On 8 July at the Nervi Music Ballet Festival 2021, a new programme of music and dance called Stravinsky's Love will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the composer's death*.
The celebrated Russian dancer Vladimir Derevianko will play Igor Stravinsky, recalling moments from the composer's life, with anecdotes from his time with the Ballets Russes where he was working alongside some of the pillars of 20th-century ballet: Diaghilev, Picasso, Nijinsky, Balanchine. Derevianko, as Stravinsky, will play passages on the piano, perform some dance steps, as well as introducing the evening's pieces.
During an interestingly constructed programme, Jacopo Bellussi and Alessandro Frola of the Hamburg Ballet will perform a new work by John Neumeier to Divertimento, a piece for violin and piano from Le baiser de la fée, Stravinsky's ballet composed as a homage to Tchaikovsky. The work will be danced a few days after its world premiere, on 27 June, at the Nijinsky Gala in Hamburg.
Other dancers taking part are the Spanish dancer Sergio Bernal, Ashley Bouder from the New York City Ballet (so hardly a stranger to Stravinsky's music with City Ballet's Balanchine/Stravinsky heritage), Davide Dato from the Vienna Opera, and Simone Repele and Sasha Riva from Ballet du Grande Théâtre de Genève.
The programme includes pieces from Histoire du soldat (dances especially created by Bernal); L'uccello di fuoco, with choreography by Marco Goecke, performed by Riva and Repele; Pulcinella, a dance piece created by Riva and Repele in 2020; Uwe Scholz's The Rite of Spring will have its Italian premiere and will be danced by Dato – the choreography has been reconstructed by Giovanni di Palma, the Italian dancer who first danced the work.
Apollo and Terpsichore's pas de deux from George Balanchine's Apollo will be danced by Bouder and Bernal. The world premiere of the ballet Apollon musagète was in the United States with choreography by Adolph Bolm. It was commissioned for the Washington festival and opened on 27 April 1928. Bolm put together an ad hoc group of dancers to perform it – Ruth Page, Berenice Holmes (Gene Kelly's ballet teacher), and Elise Reiman – with Bolm himself dancing Apollo. However, Sergei Diaghilev mounted the European premiere with his Ballets Russes just a few months later. Twenty-four-year-old Balanchine choreographed the work, which opened in Paris on 12 June 1928 with Stravinsky conducting. Balanchine would later say that Stravinsky's music taught him that he “could dare not to use everything” and eliminate the superfluous. Serge Lifar was the first Apollo.
Another excerpt with famed choreography comes with excerpts from Michel Fokine's Petrushka with dancers from the Daniele Cipriani Company – Mattia Tortora (Petrushka), Susanna Elviretti (the Ballerina) with Tommaso Beneventi (the Moor). The role of the Charlatan, which at the 1911 premiere was created by Enrico Cecchetti, will be performed by Derevianko.
The musicians appearing are the highly regarded pianist Beatrice Rana, the Dutch violinist Simone Lamsma (who will play the 1718 Stradivarius known as the “Mlynarski”), as well as pianist Massimo Spada. Historical recordings, which have Stravinsky conducting his own scores, will be used for the ballets Apollo and Firebird.
Many of the costumes are taken from original designs for the ballets. Costume supervisor Anna Biagiotti has recreated Picasso's Pulcinella costume, Benois' Petrushka costumes, as well as the Firebird costume designed by Bakst for Fokine.
The programme has been devised by Daniele Cipriani together with musicologist Gastón Fournier-Facio. The script is based on Stravinsky's writings by the journalist, and author of books about the House of Windsor, Vittorio Sabadin. The opera house Carlo Felice in Genova, which organises the prestigious festival in the grounds of the grand park next to the sea in nearby Nervi, has co-produced the event.
Daniele Cipriani said,
The patronage of the Stravinsky Foundation of Geneva is an important recognition, and it is an honour to be able to present, for the first time in Italy, the new ballet by John Neumeier created for the 50th anniversary of Stravinsky's death. Not only will Stravinsky's Divertimento be performed live by two superlative virtuosos such as Beatrice Rana and Simone Lamsma, but they will be danced by two Italian dancers of recognised talent, Jacopo Bellussi and Alessandro Frola, on whom Neumeier has created this choreography.
I wanted a large contingent of Italian dancers who dance in companies abroad to be in the cast alongside stars such as Bouder and Bernal. Right now, Italy has some extraordinary talents around the world – in addition to Bellussi and Frola, there's also Davide Dato and the duo Simone Repele and Sasha Riva – and we should know them and be proud of them.
*Stravinsky's Love can also be seen at the Ravenna Festival on 10 July, and there is a premiere preview on 6 July at the Auditorium Parco della Musica in Rome to open the summer season of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.