Balanchine & Tchaikovsky

June 18 – 24, 2021

Balanchine & Tchaikovsky

June 18 – 24, 2021

 Overview 

George Balanchine set some of his most beautiful and compelling works to the music of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, returning to the composer many times throughout his career. This programme revives three Balanchine ballets from The National Ballet of Canada repertoire set to Tchaikovsky, each a radiant visualization of music in movement. 

Serenade

Overview

Created in 1934, Serenade was George Balanchine’s first original ballet created in the US and one of many he set to the music of his beloved composer Tchaikovsky, in this case the beautiful, mournful Serenade for Strings in C, Op. 48. Today, Serenade is an iconic Balanchine work, especially for its unforgettable opening scene – an ensemble of women standing together, heads turned, one arm raised to the sky.

Five Things to Know
  1. George Balanchine created Serenade for students at the School of American Ballet, an institution he co-founded with Lincoln Kirstein and Edward Warburg, and was first performed at the estate of Felix Warburg in White Plains, New York on June 10, 1934. Intended as a lesson for students, Serenade is now a signature work of New York City Ballet, the company Balanchine directed until his death in 1983.
     
  2. Balanchine reworked Serenade throughout his career. Significant changes include splitting the single female lead of the original into three parts: the Waltz Girl, the Russian Girl and the Dark Angel.
     
  3. The National Ballet of Canada first performed Serenade in 1962, introducing the company and its audiences to one of Balanchine’s pivotal works when he was still at the helm of New York City Ballet and very much a modern choreographer.
     
  4. One of the most striking elements of Serenade as it exists today was not part of the original version. Balanchine decided many years later, while working with the female leads, that the women should dance with their hair loose in the final movement.
     
  5. Music is everything in a Balanchine ballet and particularly so in Serenade, where Tchaikovsky’s score sets the mood and impels the movement. Balanchine has said, “The only story is the music’s story, a serenade, if you like, in the light of the moon.”
The Choreographer

Born in St. Petersburg, George Balanchine, co-founder and director of New York City Ballet, is one of the most renowned and prolific choreographers of the 20th century. He is credited with revolutionizing the look of classical ballet for a new era in works of unprecedented musicality and aesthetic brilliance.

The Composer

The late 19th century Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky created some of the most popular works in the classical repertoire, particularly his three full-length scores for ballet: Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker. His body of work includes full-length operas, symphonies and concertos.

Reviews

“Exquisitely captured by the mostly female Corps de Ballet who demonstrated just how strong the National [Ballet]’s women are.” — The Globe and Mail

“Undiminished by the 70 years that have passed since its creation… thanks, in no small part to the skill and devotion brought to the work by the artists of The National Ballet of Canada” — Toronto Star

“One of the masterpieces of 20th century ballet” — Toronto Star

Mozartiana

Overview

Balanchine set his 1981 ballet Mozartiana to Tchaikovsky’s elegant Suite No. 4, an orchestration of short works by Mozart dating to 1887. The last major ballet that Balanchine choreographed before his death, Mozartiana is an intensely musical piece for a small cast, including a coveted female lead Balanchine created for his long-time muse Suzanne Farrell.

Five Things to Know
  1. Balanchine created Serenade for students at the School of American Ballet, an institution he co-founded with Lincoln Kirstein and Edward Warburg, and was first performed at the estate of Felix Warburg in White Plains, New York, on June 10, 1934. Intended as a lesson for students, Serenade is now a signature work of New York City Ballet, the company Balanchine directed until his death in 1983.
     
  2. Balanchine created the female lead in Mozartiana for Suzanne Farrell, who influenced the style and structure of numerous Balanchine works. Farrell founded her own ballet company, Suzanne Farrell Ballet, to showcase Balanchine’s works and she imparts her vast knowledge of his aesthetic to dancers and companies around the world.  
     
  3. Balanchine regarded Tchaikovsky, a fellow Russian, as a mentor from another generation and turned to his music many times throughout his career. Balanchine once said, “without Tchaikovsky’s help, I would not have managed.”
     
  4. The Mozartiana of 1981 is not the only version Balanchine created. He set an early iteration in 1933 for a short-lived company he formed in Paris, Les Ballets 1933. Balanchine revised Mozartiana several times in his career.
     
  5. Rouben Ter-Arutunian designed the romantic black costumes for Mozartiana, including smaller versions of the women’s tulle gowns for the children. His exquisite designs for New York City Ballet include the sets for Balanchine’s The Nutcracker.
Reviews

“Balancing a keenly-felt sense of poetry, with a cooler, less lyrical grandeur, much of the ballet floats above the music, full of feeling and musical cadences that suggest something of a dreamworld.” — The Hamilton Spectator

Mozartiana was Balanchine’s last major work before his death. The choreography perfectly captures the juxtaposition of the structured formality of Mozart and the underlying romantic angst of Tchaikovsky.” — The Globe and Mail

Diamonds

Overview

A glittering ballet with a showstopper finale, Diamonds is the final segment of Balanchine’s 1967 triptych Jewels. Each segment of Jewels Emeralds, Rubies and Diamonds – is set to the music of a different composer, with Diamonds featuring Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 3 in D Major, Op. 29. The jewel motif is the only through-line and is reflected in the majestic colours and design of the costumes. Diamonds features pristine white tutus and elegant choreography that embodies the brilliance of Tchaikovsky’s score.

Five Things to Know
  1. Balanchine derived the concept for Jewels after visiting the luxury jeweller, Van Cleef & Arpels, in New York City. The three segments of Jewels are based on unique precious stones, each with its own style and sound. Emeralds is set to the music of Gabriel Fauré and Rubies to Igor Stravinsky.
     
  2. Diamonds pays homage to Balanchine’s Russian heritage and training and particularly to the choreographer Marius Petipa and the grandeur of the Imperial Ballet. A formal pas de deux is at the heart of Diamonds, with choreographic references to Swan Lake, Raymonda and The Sleeping Beauty.
     
  3. Balanchine valued musicality and technique over plot and Jewels is regarded as the first full-length abstract ballet. As Balanchine has said, “The important thing in ballet is the movement itself, as it is sound which is important in a symphony.”
     
  4. Barbara Karinska designed the original New York City Ballet costumes for Jewels, including the stunning tutus for Diamonds. Karinska was one of the most influential costume designers of the 20th century and a longstanding collaborator of Balanchine’s, who once said of her: “There is Shakespeare for literature, Karinska for costumes.”
     
  5. The National Ballet of Canada first performed Jewels at Toronto’s Hummingbird Centre on February 11, 2000. Former Principal Dancers Chan Hon Goh and Aleksandar Antonijevic performed the lead roles in Diamonds.

NB2021-Chan-Jewels

Former Principal dancers Aleksandar Antonejevic and Chan Hon Goh in Diamonds from Jewels.

Reviews

“As breathtaking as the jewels that inspired it.” — Toronto Star

Balanchine and Tchaikovsky View Gallery

Credits

Serenade

Choreography:
George Balanchine

Staged by:
Joysanne Sidimus

Music:
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Costume Design:
Barbara Karinska

Lighting Design:
Ronald Bates

Mozartiana

Choreography:
George Balanchine

Staged by:
Joysanne Sidimus, Christopher Stowell and Lindsay Fischer

Music:
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Costume Design:
Rouben Ter-Arutunian

Lighting Design:
Robert Thomson

Diamonds - from Jewels

Choreography:
George Balanchine

Staged by:
Lindsay Fischer

Music:
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Costume Design:
Barbara Karinska

Lighting Design:
Robert Thomson

Diamonds, from Jewels, is a gift from The Volunteer Committee, The National Ballet of Canada.

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