The Firebird: a famous ballet and concert score based on Russian folklore and myth.
Composed by Igor Stravinsky in 1909 at the age of 27, the music was a collaboration with grand impresario of the Russian Ballet, Sergei Diaghilev. This composition premiered in Paris on Jun 24, 1910, at the Paris Opera.
The ballet tells the story of a powerful female spirit bird, with magical feathers; The Firebird. When wandering through a dark forest, Prince Ivan sees and captures the beautiful Firebird. The Firebird offers him a magical feather for her release and when Prince Ivan agrees she warns him that he is near the castle of a fearsome sorcerer, Kastchei.
The next day while hiding amongst the bushes, Prince Ivan sees the evil Kastchei has captured 13 beautiful princesses, one of which the prince falls instantly in love with. Prince Ivan decides he must save the princesses, but sees many statues of other would-be saviours who have been turned to stone by the sorcerer.
Despite the danger, the prince approaches the princesses, only to be captured. Remembering the feather, Prince Ivan calls on the Firebird to help him. Heeding his call, the Firebird uses her magical powers to force Kastchei and his followers to dance and dance until they drop. Exhausted from the dancing, Kastchei and his followers fall into a deep slumber. The Firebird shows Prince Ivan where to find a magical egg that contains Kastchei’s immortal soul. The prince destroys the egg, and in doing so, the 13 princesses and all under Kastchei’s spell become free.
The Firebird was arguably Stravinsky’s most famous score, which kickstarted the remainder of his distinguished career and established him as one of the most innovative and compelling composers of his time. Musically, Stravinsky incorporates melodies from traditional Russian folk songs, makes use of chromatic scales and harmonies to depict magical and supernatural energies, while leveraging simpler folk melodies to represent the human characters. From sensuous melodies, dissonant extended harmonies, familiar tunes to off-beat rhythms, the music of the Firebird is enchanting.