'The Firebird' soars into O.C.

American Ballet Theatre stages world premiere of Alexei Ratmansky's all-new version of the 1910 ballet.

March 28, 2012|By Candice Baker
  • Misty Copeland, a soloist with the American Ballet Theatre, and her fellow dance crew members practice Wednesday for their world premiere of "The Firebird" at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts.
Misty Copeland, a soloist with the American Ballet Theatre,… (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

The most beautiful bird in the world is flying into Costa Mesa.

The American Ballet Theatre's world premiere of Alexei Ratmansky's all-new production of "The Firebird" takes off at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa on Thursday night and flies through the weekend.

ABT has performed at the center more than any other company, center officials said. Its "Firebird" premiere was commissioned in honor of the center's 25th anniversary season.

The one-act ballet, based on a Russian fairy tale, incorporates the entire (and daunting) 102-year-old Igor Stravinsky score, and features scenery by Simon Pastukh and costumes by Galina Solovyeva.

To date, this is the fourth version of "The Firebird" staged by the New York-based ABT. It was Stravinsky's first ballet score, and had its own premiere in 1910 in Paris set to choreography by Michel Fokine.


A version entered the Metropolitan Opera House in New York's ballet repertoire with a 1945 production choreographed by Adolph Bolm; it was noted for its Marc Chagall-created costumes and scenery.

ABT premiered a production choreographed by Michel Fokine in 1977 in Los Angeles' Dorothy Chandler Pavilion; a revival of the Fokine production opened in 1992.

Ratmansky, a former Bolshoi artistic director who was named ABT's Artist in Residence in 2009, choreographed a different production of "The Firebird" for the Royal Swedish Ballet in 2002; this version will mark his fifth work for ABT.

"The Firebird" tells the story of the heroic Prince Ivan, who catches the mythical Firebird in the supernatural land of Kashchei the Immortal, an evil sorcerer. The Firebird agrees to help Prince Ivan in exchange for its freedom. After encountering 13 damsels, Ivan falls in love with one and asks Kashchei for her hand.

In the usual depiction, an enraged Kashchei sends a bevy of monsters to attack him. The Firebird intervenes and bewitches the creatures into dancing the famous Infernal Dance before falling asleep. The Firebird later makes Kashchei dance and tells Ivan how to kill him, by breaking a huge egg. Ivan kills Kashchei, and the magical land returns to normal, followed by celebration.

But Ratmansky has opted to make the damsels into the monsters in this interpretation, having them literally enthralled by Kashchei.


Local ties

In addition to the world premiere, locals are thrilled that one of their own will come home to visit from the big city.

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