In June 2018, François-Xavier Roth and his orchestra Les Siècles were in China and Japan for their Russian Ballets Odyssey. From Beijing to Tokyo via Shanghai, the orchestra presented the three ballets choreographed by star dancer Vaslav Nijinski: The Rite of Spring by Stravinsky, and Prelude to the afternoon of a faun and Games by Debussy.
Played entirely on period instruments, the orchestra thus continued its journey, begun in 2010 at the Cité de la Musique in Paris, in search of these choreographic, musical and visual performances which revolutionised European ballet in the early twentieth century.
A radically modern aesthetic
From 1909 to 1929, in Paris and then in London, New York and Monte Carlo, Serge de Diaghilev's company radically renewed dance. Combining music by Stravinsky, Debussy and Ravel with the choreography of Fokinand Nijinski and the paintings of Picasso, Matisse and Derain, the Russian Ballets offered a radically modern aesthetic: the very physical performances of star dancers Pavlova and Nijinski, contrasting explosive mosaics from Stravinsky, luxurious sets, colourful costumes, etc.
Overflowing with fantastic images, mechanical rhythms and unprecedented erotic situations, performances of Prelude to the afternoon of a faun, in May 1912 and of the Rite of Spring in 1913 shocked the pre-war Parisian public, before being hailed a few years later as the birth of modern dance.
Re-creation of original works
It is this radical rupture in the history of European art that the orchestra Les Siècles celebrates today, by offering a true reconstruction of the original works. True to its approach combining the historical and the musical since its creation in 2003, the orchestra has recreated the vibrant, shimmering colours of the Russian Ballets, playing them only on the instruments from which they were born. Playing on gut strings and wind instruments with the structure characteristic of the early twentieth century, Les Siècles rekindles all the contrasts and dynamics of the Rite of Springby Stravinsky and presents Debussy’s impressionist dreams as close as possible to his original intentions.
Carried by this group which is as knowledgeable as it is virtuosic, and the faithful reconstructions of Nijinski's work by choreographer Dominique Brun and the Association du 48 Company, this Russian Ballets Odyssey allows essential works from the European repertoire to travel and offers Asian audiences a unique and foundational artistic vision.
The Russian Ballets Odyssey in China and Japan in June 2018 benefited from the support of the Institut français.
The Institut français fosters the international circulation of repertory works. It contributes to the discovery of French artists around the world.
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