Local Culture: A Festival of Russian Ballet

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Recently my Dad gave me a real treat: he took me out to see The Imperial Russian Ballet’s ‘Festival of Russian Ballet’ at the Whanganui Opera House. With the tag-line ‘if you only see one ballet in a lifetime, make it ‘A Festival of Russian Ballet’, they were certainly confident in what they had to offer, and over the course of the three-hour performance they delivered. Continue reading “Local Culture: A Festival of Russian Ballet”

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Ballet on the Sofa: Stravinsky’s ‘The Rite of Spring’

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The premiere of The Rite of Spring made headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Most famous as the ballet that started a riot at its premiere, ‘The Rite of Spring’ features music composed by Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) and an original choreography by the dancer Vaslav Nijinsky (1890-1950). It represented a radical departure from both Stravinsky’s previous work and the ‘traditional’ ballet of pirouettes and tutus. In other words, it’s a Modernist work produced slightly too early – it premiered in 1913, at the very end of La Belle Époque – hence the riots. Continue reading “Ballet on the Sofa: Stravinsky’s ‘The Rite of Spring’”

Composer Profile: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

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Seldom in the history of classical music has a name been linked so thoroughly in people’s minds with a particular style of music than the way Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s name has been linked with ballet. Ask any layperson to name a ballet and the odds are fairly good that their answer will be one of Tchaikovsky’s most famous compositions – ‘Swan Lake’ (this link is to ‘The Dance of the Little Swans’, which is amazing) or ‘The Nutcracker’. Continue reading “Composer Profile: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)”

Ballet on the Sofa: The Nutcracker

The_Nutcracker_(1993_film)_poster.jpgWith Christmas fast approaching I decided it was high time I watched the quintessential Christmas ballet: Tchaikovsky’s ‘The Nutcracker’, which was first performed in St. Petersburg in December 1892.

I elected to watch the 1993 Warner Brothers film version, and I rather suspect that this was a mistake. Continue reading “Ballet on the Sofa: The Nutcracker”

Ballet on the Sofa: Don Quixote

don-quixoteBased on two chapters from the 17th century Spanish novel of the same name by Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote was first performed in Moscow by the Ballet of the Imperial Bolshoi Theatre in December 1869. It was choreographed by Marius Petipa (1818-1910) to a score by Ludwig Minkus (1826-1917), but subsequently heavily revised and is now performed along the same lines as a version staged by Alexander Gorsky (1871-1924) in 1900. Continue reading “Ballet on the Sofa: Don Quixote”

Ballet on the Sofa: The Firebird

Bright, brief, and action-packed, Stravinsky’s ‘Firebird’ was the perfect antidote to my underwhelming response to Wagner’s ‘Tristian and Isolde’. Stravinsky composed the score for Firebird in 1910, and the music is so appealing and enjoyable that it continues to be performed regularly even without the accompanying ballet as ‘The Firebird Suite’.

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The Firebird subduing Koschei’s minions.

The original ballet itself was choreographed by Michel Fokine. It is based on a Russian folk-tale of the mystical Firebird, who can be either a blessing or a curse to whoever owns her. Continue reading “Ballet on the Sofa: The Firebird”

Ballet on the Sofa: Giselle

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Because, why not? The version I watched was a 2011 performance by the Opera National de Bordeaux, and it seems from the comments that it wasn’t very good. I guess the advantage of being someone who has watched precisely two other professional ballets in my life (‘Swan Lake’ while I was at university, and ‘Sleeping Beauty’ about this time last year) is that my complete lack of experience and preconceptions leaves me free to be delighted, which I was. Continue reading “Ballet on the Sofa: Giselle”