St Petersburg, Mariinsky Theatre

A csodálatos mandarin
 A kékszakállú herceg vára 

ballet by Béla Bartók


Premiere: 7 April 2017, The Cleveland Orchestra and The Joffrey Ballet
Premiere at the Mariinsky Theatre: 27 June 2023

Running time: 35 minutes

Age category 16+


Music by Béla Bartók
Libretto by Melchior Lendiel
Сhoreographer: Yuri Possokhov
Light Design: Ivan Vinogradov


There is a room in a big city where three criminals force a street girl to lure clients. She dances in front of an open window. The first client comes her way. He dances with the girl, and then the criminals attempt to mug him. However, having found nothing valuable, they dismiss the loser. The pattern gets repeated with the next client. The third client to respond to the girl's enchanting dance is a mandarin, a Chinese official. He looks at the temptress, and an enormous passion possesses this newcomer from another world. He pursues the girl, trying to embrace her, all in vain. Finally, the three robbers emerge from their hiding place to finish the stranger off. After robbing the mandarin, they attempt to kill him, but he keeps coming back to life, driven by his insatiable passion that is stronger than death itself. Only when the girl takes him into her arms do the charms of immortality disappear. The mandarin dies.

It was the success of the Diaghilev company, which in the 1910s made ballet a fashionable and popular musical genre, that inspired the Hungarian composer Béla Bartók to turn to ballet. However, the eerie expressionist plot which underlies the libretto of The Miraculous Mandarin, did not allow this work to be critically acclaimed in the 1920s. The administration of the Budapest Opera that had vouched to stage the ballet was put off by the “immorality of the plot”. The Cologne Opera House dared to mount The Miraculous Mandarin in 1926, but the performance was soon removed from the repertoire. The music gained recognition only after the composer’s death: since the late 1940s, its choreographic interpretations began to appear in various theaters around the world. Among their authors were Fleming Flindt, Roland Petit, Leonid Lavrovsky, who staged his version at the Bolshoi Theater with a slightly modified  (to be less shocking) libretto.

Choreographer Yuri Possokhov, in his version of The Miraculous Mandarin, does not deviate from Bartók's ideas. “The more you listen to this music, the deeper you delve into it and always find something new,” says the choreographer while emphasizing that in creating the choreography he relied mostly on the music. The emotional dance of the soloists does fully justify the intricacies of the magical mystery plot in this minimalist and spectacular performance.

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