Friday, December 3, 2010

The Firebird

I love The Nutcracker, but there are many other works out there that also bring together literature, art, music, and dance. If you want to broaden your children’s experience with ballet, try looking into the Firebird.

The Firebird is a character from Russian folklore—a mysterious, magical bird with fiery glowing feathers, often the object of a quest, that can bring both blessings and curses to those who find it. These sumptuously-illustrated books tell some of those traditional stories:
The Tale of The Firebird

Firebird Firebird

In 1910, Sergei Diaghilev commissioned Igor Stravinsky to write a ballet score for a new version of the tale, one that combined elements of the Firebird with an unrelated character, a sorcerer named Katschei. This was the first collaboration between the two men, and an important work from the influential Ballets Russes

Rachel Isadora and Jane Yolen have both written picture books that tell the story of the ballet, with illustrations that weave together the dance and fairy tale elements. In the ballet version of the story, Prince Ivan tries to capture the Firebird, but then releases her. Out of gratitude she gives him a feather from her tail, telling him to use it to call on her in time of trouble. She later returns to help him rescue ten princesses who are held captive by the evil magician, Katschei.

Of course, the music is an integral part of the work, so try listening to the Suite (a concert-version that is shorter than the full ballet) or even the entire ballet (about 40 minutes long, I believe.)

Stravinsky: Firebird Suite/Pulcinella SuiteThe Firebird Suite conducted by Pierre Boulez

Igor Stravinsky: The Firebird (Complete Ballet, 1910) / Alexander Scriabin: Prometheus - The Poem of Fire - Valery Gergiev / Kirov Orchestra, St. Petersburg / Alexander Toradze
A recording of the complete ballet, conducted by Valery Gergiev

Or, if you can find a DVD performance, even better--there are several out there:

Return of the Firebird: Petrushka/Firebird/Scheherazade

A DVD containing a performance of the complete ballet, along with Petrushka and Scheherezade, Bolshoi Ballet, 2002

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