Freelance writer – creative – media-maker
To accompany tonight’s show, I thought I’d put up a few notes about some of the major pieces.
Alexander Borodin, Polovtsian Dances from Prince Igor
These Polovtsian Dances are perhaps the most well-known excerpts from the opera Prince Igor, Borodin’s most famous work. The opera follows the story of Prince Igor, whose city, Puitvil, is overrun by the Polovtsi, a Mongol-like nomadic tribe.
The dances take place after Prince Igor has been captured by the Polovtsi. The male and female slaves dance to entertain the prince and the leader of the Polovtsi, Khan Kontchak. As an orchestral excerpt, the dances are usually understood to include the ‘Dance of the Polovtsian Maidens’ from Act I, and tonight will be no different.
First performed independent of the opera at fellow composer Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s request, The dances achieved their first great success when Sergei Diaghilev choreographed them for the Ballets Russes in 1909. If you are a fan of musicals, you may be happy to know that the melody from the first dance is featured in the Broadway musical Kismet.
Igor Stravinsky, Petrushka
A little plot summary for you:
The ballet opens to the colourful and bustling atmosphere of St. Petersburg’s Shrovetide fair. An organ grinder and two dancing girls entertain the crowd, and a magician warms the crowd. The magician brings forth the lifeless puppet figures of Petrushka, a Ballerina, and a Moor, and casts a spell on them. Suddenly they come to life and dance, all to the astonishment of the spectators.
The second scene, after the performance, is set in Petrushka’s Cell, where Petrushka is forcefully led. As a living being, Petrushka feels human emotions, including resentment toward magician over his imprisonment, and love for the beautiful Ballerina. Petrushka tries to escape from his cell, but fails.
The Ballerina enters the room. Petrushka professes his love to her, but she rejects him and leaves hurriedly. Petrushka is heart-broken.
In the third scene, the magician places the Ballerina in the Moor’s room. She is attracted to him and attempts to seduce him. Breaking free from his cell, Petrushka sees this and attacks the Moor. However, the Moor overpowers Petrushka, who runs for his life.
The fourth and final scene returns to the carnival. Petrushka dashes across the floor, followed by the Moor in hot pursuit brandishing his sword. In front of a horrified crowd, the Moor catches up with Petrushka and slays him with a single stroke of his blade.
The police arrive, but the magician simply shakes Petrushla’s corpse in the air to remind everyone that Petrushka is only a puppet. The crowd and the magician leaves with Petrushka’s body.
But alas, Petrushka’s ghost appears on the roof of the little theatre, crying out in angry defiance. Completely alone and isolated, the Charlatan is terrified. He runs away, with a single frightened glance over his shoulder.
Part I: The Shrovetide Fair
Part II: Petrushka’s Cell
Part III: The Moor’s Room
Part IV: The Shrovetide Fair (Evening)
For more information about 3MBS 103.5 Classically Melbourne, click here.