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Le Baiser de la fée
Michael Corder joins a long line of distinguished choreographers who have been inspired by the challenge of creating their own Le Baiser de la fée on Stravinsky's music. The composer was originally commissioned to write the score for Ida Rubinstein and her company, who first performed the work at the Paris Opéra on 27 November 1928. The composer devised his own storyline after Hans Christian Andersen's tale of The Ice Maiden and, in conjunction with his wish to commemorate Tchaikovsky in his music, regarded it as an allegory of the composer having received the fatal kiss of the fairy-as-muse.
Bronislava Nijinska, the sister of Nijinsky, was the original choreographer for Rubinstein, with the celebrated Alexander Benois as designer. The production had only modest success, mainly because of Rubinstein's own limitations on technique as the Fairy, but it was otherwise notable for having two English dancers in the company: William Chappell and Frederick Ashton, then aged 24. Ashton so admired the music that, when he came to have a regular choreographic association with the fledgling Vic-Wells Ballet a few years later, he soon made his own version of it.
Using purely classical dancing, as Stravinsky wanted, but in no way a realistic treatment of the story, Ashton's ballet was well received as a major production of the season on its first performances at Sadler's Wells on 26 November 1935. This was a historic occasion, for it was in this performance that Ashton gave a first credited role to an unknown Margot Fonteyn, then aged 16, as the Fiancée and, not without some early problems between them, launched their later famous association.
George Balanchine was next to undertake the ballet, first for his American Ballet, forerunner of new York City Ballet, on 27 April 1937 at New York's Metropolitan Opera House. He later revived the work a number of time, including twice for Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo (1940 and 1946) and once for New York City Ballet in 1950. Each revival brought some choreographic changes, right up to Balanchine's new version for NYCB's Stravinsky Festival in 1972, which was also danced to Stravinsky's Divertimento from his full score.
Meanwhile, other choreographers had begun to interest themselves in the work. Kenneth MacMillan staged the first of his two versions for The Royal Ballet at Covent Garden on 12 April 1960, andformer Royal Ballet Principal Ronald Hynd choreographed the piece for Netherlands National Ballet in 1968 and for London Festival Ballet in 1974. Birmingham Royal Ballet last performed the work in 1996, with choreography by James Kudelka from the National Ballet of Canada.
Not all have adhered to the original storyline. Balanchine's 1972 version discarded it, Neumeier modified the original and added other music by Tchaikovsky, while in 1996 Mark Baldwin abandoned it in favour of a quite different image in Ae Fond Kiss for Scottish Ballet, again using Stravinsky's Divertimento. What is certain is that Stravinsky's ballet music, like Tchaikovsky's, will never lack choreographers willing to give it the kiss of theatrical life.
Click here for details of all BRB performances of this ballet currently on sale.
BRB's Head of Scenic Presentation
'I’m looking forward to working with John Macfarlane - the designer - again and I know he's excited about doing something for the Company. He's a brilliant designer, so I'm sure whatever he comes up with will be lovely. Baiser has been done a lot as a ballet, but there’s never been a definitive version that's come back again and again and again, so this will definitely be one to watch out for.'
Click on the names for individual biographies
Music Igor Stravinsky
Choreography Michael Corder
Design John F. Macfarlane
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