Stravinsky- Firebird

Stravinsky- Firebird (Bolshoi Ballet Russe Film)- Segment from Return of the Firebird

Magical glowing bird from a faraway land, which is both a blessing and a curse to its captor.

The Firebird is described as a large bird with majestic plumage that glows brightly emitting red, orange, and yellow light, like a bonfire that is just past the turbulent flame. The feathers do not cease glowing if removed, and one feather can light a large room if not concealed. In later iconography, the form of the Firebird is usually that of a smallish fire-colored falcon, complete with a crest on its head and tail feathers with glowing “eyes”. It is beautiful but dangerous, showing no sign of friendliness.

The Firebird concept has parallels in Iranian legends of magical birds, in the Brothers Grimm fairy tale about the Golden Bird, and related Russian magical birds like the Sirin.

The story of the Firebird inspired many literary works, including “The Little Humpback Horse” by Pyotr Yershov. The most famous production of the Firebird was by Sergei Diaghilev of Ballets Russes, who commissioned composer Igor Stravinsky to create the enormously popular large-scale ballet score known as The Firebird. The ballet premiered in 1910 with designs by Alexander Golovin and Leon Bakst. The Choreography was by Michael Fokine and the lead role was Tamara Kasarvena. The Ballet featured the Creature herself, Ivan Tsarevich, and Koschei the Deathless.

Firebird (Ballet Russe Based on a Slavic Fairy-tale)

Music: Igor Stravinsky

Choreography: Michel Fokine

Designs: Golovin, Bakst

Roles: Firebird- Nina Ananiashvili

Prince Ivan- Andris Liepa

Princess- Ekaterina Liepa

Koschei- Sergey Petukhov

Bolshoi State Academic Theater Orchestra, Andréy Chistiakov

Synopsis of Ballet: Koschei’s enchanted kingdom, twilight. A Mighty Horseman-Night- appears in the distance… Day breaks and mysterious lights gleam on the trees- they are magic apples. The Firebird appears. As she dances, flame- like, slender and beautiful, she fails to notice Prince Ivan, who jumps over the fence to catch her. She tries to escape, to fly away, and begs him to give her back her freedom. Ivan yields to her entreaties in exchange of a feather. The Firebird leaves, and Ivan sees some girls coming down from the fortress. They are princess taken hostage by Koschei the Deathless. Ivan wants to join the girls, but they are afraid. His good looks and boldness win them over, however, and the First Princess trustingly tells him the sad story of her abduction. Ivan longs to free the girls. Dawn breaks and a white Horseman- Day- passes the enchanted garden. The girls rouse themselves and leave, for they are held subject by Koschei’s sorcery. When Ivan tries to Follow them, Koschei’s servants, guards and monsters appear on all sides. At last Koschei appears. Before Ivan can escape, the guards seize him. The girls beg in vain. Koschei’s anger towards those who dare to enter his kingdom is terrible and Prince Ivan must die (like many brave heroes before him, he would be turned to stone). Suddenly Ivan remembers the feather that the Firebird gave him and summons her. All Koschei’s servants (and the Girls) are carried away by her dancing, and even Koschei himself begins to dance, unable to stop. The dance gets faster and faster until Koschei and all his servents fall exhausted. Before they awake, Ivan gains possession of the huge egg containing Koschei’s soul (much to Koschei’s horror). He smashes the egg; Koschei and his army die as soon as the egg breaks, freeing the girls and all those turned to stone before, and all ends in general rejoicing.

With Permission of Andris Liepa Production

Scroll to top