Watch performance excerpts from Ballet Philippines’ Firebird and Other Ballets’ press launch held last August 2 at the CCP.
1. Ne Neh Ledej (Excerpt)
Choreography by David Campos
Dancers: Jean Marc Cordero, Gillianne Therese Gequinto, Victor Maguad, Denise Parungao, Lester John Reguindin, Jessa Tangalin, Erl Sorilla, Monica Amanda Gana, Garry Corpuz, Sarah Anne Alejandro
2. Moving Two (Excerpt)
Choreography by Dwight Rodrigazo
Dancers: Victor Maguad and Katrene San Miguel
3. Shifting Wait (Excerpt)
Choreography by Carlo Pacis
Dancers: Jean Marc Cordero and Jemima Reyes
4. Firebird (Excerpt)
Choreography by George Birkadze
Firebird- Rita Angela Winder
Merchant Prince from the Silk Road- Garry Corpuz
Princess from the Land of Spices- Denise Parungao
Koschei the Immortal- Cyril Aran Fallar
ABOUT THE FIREBIRD
A dramatic ballet in three scenes, set to Igor Stravinsky’s rousing, and perhaps most famous score, “The Firebird” is a classical ballet characterized by mystery, and magic, and filled with adventure, and love.
The Firebird marks Igor Stravinsky’s entry into the field of ballet music. First presented by Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes at the Théâtre National de l’Opera, Paris, June 25, 1910. Scenery and costumes were by Golovine and Bakst. The original ballet featured Tamara Karsavina as the Firebird, Michel Fokine as Prince Ivan, and Enrico Cecchetti as Koschei.
(READ: “Wings”: Ballet Philippines’ 47th Season Takes Flight with “Firebird and Other Ballets” this August 19-21)
The original ballet remained dormant for many years, and was reconstructed, and presented at the Empire Theatre in Edinburgh on August 23, 1954 by the Royal Ballet, to commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the death of Diaghilev. George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins staged a new version in 1970, which had Marc Chagall’s paintings presented in action, with Stravinsky’s accompaniment. For Maurice Béjart’s version for the Paris Opéra Ballet, the ballet became a revolutionary act, and a Maoist gesture, as he wanted to match the inhabitual rhythmic violence Stravinsky’s bold music, with the revolutionary aspect of the Firebird, being a “phoenix reborn from ashes”.
Ballet Philippines has already had two productions of The Firebird. The first was presented during the company’s 10th season. Choreographed by guest ballet master Armin Wild, this version followed the neoclassical tradition, using Stravinsky’s original score, and still based on the libretto by Michel Fokine.
Denisa Reyes’ version for the 15th Season, however, had a new concept, with a bolder attempt to stray from the classical version. The ballet made use of a Japanese, synthesized, and modern version of Stravinsky’s Firebird, electronically created by Isao Tomita, with Interpretations from Modest Moussorgsky and Karl- Birger Blomdahl. In her notes, choreographer Denisa Reyes, mentions that “Where there is power, corruption exists, therefore must change the ending”, and that there are “Too many fairy tales”, explaining why in her version, the Firebird also claims Ivan as her prize in the end.
This season, the company revisions the ballet with a new production choreographed by George Birkadze, set in the Pre-Hispanic Philippines. The costumes designed by Mark Lewis Higgins make use of elements such as gold, spices, and porcelain, reflecting the objects of trade at the time.
Bright, glorious, and triumphant, the Firebird is a fantastical creature with the face of a charming young girl, and a body of shimmering feathers, tapering off in orange-speckled flame. She is the ballet’s heroine, who helps Ivan free the world of its monstrous evils.
The Pearl Merchant from the Silk Road
Being the male lead, he is dressed in royal blue velvet adorned in pearls and gold trim. He is a Pearl Merchant from the Silk Road. His hairstyle and crown are based on a fresco painting from one of the caves in Dunhuang, depicting Asiatic and oriental people along the ancient Silk Road, being perhaps from Samarkand or even being Mongol.
Koschei the Immortal
The wizard is envisioned as being a very powerful sorcerer and corrupt semi-god from Greater India, one of the “superpowers” of that time. He desires control over the gold, spices and porcelain found all over the archipelago.
The Princess From the Land of Spices
She is the lead Princess, who comes from a faraway kingdom that possesses a great deal of these precious spices that have made many a tradesman, as well as her father the king, incredibly wealthy. She is still nonetheless an Oriental princess, but geographically she would come from Central Asia or Asia Minor – perhaps she might be Azeri, Armenian or even Afghan.
Golden Monster Princes
The 12 Princes are adorned with the opulent, large-scale, gold jewelry based on the illustrations found in the Boxer Codex from the 1590s. They are all hypnotized under the sorcerer’s spell to obsess and covet all that is gold. They are also lavishly dressed in rich brocades, tapestries and textiles that would have been found in this period from various exotic traders.
The Porcelain Doll Princesses
The 12 Princesses have been transformed into porcelain dolls under Koschei’s spell. Their skin is completely white and painted like Chinese porcelain, with red lips, cheeks and fingertips.
Photo Coverage by Erickson dela Cruz and Frida Tan