Most recent performance
There are currently no scheduled performances of The Firebird. It was last on stage 22 December 2012—11 January 2013.
The Firebird gives Prince Ivan one of her feathers as a pledge of help. When Ivan meets the Immortal Kostcheï – who casts spells on passing travellers – he has to call upon the Firebird’s magical powers.
The Firebird was Igor Stravinsky’s first ballet score. It was commissioned by Serge Diaghilev for the Ballets Russes and had its premiere in 1910 at the Paris Opéra. Its success marked the beginning of a fruitful collaboration between Stravinsky and Diaghilev that would also produce Petrushka and The Rite of Spring. The Royal Ballet’s production uses the brilliant costumes and glittering sets of the avant-garde artist Natalia Goncharova, which were created for the Ballets Russes’ production of 1926.
Both Stravinsky’s score and Mikhail Fokine’s choreography were groundbreaking. Fokine shifted from classical ballet towards a more realist and folk-derived style of movement, while Stravinsky incorporated elements of folk song into his music. The Firebird provides a ballerina with a dazzling role: she enters the stage in a flash of movement and the charged Dance of the Firebird is accompanied by bold choreography. The work culminates in the wedding of Prince Ivan and the Tsarevna – a scene of great pomp and ceremony, against Goncharova’s glorious cityscape of onion domes.
News and features
20 November 2014
How and where choreographers find stories has changed throughout the art form's history.
28 August 2014
Dance has long been inspired by myths and folk tales, with Deloitte Ignite offering extracts of classics and new works on one bill.
31 October 2013
With The Rite of Spring returning, we look at some of Stravinsky's other iconic ballet scores.
21 December 2012
Follow in the footsteps of Diaghilev’s legendary dance company with a guided walk around Covent Garden.
11 December 2012
100 years after its London premiere, we take a look at the origins of one of the great Russian ballets.
4 September 2012
A further five adaptations of famous Russian works.
The Firebird (French: L'oiseau de feu; Russian: «Жар-птица», Zhar-ptitsa) is a ballet and orchestral concert work by the Russian composer Igor Stravinsky. It was written for the 1910 Paris season of Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes company, with choreography by Michel Fokine. The ballet is based on Russian folk tales of the magical glowing bird that can be both a blessing and a curse to its owner. When the ballet was first performed on 25 June 1910, it was an instant success with both audience and critics. Stravinsky was a young, virtually unknown composer when Diaghilev recruited him to create works for the Ballets Russes. The Firebird was his first project. Originally, Diaghilev approached the Russian composer Anatoly Lyadov, but later hired Stravinsky to compose the music. The ballet has historic significance not only as Stravinsky's breakthrough piece — "Mark him well", said Sergei Diaghilev to Tamara Karsavina, who was dancing the title role: "He is a man on the eve of celebrity..." — but also as the beginning of the collaboration between Diaghilev and Stravinsky that would also produce Petrushka and The Rite of Spring.