Larger-than-life puppets, South African dancers and the National Symphony Orchestra perform a multidisciplinary interpretation of Stravinsky’s ravishing score; multi-arts production re-imagines the Firebird folktale through the lens of post-apartheid South Africa
One night only, Saturday, July 23, 2016
Vienna, Virginia (June 28, 2016) – On Saturday, July 23 at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, the majestic Firebird will rise on stage to tell an enchanted tale of transformation. From the creators of War Horse comes this multidisciplinary interpretation of Stravinsky’s ravishing score, fusing larger-than-life puppetry, South African dance and multimedia arts. The National Symphony Orchestra, led by guest conductor Cristian Măcelaru, performs this program. View a short trailer video here.
Co-commissioned by Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts, this new production of The Firebird, set in South Africa, combines classical and contemporary African dance, dazzling puppetry and animation with the symbolism of Russian folklore to create a visually stunning and original interpretation of Stravinsky’s masterpiece. Stravinsky conceived of the score in 1910 to accompany an original ballet for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. With its exuberant, provocative score and vivid aural imagery, Stravinsky’s Firebird has since served as inspiration for many great designers and choreographers.
Designed and directed by Janni Younge of Handspring Puppet Company, with movement devised by leading South African choreographer Jay Pather, this new, multi-arts production of The Firebird follows a journey towards courage, identity and freedom through music, puppetry and dance. At the heart of the narrative is a young woman torn between passion and aggression, creativity and criticism, and temperance and excess as she strives to find a balance of power and satisfaction of herself.
The Firebird is currently in rehearsals at studios in Cape Town, South Africa, where Ms. Younge is documenting its development. Ms. Younge writes:
For this production of The Firebird, I have drawn on the symbolism and dramaturgy of Fokine’s original choreography, as well as the Russian folklore that rooted his ideas. I was struck from the start with how the mythic story elements of construction, on the one hand, and deconstruction, on the other, were playing themselves out in post-apartheid South Africa.
The puppets give metaphorical form to the emotional content as an expression of the shifting energies within a human being, and within South African society. …The Firebird draws its strength from the combination of expressive forms to bring to the stage a battle between forces both epic and deeply personal.
Evoking the stirring themes of fear and passion, life-giving and violence, inspiration and oppression, the Firebird holds resonance with South African society [and] with the struggle each one of us faces to find and embrace our own power.
Janni Younge’s blog posts, photos and videos documenting the process of creating The Firebird may be found here.
Stravinsky wrote The Firebird Suite in 1910 as a ballet, on commission from Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. Michael Fokine choreographed the work, which is based on a Russian folktale about a magical firebird and a young prince’s journey through darkness and into light. Both Stravinsky’s score and Fokine’s ballet were considered masterworks, and marked a breakthrough moment in Stravinsky’s career.
The inaugural tour of The Firebird will see performances at major festivals and venues across the United States. The first performance takes place with the Philadelphia Orchestra at the Mann Center on July 20, and subsequent performances take place with the National Symphony Orchestra at Wolf Trap on July 23, Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Ravinia on July 26, Sun Valley Summer Symphony at Idaho’s Sun Valley Pavilion on August 1, Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl and again with Philadelphia at New York’s Saratoga Performing Arts Center on August 11 and 12.
PROGRAM AND TICKETING INFORMATION
Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts presents
The Firebird –New production and co-commission
National Symphony Orchestra
Janni Younge of Handspring Puppet Company
Cristian Măcelaru, conductor
The Filene Center at Wolf Trap, 1551 Trap Road, Vienna, Virginia 22182
Saturday, July 23, 2016 at 8:15 p.m.
Attend a Pre-Performance Discussion with Janni Younge beginning at 7:15 p.m. Learn more.
Prokofiev Symphony No. 1, “Classical”
Ravel Mother Goose Suite
Stravinsky The Firebird
Tickets start at $20 and may be purchased online at wolftrap.org, in person at the Box Office, or by phone at 877.WOLFTRAP.
This performance is part of Wolf Trap’s Young At Arts accessibility initiative, which offers one youth (18 and under) ticket for every adult ticket purchased. For more information, visit www.wolftrap.org/youngatarts.
Dan and Gayle D’Aniello, Wolf Trap 2016 Season Underwriters
Deborah F. and David A. Winston, Performance Sponsors