notes/strav_sacre.htm (English only).