Stravinsky: The Firebird / Gergiev · Vienna Philarmonic · Salzburg Festival 2000
Great presentation of the Vienna Philharmonic conducted by the russian Maestro Valery Gergiev, in one of the most powerful and greatest presentation of The Firebird (L’Oiseau de feu) of Igor Stravinsky at Salzburg Festival 2000.
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This article is about the ballet to Stravinsky’s 1910 music. For other uses of the word, see Firebird.
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.
Genesis and premiere
The ballet was the first of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes productions to have an all-original score composed for it. Alexandre Benois wrote in 1910 that he had two years earlier suggested to Diaghilev the production of a Russian nationalist ballet, an idea all the more attractive given both the newly awakened French passion for Russian dance and also the ruinously expensive costs of staging opera. The inspiration of mixing the mythical Firebird with the unrelated Russian tale of Kaschei the deathless possibly came from a popular child’s verse by Yakov Polonsky, “A Winter’s Journey” (Zimniy put, 1844), which includes the lines:
And in my dreams I see myself on a wolf’s back
Riding along a forest path
To do battle with a sorcerer-tsar [i.e., Kaschei]]
In that land where a princess sits under lock and key,
Pining behind massive walls.
There gardens surround a palace all of glass;
There Firebirds sing by night
And peck at golden fruit.