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.
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