The synopsys of the ballet is published in the author's version of the Set Designer Maxim Isaev
1. A house on the edge of a field. An Old Man is at home. Gavrilo and Danilo are at home. Ivan the Fool is at home. It is crowded in the house. The Old Man goes out to cut the rye wheat. Gavrilo and Danilo are glad. Gavrilo and Danilo make merry. Gavrilo and Danilo arrange an outdoor party. Gavrilo and Danilo dance with the Wet-Nurses. The Old Man returns from the field. The Old Man drives the Wet-Nurses away. The Old Man tells his sons of a terrible villain. This villain comes at night. The villain cannot be seen by anyone. The villain tramples on and ruins the wheat. The villain must be caught and destroyed. The Old Man himself is weak and infirm. The Old Man sends his sons out to guard the field. Gavrilo and Danilo set out on patrol. They don’t take Ivan. They think Ivan is too young. They think Ivan is clumsy. They think Ivan is a fool. Ivan asks to go to the field with his brothers. Ivan also wants to catch the villain. Ivan knows that he can confront the villain. Ivan is afraid of nothing. Ivan sets out into the field alone.
2. It is night. Ivan is guarding the field. A Young Mare trots into the field. The Young Mare is beautiful. The Young Mare is wild. The Young Mare tramples and ruins the wheat. The Young Mare enjoys itself. Ivan grabs the Young Mare by the tail. Ivan climbs onto the Young Mare. Ivan is dexterous. Ivan sits on the Young Mare back to front. Ivan finds this amusing. The Young Mare is embittered. The Young Mare attempts to throw off Ivan. But to no avail! The Young Mare makes Ivan a gift of some Horses and a Humpbacked Horse. If only Ivan will free her! The Horses are indeed beautiful. The Horses are large and powerful. The Humpbacked Horse is little. The Humpbacked Horse is weak. The Humpbacked Horse is most peculiar. What can he do? The Firebirds land in the field. The Firebirds dance. The Firebirds play. The Firebirds fly past. The Firebirds are free. Ivan runs after the Firebirds. Gavrilo and Danilo arrive in the field. Gavrilo and Danilo notice the Horses. The brothers like the Horses. Gavrilo and Danilo abduct the Horses. Gavrilo and Danilo are cunning. Ivan returns with a feather from the Firebird. Ivan likes the feather. Ivan is easy and relaxed. Ivan notices the Horses have disappeared. Ivan is upset. Ivan cries bitterly. The Humpbacked Horse comforts Ivan. The Humpbacked Horse proposes that Ivan pursues the abductors. The Humpbacked Horse promises to help Ivan. The Humpbacked Horse can, in fact, do a great deal.
3. A square in the Capital City. The people are on the square. The people are enjoying themselves. The people perform a round dance. The people dance a quadrille. Gavrilo and Danilo are on the square. Gavrilo and Danilo plan to sell the Horses. Gavrilo and Danilo want money. The Tsar enters the square. The Tsar loves to walk amongst his people. The people love to see their Tsar. The Tsar loves to look all around. The Tsar sees the Horses. The Tsar likes the Horses. The Tsar is ready to buy them. Ivan and the Humpbacked Horse rush onto the square. Ivan recognises the Horses. Ivan recognises his brothers. Ivan upbraids his brothers. Ivan takes the Horses from his brothers. They are his Horses. The Tsar has become attached to the Horses. The Tsar bargains for the Horses with Ivan. Ivan is prepared to let the Horses go. The question of price remains. The Tsar takes off the Gentleman of the Bedchamber’s hat: there is a wonderful price. Ivan is delighted with the hat. The hat really suits Ivan. The Guardsman is furious with Ivan.
4. In the royal chambers. The Tsar’s rooms. The Wet-Nurses are feeding the Tsar. The Tsar is eating. The Tsar is sate and falls asleep. At the entrance to the room, Ivan lies down to sleep. The Gentleman of the Bedchamber observes Ivan. The Gentleman of the Bedchamber steals the Firebird’s feather from Ivan. The Gentleman of the Bedchamber sneaks into the Tsar’s chambers. The Gentleman of the Bedchamber wakens the Tsar and shows him the feather. Where has Ivan acquired riches such as this? The Tsar loves the feather. The Tsar has a vision. The Tsar sees the Firebirds. The Tsar sees the Tsar Maiden. The vision fades. But the Tsar is already in love with the Tsar Maiden. The Tsar needs the Tsar Maiden. That is an order! The Gentleman of the Bedchamber wakens Ivan and gives him the Tsar’s order. Ivan is in despair. Ivan doesn’t know where to seek out the Tsar Maiden. The Little Horse comforts Ivan. The Little Horse knows what to do. Ivan and the Little Horse depart for the Tsar Maiden.
5. The Firebirds live on the edge of the world. Among them is the Tsar Maiden. Ivan and the Horse have come to the edge of the world. To the Tsar Maiden and to the Firebirds… Ivan wants to capture the Firebirds. The Firebirds fly away. Ivan sees the Tsar Maiden and cannot take his eyes off her. A miracle, what a beauty! The Tsar Maiden allows Ivan to catch her. She allows herself to be carried to the Capital City. The Tsar Maiden likes Ivan. Oh, well!
6. The Tsar and the Boyars are in the royal chambers. They are waiting for the Tsar Maiden. The Tsar is anxious. He is like a cat on hot bricks. The Tsar falls asleep. The Boyars, devoted servants, fall asleep too. One of the Boyars is still awake. He sees Ivan returning with the Little Horse and the Tsar Maiden. The Boyar wakens the Tsar. The Tsar wakes up and sends everyone away. The Tsar declares to the Tsar Maiden that he plans to marry her. Ivan is distressed. Ivan loves the Tsar Maiden. The Boyars bring the engagement ring. The Tsar Maiden agrees to marry, but the ring is not right. For the wedding the Tsar Maiden needs a stone that lies on the seabed. The Tsar is confounded. How can he get the stone? The Gentleman of the Bedchamber is at his side. How about Ivan? The Gentleman of the Bedchamber sends Ivan to the seabed. Ivan is grieved. The Gentleman of the Bedchamber is pleased. He awaits Ivan’s death.
7. The seabed. There, the Sea People are living their marine lives. Ivan and the Little Horse reach the seabed. Ivan looks for the ring. The ring is nowhere to be found, nowhere! What he can do he does not know! No! Ivan then asks for help from the Princess of the Sea. The Princess of the Sea will help Ivan, yes! The Sea People bring the ring to Ivan, oh yes!
8. A square in the Capital City. The Tsar Maiden is invited to dance by the Tsar. The Tsar and Tsar Maiden dance. The Tsar tires quickly. The Tsar is old. Ivan appears with his Little Horse and the stone. The Tsar Maiden is pleased that Ivan is unharmed. The Gentleman of the Bedchamber is angry. The Gentleman of the Bedchamber takes the ring from Ivan. The Gentleman of the Bedchamber drives Ivan away. Ivan is not required any longer. The Tsar is ready to marry. But the Tsar Maiden is not. She does not fancy the Tsar for a husband. For a husband she needs a man as handsome as a picture. If the Tsar wishes to marry, then he must become such a fine fellow. But how? He must jump into a cauldron of boiling water, that’s how! The cauldron is brought in. The Tsar is in terror. How can he jump into boiling water? The Gentleman of the Bedchamber proposes the cauldron be tried out using Ivan. Ivan is pushed into the cauldron. The faithful Little Horse works a spell. Ivan is transformed into a handsome fellow indeed. Ivan becomes a Tsarevich. The people rejoice. The people are anxious. They all want to be young and beautiful; they all want to be tsars and tsarevnas. The Tsar orders all be kept back from the cauldron. The Tsar himself is immersed in boiling water. The Tsar perishes. The people mourn. The people bury the Tsar. The people find life hard without a Tsar. The people need a Tsar. Ivan Tsarevich and the Tsar Maiden are delighted. Preparations for the wedding are made. Then the people too are happy. The people will have their new Tsar. Handsome and young…
The Little Humpbacked Horse is a successful blend of many of the ingredients necessary for success – the fairy-tale plot so attractive for children, the ironic interpretation that is interesting for adults, the extravagant and stylish designs by Maxim Isaev, the talented and inventive choreography of Alexei Ratmansky and the emotional music of Rodion Shchedrin.
The score of the ballet The Little Humpbacked Horse was written by the young Shchedrin, then still a student at the Moscow Conservatoire. With its humour, mischief, colourfulness and affirmation of life it has inspired many musicians and choreographers. Everyone can find something individual in it. Alexander Radunsky, the choreographer of the first version of Shchedrin’s The Little Humpbacked Horse at the Bolshoi Theatre (1960), heard a traditional ballet fairy-tale in it, with ballerina princesses, tsars who didn’t dance very much and traditional divertissements that filled the ballet with dance. Igor Belsky, who staged his own version of The Little Humpbacked Horse at the Maly Opera in 1963, heard sharp satire in the music. First and foremost this concerned the image of the Tsar; it also matched the literary basis, Yershov’s fairy-tale, and the ideological framework of the age when the score was composed. The Tsar in Belsky’s ballet unambiguously brought Khrushchev to mind with his gestures. In 1981 Dmitry Bryantsev staged his own version at the Kirov Theatre, combining fairground decorativeness with incredibly human portraits of the protagonists.
Ratmansky’s ballet is a child of the early 21st century; in this dynamic, merry and ironic production there is also enough room for the dance itself, both classical and character, mime scenes, serious virtuoso skill and reckless humour. Interestingly, Ratmansky’s humour comes not at all from the playful scenes, mimes or gestures; the choreographer can make the audience smile through the actual dance. His divertissement in the production is a witty paraphrase on the theme of traditional divertissement character pieces. From the standpoint of a contemporary postmodernist, the choreographer looked at the old tradition of “revising” folkloric dance steps for classical productions, and he has brought this to life with a bold sense of humour. Recognising the quotations gives the choreography historic depth, and without having to solve the enchantingly ironic rebuses the production is engaging enough in its merriment. The dances conjured up by the choreographer are also interesting for the dancers, each role opening up a broad expanse in which to be creative – on the one hand, for acting skills and improvisation and, on the other, to test themselves with this technically demanding dance text. If, in the role of the amusing and grotesquely presented duffer that is the Tsar the playful element is richer than the dance component and the expressions of the “splinted” Father and Brothers of Ivan are simple in terms of the movements, then Ivan the Fool and the Tsar Maiden, in some scenes childishly capricious and in others virginally tender, and the fleet-footed and dexterous Horse reveal their characters through the dance.
World premiere: 1960, Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow
Premiere of this production: 14 March 2009, Mariinsky Theatre, St Petersburg
Runnig time 2 hours 15 minutes
The performance has one interval
The highlighting of performances by age represents recommendations.
This highlighting is being used in accordance with Federal Law N436-FZ dated 29 December 2010 (edition dated 1 May 2019) "On the protection of children from information that may be harmful to their health"