L'Oiseau de feu (The Firebird) premiered during the second Paris season of Serge Diaghilev's Ballet Russe in 1910, presenting a landmark synthesis of dance, design and music. Diaghilev commissioned Igor Stravinsky to write the score, his first for ballet, and Michel Fokine was responsible for the libretto and choreography of the one-act work. Collaboration between choreographer and composer was integral to the ballet, with innovations in both dance and music astonishing audiences. The production featured the early Diaghilev trademark of drawing on the traditions and folklore of the company's native Russia. The libretto, a classic tale of love conquering evil, was based on a blend of Russian fairy tales; the exotic designs of Alexander Golovin and Leon Bakst featured traditional Russian craft motifs; and the choreography integrated elements of the Russian folk style. The Firebird, the only role danced on pointe, was created on Tamara Karsavina, although it is said to have been originally conceived for Anna Pavlova, who apparently refused to dance to Stavinsky's score.
L'Oiseau de feu was revived by the de Basil Ballet Russe company in 1934. This production used the decor and costumes that Natalia Gontcharova had designed for the restaging of the work by the Diaghilev company in 1926, and featured Alexandra Danilova as the Firebird. Two years later, de Basil orchestrated the Monte Carlo Russian Ballet tour which brought the work to Australia, premiering in Melbourne on 28 November 1936, with Valentina Blinova dancing as the Firebird, and Valentin Froman and Nathalie Branitzka as Ivan Tsarevitch and his lover, the beautiful Tsarevna. The work was immediately successful with Australian audiences, and Helene Kirsova became renowned for her portrayal of the Firebird in future performances by this company. While this staging used the Bakst decor, the next de Basil company to bring the work to Australia, the Original Ballet Russe which toured in 1939/40, used the Gontcharova designs. During this tour, Tamara Toumanova and Vera Nemtchinova alternated as the Firebird, both to great applause.
L'Oiseau de feu was staged as The Firebird by Serge Grigoriev and Lubov Tchernicheva, with choreography after Fokine, for Sadler's Wells Ballet in 1954, and featured Margot Fonteyn as the Firebird, personally coached in the role by Karsavina. Over the years the work has been recreated in numerous other versions, with varying adherence to Fokine's scenario. George Balanchine's production, with decor by Marc Chagall, was brought to Australia by the New York City Ballet during their 1958 tour.
There have been a number of notable Australian productions of The Firebird. Garth Welch's version, choreographed for the Australian Ballet, opened on 27 April 1972, with Lucette Aldous as the Firebird, and Kelvin Coe and Carolyn Rappel as the noble lovers. Set and costume design was by Greg Irvine. In the following year, Walter Gore staged a version for Perth City Ballet, featuring Paula Hinton in the title role. Other Australian productions include the version choreographed in 1986 by Lambros Lambrou for the West Australian Ballet, and that by Jaqui Carroll for the Queensland Ballet in 1987. The West Australian Ballet performed another Firebird in 1999, this time with choreography by Krzysztof Pastor and design by Francois-Noel Cherpin. This production, which premiered on 11 February 1999, as part of the company's The Source - Tribute to the Ballets Russes season, was also performed in 2001 during the Russian Romance season. While Pastor based his contemporary work on the Fokine synopsis, other choreographers have further distanced their versions from the original. Lucy Guerin abandoned ties to the Fokine libretto when choreographing her non-narrative piece, performed by Delia Sylvan to accompany the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra's performance of the Stravinsky score in 2003.
The most recent Australian production was choreographed by Graeme Murphy, with set and costume design by Leon Krasenstein, for the Australian Ballet's 2009 season. On opening night, 24 February in Adelaide, the role of the Firebird was danced by Lana Jones, with Kevin Jackson as Ivan Tsarevich, Danielle Rowe as Tsarevna and Chengwu Guo as Kostchei. Lana Jones' performance in this production won her the 2009 Helpmann award for Best Female Dancer in a Dance or Physical Theatre Production.
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This album of 69 black and white and sepia-toned photographs was assembled by Anton Dolin as a record of a his performances in Australia with the Covent Garden Russian Ballet in 1938-1939. Photographers represented include Hugh P. Hall, Nanette Kuehn, Andre, Spencer Shier and Wolf Pitsch. Works represented are Le lac des cygnes (Swan Lake) Act II, Aurora's Wedding, Le Spectre de la rose, Les Sylphides, Bolero, Symphonie fantastique, Scheherazade, The Firebird, Jeux d'enfants, Protee and The Prodigal Son. (Six photographs are photographic portraits mostly taken by Gordon Anthony in London in 1948.)
Volume 24 of the Walter Stringer collection of dance slides contains 132 35 mm colour slides of performances by New York City Ballet during its 1958 tour to Australia. Ballets represented include Firebird, Scotch Symphony, Serenade, Stars and Stripes, Symphony in C and Western Symphony by George Balanchine, Afternoon of a Faun by Jerome Robbins and Souvenirs by Todd Bollender. Some items in this album have been individually catalogued and are available as separate items on the Australia Dancing portal.
This is a collection of photographs taken by Hugh P. Hall of 30 ballet productions performed by the Covent Garden Russian Ballet (toured Australia 1938-1939) and the Original Ballet Russe (toured Australia 1939-1940). The photographs were taken from a seat in the circle of His Majesty's Theatre, Melbourne and mounted on cardboard for display purposes. For conservation and storage, the photographs have been demounted. The original arrangement of the photographs has been recorded, and details are available from the Pictures Branch of the National Library. The collection comprises photographs of performances of the following ballets: Les presages; Symphonie fantastique; Les cent baisers; Le coq d'or; Petrouchka; L'apres-midi d'un faune; Cendrillon; The Firebird; Paganini; Francesca da Rimini; Icare; La concurrence; Jeux d'enfants; Graduation Ball; Scuola di ballo; Le Danube bleu; The Prodigal Son; Swan Lake; Le carnaval; Cotillon; Scheherazade; Union Pacific; Les dieux mendiants; Les femmes de bonne humeur; Prince Igor; Les Sylphides; Papillons; Protee; Aurora's Wedding; Le spectre de la rose.
A small collection of programs relating to John Meehan's involvement with the American Ballet Theatre. Programs include those for performances of Don Quixote (1978) in which Meehan played Basil and Espada, both performances included John Lanchbery as guest conductor, The Firebird (1977) in which Meehan played Ivan Tsarevitch, and the publication 'ABT XL: American Ballet Theatre Fortieth Anniversary' (1980) which features photographs of Meehan in Gemini and Spartacus, and Lanchbery as musical director.
A small collection of programs, press releases, newspaper reviews, program notes, and biographies for works either choreographed by Lucy Guerin, or performed by Lucy Guerin Company or Lucy Guerin Inc. The file contains programs for Bodyparts (1998), Heavy (2000), Robbery Waitress on Bail (2000), and Melt (2002). Additional ephemera material relates to productions of Two Lies (1996), Incarnadine (1997), Plasticine Park (2003), Tense Dave (2003), and The Firebird (2003).