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246. ORPHEUS


Ballet in Three Scenes


Music: By Igor Stravinsky (1947, commissioned by Ballet Society).

Choreography: By George Balanchine.

Production: Scenery and costumes by Isamu Noguchi. Lighting by Jean Rosenthal.

Premiere: April 28, 1948, Ballet Society, City Center of Music and Drama, New York. Conductor: Igor Stravinsky.

Cast: Orpheus, Nicholas Magallanes; Dark Angel, Francisco Moncion; Eurydice, Maria Tallchief; Leader of the Furies, Beatrice Tompkins; Leader of the Bacchantes, Tanaquil Le Clercq; Apollo, Herbert Bliss; Pluto; Satyr; Nature Spirits; Friends to Orpheus; Furies, 9 women; Lost Souls, 7 men; Bacchantes, 8 women.
Synopsis of the action (from Stravinsky's score): SCENE 1: 1. Orpheus weeps for Eurydice. He stands motionless, with his back to the audience. Some friends pass, bringing presents and offering him sympathy. 2. AIR DE DANSE. 3. DANCE OF THE ANGEL OF DEATH. The Angel leads Orpheus to Hades. 4. Interlude. The Angel and Orpheus reappear in the gloom of Tartarus.
SCENE 2: 5. PAS DE FURIES (their agitation and their threats). 6a. AIR DE DANSE (Orpheus). 7. Interlude. The tormented souls in Tartarus stretch out their fettered arms toward Orpheus and implore him to continue his song of consolation. 6b. AIR DE DANSE (concluded). Orpheus continues his air. 8. PAS D'ACTION. Hades, moved by the song of Orpheus, grows calm. The Furies surround Orpheus, bind his eyes, and return Eurydice to him. (Veiled curtain.) 9. PAS DE DEUX (Orpheus and Eurydice before the curtain). Orpheus tears the bandage from his eyes. Eurydice falls dead. 10. Interlude (veiled curtain, behind which the décor of the first scene is placed). 11. PAS D'ACTION. The Bacchantes attack Orpheus, seize him, and tear him to pieces.
SCENE 3: 12. ORPHEUS' APOTHEOSIS. Apollo appears. He wrests the lyre from Orpheus and raises his song heavenwards.

Note: In composing Orpheus, Stravinsky worked in close collaboration with Balanchine. The ballet led Morton Baum, chairman of the Executive Committee of the City Center of Music and Drama, to invite Ballet Society to become its permanent ballet company: the New York City Ballet. Orpheus was presented with Concerto Barocco [195] and Symphony in C [244] at the first performance of the New York City Ballet, October 11, 1948.

New Productions by Balanchine Companies:1972, New York City Ballet (Stravinsky Festival), with designs rescaled by Noguchi for the New York State Theater.

Video/DVD: 2004, Kultur, Balanchine (PAS DE DEUX); 2014 Video Artists International, New York City Ballet in Montreal, Vol. 1 (complete recorded 1960).

Archival Video:George Balanchine Foundation Interpreters Archive (PAS D'ACTION: Eurydice's variation), 1996.

Revisions: 1980, New York City Ballet: DANCE OF THE FURIES slightly revised by Peter Martins.

Television:    show...
Source notes:    show...
Stagings:   show...
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