The Firebird

The Firebird (Russian Жар - птица / Zhar - Ptiza, French L' Oiseau de feu ) is a ballet in two acts with music by Igor Stravinsky to the libretto by Michel Fokine. The premiere took place on 25 June 1910 at the Paris Théâtre National de l' Opéra by the ensemble Ballets Russes instead. The music for The Firebird is considered pioneering works in the early 20th century.

Plot and libretto

The plot is based on the two Russian folk tale The Firebird with the figure of the fairy tale hero Ivan Tsarevich and The Wizard Kastschej with the mythological figure of the immortal Koschtschei. The young Prince Ivan chases the Firebird and thus enters the Garden of the magician. At the miracle tree he catches the bird, this complains and asks for his freedom. When the Prince granted him this, he will receive the thanks of a spring, the magical powers inherent and summons the Firebird at risk.

Thirteen young women who are held captive by the wizard Kastschej, come into the garden and dance around the tree. Among them is the Princess Tsarevna, in which Ivan falls in love with. Impending signals herald the appearance Kastschejs and his demons. Harry Ivan Tsarevich and want to kill him. In dire need he calls the gift of spring the Firebird. This comes and forces Kastschej and the demons with magical music for dancing and then she sings with a song in a deep sleep.

The Firebird Ivan shows in a cave under the roots of the Wonderful Tree Riesenei the hidden, kept his soul in the Kastschej. The Prince smashes the egg, the power of the magician disappears and he dies. His caught and petrified victims are now free, as well as the thirteen virgins. Princess Tsarevna and Ivan are united.

Léon Bakst: Design for Ivan Tsarevich

Léon Bakst: Design for the Tsarevna

Alexander Golovin: Wizard Kastschej


The work was commissioned by Sergei Pavlovich Diaghilev for the Ballets Russes, with the in 1909 by the company in Paris erzieltem success should be attached. It was originally planned for the composition Anatoly Ljadow, but since this hesitated with a pledge, Diaghilev gave the then largely unknown Igor Stravinsky in December 1909 order. The scenic action, the libretto, created Michel Fokine, one of the greatest dancers and choreographers of the Ballets Russes. The combination of Russian fairy tale tradition with striking stage effects such as the brilliant Firebird, the miracle tree, the Riesenei and double-headed monsters, the Parisian audience showed great effect. In the criticism of the ballet was described as a " sparkling, sinnbetörende appearance", underlined by a " lush, colorful equipment" and " in all timbres dazzling music."

The premiere on 25 June 1910 at the Paris Théâtre National de l' Opéra was conducted by Gabriel Pierné, the equipment came from Alexander Golovin and Léon Bakst. The Firebird danced Tamara Karsavina, Fokine himself the Tsarevich Ivan, his wife Vera Fokina the Princess Tsarevna and Enrico Cecchetti the Wizard Kastschej.

Stravinsky made ​​of the score later, several versions for concert performances:

Other productions


  • In the Disney film Fantasia 2000, the composition for one of the local short films music is used.
  • In the 1975 film The Little Humpbacked Horse incurred by Ivan Ivanov - Vano it comes to the young Ivan, who finds his fortune thanks to a humpbacked little horse. One of the main strands in the story is the catch of a dancing fire bird which is to be made to the Tsar as a present after he had seen a feather of the bird. Also has the Tsar Ivan later by the most beautiful woman in the world that is made after the victory over Ivan the Tsar for his wife.