Set design by Léon Bakst for the world premiere of the ballet Daphnis et Chloé (music by Maurice Ravel), Paris 1912.
Daphnis et Chloé is a ballet with music by Maurice Ravel. Ravel described it as a “symphonie choréographique” (choreographic symphony). The scenario was adapted by Michel Fokine from an eponymous romance by the Greek writer Longus thought to date from around the 2nd century AD. Scott Goddard published a contemporary commentary that discussed the changes to the story that Fokine made to prepare a workable ballet scenario. The story concerns the love between the goatherd Daphnis and the shepherdess Chloé. The ballet is in one act and three scenes.
At almost an hour long, Daphnis et Chloé is Ravel’s longest work. In spite of the ballet’s duration, four discernable leitmotifs give musical unity to the score. The music, some of the composer’s most passionate, is widely regarded as some of Ravel’s best, with extraordinarily lush harmonies typical of the impressionist movement in music. Even during the composer’s lifetime, contemporary commentators described this ballet as his masterpiece for orchestra. Ravel extracted music from the ballet to make two orchestral suites, which can be performed with or without the chorus. The second of the suites, which includes much of the last part of the ballet and concludes with the “Danse générale”, is particularly popular. When the complete work is itself performed live, it is more often in concerts than in staged productions.