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Erkel Theatre, 7:00 pm
Picasso and the Dance
Guest performance by the Bordeaux National Opera’s Ballet Ensemble
Choreography: Léonide Massine
Music: Erik Satie
The Three-cornered Hat
Choreography: Léonide Massine
Music: Manuel de Falla
Choreography: Serge Lifar
Serge Lifar’s rhythms orchestrated by Arthur Honegger and George Szyfer
The Prodigal Son
Choreography: Georges Balanchine
Music: Sergey Prokofiev
Costumes and stage design: Pablo Picasso
Artistic director: Charles Jude
Although the Bordeaux company has used Picasso’s name for the title of their programme, it can be regarded at least as much as a tribute to the famous Russian ballet impresario, Sergey Diaghilev. It was he who invited Massine, Lifar and Balanchine, whose works can be seen in this performance in the Erkel Theatre, to create dances for the Ballets Russes, the company he established in 1911. Through the determined support of Diaghilev, the choreographers were able to co-operate with the outstanding painters and composers of the time, under the aegis of the Ballets Russes. Thanks to the enterprising spirit of the impresario who introduced Russia’s best dancers to Paris and then to the whole of Europe, at the beginning of the 20th century ballet came into contact with the most progressive trends of the contemporary avant-garde. The works created were at once experimental, bold, entertaining and profound. In these compositions the dancers became the instruments of artists, the performances in which they appeared shocked and enchanted audiences and often aroused heated emotions.
Parade, created in 1917, was Picasso’s first work for the stage: his charming models for the stage design were inspired by the world of circus acrobats. The idea for the performance came from Jean Cocteau who later also wrote the libretto. The choreography was by the dancer Léonide Massine who, despite his youth was already staging his third dance. Diaghilev asked Eric Satie to compose the music for the work of the two creative artists. The performance presents the life of a touring variety company in a series of loosely linked scenes. There are acrobats, jugglers, magicians and impresarios on the stage. Because of Picasso’s scenery and costume designs, the original performance is regarded as a theatre manifestation of cubism.
Léonide Massine created the choreography of The Three-cornered Hat in 1919, based on Alarcón’s short story of the same title. Massine fell in love with Spanish folk music and dance and used the music of Manuel de Falla for his ballet. Once again, the visual design was by Pablo Picasso. The story is simple: the miller’s beautiful wife is jealously guarded by her husband; old Corregidor pays court to the woman until the couple are tired of it and teach the old gentleman a harsh lesson. It is interesting to note that the Diaghilev company brought the performance to the Budapest Opera House eight years after its first performance. The rehearsals for the performance by the Opera House ballet company in 1928 were directed by Massine’s assistant, Albert Gaubier who also danced one of the leading roles.
Picasso’s last stage work was the visual design for Serge Lifar’s choreography, Icarus. Lifar, Diaghilev’s last favourite, was not only the choreographer of the one-act ballet, he also wrote the libretto and orchestrated the rhythmic accompaniment for the performance. Icarus was first performed in 1935 with the choreographer in the title role; Picasso participated in the work of production when it was revived in 1962. The performance is actually a solo accompanied by a dance chorus, telling the tragic story of Icarus, son of Daidalos who wished to rise to the heavens on wings he made for himself.
George Balanchine created The Prodigal Son in 1929 to music by Prokofiev. With this work the choreographer bade farewell to the Ballets Russes which was disbanded in the same year with the death of Diaghilev: the stage design was created not by Picasso but by another great painter, Georges Rouault. The premiere of The Prodigal Son was held in the Sarah Bernhardt Theatre in Paris, with Lifar and Dubrovska in the leading roles. The performance presents the classical biblical story and the choreography throws an exciting light on the pictorial force of Rouault’s stage design.
(With the support of the French Institute.)