Les Présages

Music: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky  (5th symphony)
Choreography: Léonide Massine
Sets and costumes: André Masson

World Première:  April 13, 1933 by the Ballets Russes  Colonel de Basil in Monte-Carlo

Dancers at the première: Irina Baronova, Tatiana Riabouchinska, Nina Verchinina, David Lichine,
Leon Woizikowsky.

U.S. Première: Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo, St. James Theater, New York, December 22, 1933

Paris Opera Ballet Première:  Paris, March 1989

"In fact, the production is a complete triumph not only because it is exceedingly well danced by the
Paris Opera Ballet, but also because the choreography has a dynamic invention that stands up on its
A revelation of the production is how strongly classical and formal the choreography looks.  Massine's
influence over Sir Frederick Ashton (his pupil)  and even George Balanchine is evident ..."  
                                                               by Anna Kisselgoff, The New York Times, March 9, 1989

Joffrey Ballet  Première: July 8,1992, War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco
   February 2007, Auditorium Theater, Chicago

Dutch National Ballet Première: 1994, Amsterdam

Ballet do Teatro Municipal Première: 1998, Rio de Janeiro

Bolshoi Ballet Première:  April 14, 2005, Bolshoi Theater, Moscow

Australian Ballet: August 2007,  State Theater, the Arts Center, Melbourne
                            October 7-11, 2008  Sadler's Wells Theater, London

Léonide Massine on his Ballet:

"Ever since my visit to Sicily I had been pondering over the problem of how one could create a correct
ballet interpretation of a symphonic work. I had often listened to Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony,
and I felt now that its theme of man and his destiny could provide me with the right material on which
to base my experiment. But I knew that my work ought not to be simply an abstract interpretation in
visual form.

For the first time I dispensed with the traditional formula of male and female partnering and the usual
balanced interplay between men and women dancers. I decided to avoid all symmetrical compositions
and to render the flow of the music by fluctuating lines, and forms both static and mobile. I deliberately
chose to follow the movements of the symphony in a logical evolution of choreographic phrases,
successively amplifying and regrouping themselves into new shapes and patterns.

I conceived the production in four sections: first, life, with its ambitions and temptations; then passion,
and the contest between sacred and profane love; thirdly, frivolity; and lastly, the culmination of man’s
destiny through conflict. In choreographing these I drew my inspiration from the ancient ruins of
Selinus, Agrigento and Paestum. It was the mass and volume of these structures which offered a
challenge. I was interested too in their contrasted blending of rounded and angular forms. In
Les Présages, as I named this ballet, I endeavoured to establish the equilibrium
between curved and straight lines that I had seen in so many classical buildings."

Irina Baronova, the famous baby ballerina, describes Les Présages, in which she played the role
of Passion—at age 13. “It was a sensation when it opened in Monte Carlo and then Paris. Some
musicians thought that it was a sacrilege to try and interpret a symphony that was a complete work
of art in itself. The art world had never seen an abstract symbolist ballet set before, making no attempt
to represent reality. The dance world was shocked by the modernity of the work coming from a
classical ballet company. Les Présages immediately established Massine as an important