St Petersburg, Mariinsky Theatre

Le Spectre de la rose
 The Swan
 L'Après-midi d'un faune

one act ballet set to music by Claude Debussy

Diaghilev – 150


Premiere: 23 April 2022, Mariinsky Theatre

Running time: 16 minutes

Age category 6+


Music by Claude Debussy

Choreography by Maxim Petrov
Costume Designer: Elena Trubetskova
Lighting Designer: Konstantin Binkin

A French critic called Vaslav Nijinsky’s ballet L'Après-midi d'un faune “eight minutes of beauty”. In 1912, this production became one of Diaghilev's most scandalous projects. For the dancer Nijinsky to debut as a choreographer, Sergei Diaghilev obtained permission to use Claude Debussy's prelude to L'Après-midi d'un faune, a well-known composition by one of the main stars of French music that time. Debussy wrote this symphonic prelude for a theatrical recitation of Stéphane Mallarmé's eclogue of the same title, and originally planned a three-movement structure with an interlude and a finale. However, the prelude did not require a follow-up. The composer emphasized that his composition is a loose illustration of the poem: “These are a sort of images following one after another, among which the faun’s desires and dreams are moving in the afternoon heat. ... Tired of pursuing meekly fleeing nymphs, he enjoys a delightful nap ... and dreams of the fullness of possession in a comprehensive nature.” Nijinsky did not contradict the music, and so the faun and nymphs became the main characters of his ballet. There was no virtuoso technique in their parts. The audience who came to the premiere never saw the usual dance text on the stage, either. Instead, there was a series of bold profile positions and balanced poses that outraged many. The audience whistled and booed, guessing obscenity in the plot and movements of the faun. However, there were also those who saw the future of ballet art in the eloquence of this unhurried plastique. “Debauchery and animalistic realism” on the one hand and “beauty of an ancient fresco” on the other became a long-term subject of discussion of the performance choreographed and performed by Nijinsky and designed by Bakst. Although Debussy did not agree with this interpretation, in the theatrical world the prelude became strongly associated with a scandalous experiment. After Nijinsky, other choreographers would occasionally turn to this music: Kasyan Goleizovsky, Serge Lifar, Jerome Robbins, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, and not everyone heard in it the story of awakening a faun’s desire. The choreographer of the new production does not limit himself to the historical plot either. “In my new ballet there are portraits of our contemporaries, people who are rather different from each other,” says Maxim Petrov. “There is no faun, no nymphs, no antiquity, no Bakst or Les saisons russes in it; however, Maestro Gergiev and I agreed to keep the traditional title – L'Après-midi d'un faune. Olga Makarova

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