“It remains a perfect introduction to ballet: Few full-length story ballets are as satisfying.”
Alastair Macaulay, The New York Times Chief Dance Critic

Returning to the stage is George Balanchine’s only evening-length work without a story. Inspired by a visit to famed jewelers Van Cleef and Arpels, the three movements celebrate three facets of Balanchine’s life—the romantic French flair and elegance of Emeralds, the jazzy American allure of Rubies, and the pure Russian pomp and splendor of Diamonds.

Header Image: Lillian Di Piazza. Photo: © Nic D’Amico.

Choreographers & Composers

GEORGE BALANCHINE

Choreographer

Born January 22, 1904, in St. Petersburg, Russia, George Balanchine is widely regarded as ballet’s foremost contemporary choreographer. He came to the United States in late 1933, at the age of 29, after accepting the invitation of young American arts patron Lincoln Kirstein (1907-96), of whose many great passions included the dream of creating a ballet company in America. At Balanchine’s behest, Kirstein was also prepared to support the formation of an American ballet academy, one to eventually rival the long-established schools of Europe.

This institution, and first product of the Balanchine/Kirstein collaboration, was the School of American Ballet, founded in 1934. In the years that followed, the two visionaries created several ballet companies, all of which eventually dissolved, though Balanchine continued to find other outlets for his choreography. Efforts to create a company temporarily ceased during World War II, but the two men’s unflagging devotion continued, and eventually, with a performance on October 11, 1948, the New York City Ballet was born. Balanchine served as its ballet master and principal choreographer from 1948 until his death in 1983.

Of Balanchine’s more than 400 dance works, some noted creations include Serenade (1934), Concerto Barocco (1941), Le Palais de Cristal, later renamed Symphony in C (1947), Orpheus (1948), The Nutcracker (1954), Agon (1957), Symphony in Three Movements (1972), Stravinsky Violin Concerto (1972), Vienna Waltzes (1977), Ballo della Regina (1978), and Mozartiana (1981). Balanchine’s final ballet, a new version of Stravinsky’s Variations for Orchestra, was created in 1982. He also choreographed for films, operas, revues, and musicals. Among his best-known dances for the stage is Slaughter on Tenth Avenue, originally created for Broadway’s On Your Toes (1936). The musical was later made into a movie.

A major artistic figure of the 20th century, Balanchine revolutionized the look of classical ballet. Taking classicism as his base, he heightened, quickened, expanded, streamlined, and even inverted the fundamentals of the 400-year-old language of academic dance, having an inestimable influence upon the growth of dance in America. Although, at first, his style seemed particularly suited to the energy and speed of American dancers, especially those he trained, his works are now performed by classical ballet companies throughout the world.

Founded by Balanchine student, Barbara Weisberger, Pennsylvania Ballet is a company steeped in the Balanchine style and repertoire.

Source. With edits made.

GABRIEL FAURÉ

Composer

Gabriel Fauré was born in Pamiers, France on May 12, 1845. He studied, not at the Paris Conservatoire, but at the Ecole Niedermeyer from 1854 to 1865, where he intended to become an organist and choirmaster and studied with Niedermeyer himself until the latter’s death in 1861. Fauré later encountered and studied piano with Camille Saint-Saëns, who introduced him to the music of Franz Liszt and Richard Wagner.

While still a student, Fauré published his first composition: a work for piano, Trois romances sans paroles (1863). In 1896, he was appointed both church organist at the Church of La Madeleine in Paris and professor of composition at the Paris Conservatory. In 1905, he succeeded Théodore Dubois as director of the conservatory, where he remained in office until poor health and deafness forced him to resign in 1920. Among Fauré’s students were Maurice Ravel, George Enesco, and Nadia Boulanger.

Fauré excelled not only as a songwriter of great refinement and sensitivity but also a composer in every branch of chamber music. He wrote more than 100 songs, including “Après un rêve” (c. 1865) and “Les Roses d’Ispahan” (1884), and song cycles that included La Bonne Chanson, Op. 61 (1891–92) and L’Horizon chimérique, Op. 118 (1922). He enriched the literature of piano with a number of highly original and exquisitely wrought works, of which his 13 nocturnes, 13 barcaroles, and five impromptus are perhaps most representative and best known.

Fauré was not especially attracted to the theatre, but he wrote incidental music for several plays, including Maurice Maeterlinck’s Pelléas et Mélisande (1898), as well as two lyric dramas, Prométhée (1900) and Pénélope (1913). Among his few works written for the orchestra alone is Masques et bergamasques (1919). The Messe de requiem for solo voices, chorus, orchestra, and organ (1887) did not gain immediate popularity, but has since become one of Fauré’s most frequently performed works.

Although he had deep respect for the traditional forms of music, Fauré delighted in infusing those forms with a mélange of harmonic daring and freshness of invention. One of the most striking features of his style was his fondness for daring harmonic progressions and sudden modulations, invariably carried out with elegance and a deceptive air of simplicity. His quiet and unspectacular revolution paved the way for more sensational innovations by the modern French school. He died in Paris, France on November 4, 1924.

Source. With edits made.

IGOR STRAVINSKY

Composer

Igor Stravinsky was born in Oranienbaum, Russia, on June 17, 1882 and raised by his mother, a talented pianist, and father, a bass singer. Not wanting their son to follow in their footsteps, his parents persuaded Stravinsky to study law; however, after enrolling at the University of Saint Petersburg, Stravinsky became friendly with classmate Vladimir Rimsky-Korsakov, whose father Nikolai was a celebrated composer. Free to pursue his artistic endeavors upon his father’s death in 1902, Stravinksy soon became Nikolai’s pupil.

In 1909, Sergei Diaghilev, founder of the Ballets Russes, invited Stravinsky to orchestrate a couple of Chopin works for his ballet Les Sylphides, which, in turn, led to a collaboration with choreographer Michel Fokine on The Firebird, a commission which turned Stravinsky into a household name upon its Paris premiere in June 1910. The composer’s fame was fortified in 1911 with the production of Petrouchka and then most notably in 1913 with his controversial The Rite of Spring, which incited a riot upon its premiere.

The outbreak of World War I forced Stravinsky to flee Russia with his family and settle in Switzerland, where to cope with homesickness he used Russian folklore as inspiration for his work, while other compositions of the time exhibited a jazz influence. Two of his best-known works from his Swiss period are Renard, composed between 1915 and 1916, and Les Noces, which he started in 1914 but didn’t complete until 1923. Stravinsky moved his family to France in 1920, where they spent the next two decades. During that time, his notable works included a comic opera, Mavra (1922), an opera-oratorio Oedipus Rex (1927), and the “white” ballet Apollon Musagète (1928). He continued his prolific output into the 1930s, composing such works as Symphony of Psalms, Concerto in E-flat, Persephone and Jeu de Cartes.

In 1939, following the deaths of his wife and a daughter from tuberculosis, Stravinsky moved to the United States. He delivered a series of lectures at Harvard University, and, in 1940, he married artist and designer Vera de Bossett. That same year, Stravinsky also finished one of his most important works, Symphony in C. Though nearly arrested in 1994 for his rearrangement of the national anthem during a performance in Boston, Stravinsky otherwise found a welcome reception in his new country and became a U.S. citizen in 1945. After settling in Los Angeles, he went on to enjoy more successes with such operas as The Rake’s Progress (1951) and Agon (1957).

Following a period of declining health, Stravinsky died in his Manhattan apartment on April 6, 1971 with more than 100 works to his name. While not shocking, his death greatly saddened those who recalled his immense gifts and unquestionable influence within his field. Said New York Philharmonic Musical Director Pierre Boulez, “Something radically new, even foreign to Western tradition, had to be found for music to survive, and to enter our contemporary era. The glory of Stravinsky was to have belonged to this extremely gifted generation and to be one of the most creative of them all.”

Source. With edits made.

PYOTR ILYICH TCHAIKOVSKY

Composer

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was born May 7, 1840, in Votkinsk, Russia. He began taking piano lessons at age five, and, though he displayed an early passion for music, his parents had hoped he would grow up to work in the civil service. In 1859, five years after his mother’s death from cholera, Tchaikovsky honored his parents’ wishes by taking up a bureau clerk post with the Ministry of Justice—a post he would hold for four years, during which time he grew increasingly fascinated with music. At age 21, he decided to take lessons at the Russian Musical Society and soon after enrolled at the newly founded St. Petersburg Conservatory, becoming one of the school’s first composition students. In 1863, Tchaikovsky moved to Moscow, where he became a professor of harmony at the Moscow Conservatory.

Tchaikovsky’s work was first publicly performed in 1865 at a Pavlovsk concert with Johann Strauss the Younger conducting the composer’s Characteristic Dances, and, in 1868, his First Symphony was well received when it was performed in Moscow. The following year, his first opera, The Voyevoda, was staged—though with little fanfare. His next operatic effort, Oprichnik, achieved some acclaim when it was performed at the Maryinsky in St. Petersburg in 1874, by which time Tchaikovsky had also earned praise for his Second Symphony and managed to establish himself as a talented composer of instrumental pieces with his Piano Concerto No.1 in B-flat Minor.

Acclaim came more readily for Tchaikovsky in 1875 with his composition Symphony No. 3 in D Major. At the end of that year, the composer embarked upon a tour of Europe, and, in 1876, he completed the ballet Swan Lake as well as the symphonic fantasy “Francesca da Rimini.” In 1878, Tchaikovsky resigned from the Moscow Conservatory in order to focus his efforts entirely on composing. His collective body of work comprises 169 pieces, including symphonies, operas, ballets, concertos, cantatas, and songs. Among his most noted late works are the ballets The Sleeping Beauty (1890) and The Nutcracker (1892).

Source. With edits made.

Jewels News & Events

The Sleeping Beauty

Jewels Dress Rehearsal Luncheon

Thursday, May 10, 2018 11:00AM
Join us for lunch at Estia followed by the company’s dress rehearsal of the Balanchine classic.
The Sleeping Beauty

Viva Tchaikovsky!

Published on: Friday, September 29, 2017

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