Music and dance, possibly the oldest duality in the history of art, constitutes the framing of tonight’s programme. Maurice Ravel and Igor Stravinsky, the most significative ballet music composers of the first two decades in the XX century, are being united by Russian impresario Serghei Diaghilev for his the ambition to promote modern music and choreography on the Parisian scene. Some of the most renowned opuses of the kind have arisen from his commissions: apart from Daphis & Chloe, the Waltz and the Rite of Spring, which are featured in tonight’s programme, Stravinsky’s Firebird and Petrushka are rooted in the same collaboration. Over time, all this titles have incorporated the dance to become complete and distinct works.
The expressiveness, the symbolising potential, the internal rhythm of the music allow frequently to alight the choreography. However, on this occasion, dance is present again, and even more, partnered by the visual element of video mapping to create a complex performance, tributary to its origins while opening a new perspective.
Duality migrates by infusing all levels. We find it in the competing and yet complementary presence of the two pianos, and also in the constructive challenge to simultaneously transform and evoke the original sound of the orchestra. Ravel is notorious for his interplay of colours. An extraordinary pianist and genius orchestrator, Ravel used to arrange his own piano compositions for the orchestra. Alborada del gracioso and Pavane for a dead princess are among some of the most popular examples. However, the Walz, which will be presented tonight, had a different pathway being composed originally for the orchestra and transformed by Ravel himself into a piece for two pianos.
The most striking duality remains the stylistic one: Ravel – a classicist, Stravinsky – a revolutionary; a mythical love story against a violent and savage Russian ritual; in between the two, a Viennese waltz traversing its history from the beginning to imperial glory and decadence. While the romantics made of music the absolute language of the arts, free of any literary or visual conditioning , the first modern reveal how music can suggest feelings, states of mind and situations through a visual, descriptive discourse. To achieve this variation, both Ravel and Stravinski transformed music itself, its discourse, the formal organisation and the rules of orchestration. The sunrise theme from the beginning of Ravel’s Suite No. 2 or that of the ritual from Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring remain as brilliant as they are fertile in the way they profoundly influenced the evolution of music in the twentieth century, from cult creations to commercial and film music.
Scenario for the Daphnis and Chloe Suite No 2 by Maurice Ravel:
The scene takes place early in the morning, in the Cave of Nymphs. One can only hear the whisper of dew dropping on the rocks. Daphnis lies unconscious at the entrance. Gradually, the crack of dawn reveals. Birds start singing. In the distance, a shepherd passes by with his sheep. A group of shepherds approaches, looking for Daphnis and Chloe. They find Daphnis and wake him up. He restlessly searches for Chloe. After a while, she reveals herself surrounded by shepherdesses. The two young people throw themselves in each other’s arms. God Pan’s intervention, who saved Chloe from the pirates, proves to be real.
The old shepherd Lamon says that if Pan saved Chloe, he must have done it in the memory of Syrinx, a nymph he once loved. Daphnis and Chloe re-enact the story of Pan and Syrinx. Chloe embodies the nymph walking throw the meadow. Daphnis appears as Pan and declares his love. The nymph rejects him. The God perseveres. The nymph disappears behind the reeds. Irredeemable, Pan crafts a flute from the reed and sings a sad melody. Chloe reapers and dances on rhythm of music. The dance grows more intense, like a vortex, and Chloe falls in Daphnis’s arms. At the altar of the nymphs, Daphnis swears his love and sacrifices two sheep.
A group of young women enter the stage with tambourines personifying the Bacchante. Daphnis and Chloe caress themselves tenderly. A group of young people joyfully enter the stage and the dance ends with a bacchanalia.
Scenario of the ‘Waltz’ by Maurice Ravel
Through the swirling clouds, one can faintly see pairs dancing on the rhythm of waltz. The clouds are scattered revealing an enormous ball room full of people moving. The scene becomes brighter and brighter. The chandelier light penetrates into a blast of light. The scene takes place somewhere at an imperial court, around 1855.
Scenario for the ‘Rite of Spring’ by Igor Stravinski
Before the rising of the curtain, one can hear an evocative orchestral introduction, described by Stravinsky as a ‘swarm of springtime bagpipes’. On the hills, spring celebrations begin. An old lady enters the stage to predict the future. Young women emerge from the river in Indian file. They start with the ‘Dance of Abduction’ and continue with ‘Horovod’ or the ‘The Reel Dance of Spring’. Split in two groups, participants dance the ‘Adverse Tribes Ritual’. A sacred procession leads the entry of the elderly headed by the Great Wise who interrupts the games and blesses the earth. People burst into a passionate dance, purifying the land and becoming one with it.
Second Part: The Sacrifice
The young girls engage in a mysterious game, walking in cycles. One of them is chosen by destiny, being wrapped twice in the endless circle and glorified in a martial dance. The women invoke their ancestors. The ‘chosen’ one is given into the care of the wisemen. She dances to her death in the presence of the elderly, performing the grand ‘Dance of the sacrifice’.