After eight years, George Balanchine’s Jewels returns to La Scala and runs from 11 to 24 March 2022.
Balanchine was inspired by the artistry of jewellery designer Claude Arpels and chose music revealing the essence of each jewel. He said:
Of course, I have always liked jewels; after all, I am an Oriental, from Georgia in the Caucasus. I like the colour of gems, the beauty of stones, and it was wonderful to see how our costume workshop, under Karinska’s direction, came so close to the quality of real stones – which were of course too heavy for the dancers to wear!
Jewels had a forerunner in the first production of Balanchine’s Symphony in C at the Paris Opera in 1947. Each movement of the ballet – then called Le Palais de Cristal – had costumes in a different jewel colour.
Returning to this concept twenty years later, Balanchine selected emeralds, rubies, and diamonds for his parure (a set of jewels intended to be worn together), having rejected pearls and sapphires. But Jewels is about facets of classical dancing more than facets of a gemstone. The three acts of this story-less ballet are connected by the jewel motif, reflected in the colours of Karinska’s costumes and Peter Harvey’s sets. Each act is quite distinct in style with music by a different composer: Fauré for Emeralds, Stravinsky for Rubies, and Tchaikovsky for Diamonds.
Balanchine once said:
There is Shakespeare for literature, Karinska for costumes!
In the following photos, the lead couples in Emeralds are Martina Arduino with Nicola Del Freo and Alice Mariani with Marco Agostino; Rubies features Maria Celeste Losa, with Virna Toppi and Claudio Coviello; in Diamonds the main couple is Nicoletta Manni and Timofej Andrijashenko.
Choreography George Balanchine
© The George Balanchine Trust
Scene Peter Harvey
Restaged by Ben Huys
Music by Gabriel Fauré
Restaged by Patricia Neary
Music by Igor Stravinsky
Roberto Cominati, piano
Restaged by Ben Huys
Music by Piotr Ilych Tchaikovsky
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.