Almost 100 years ago, late in the summer of 1919, Igor Stravinsky began composing the ballet Pulcinella for chamber orchestra and three solo singers. It was premiered by the Ballet Russes at the Paris Opera on May 15, 1920. The dancer Léonide Massine created both the libretto and choreography, and Pablo Picasso designed the original costumes and sets. The ballet was commissioned by Sergei Diaghilev. The ballet score was later revised in 1922 by Stravinsky, creating the Pulcinella Suite for orchestra.
Pulcinella marked the beginning to Stravinsky’s second phase as a composer, his neoclassical period. The ballet is based on on an 18th-century play Quartre Polichinelles semblables (Four identical Pulcinellas). For all its importance to Stravinsky’s musical development, the idea for Pulcinella was not his, but that of the great Russian impresario Sergei Diaghilev. In 1919, Diaghilev proposed that Stravinsky take a look at some eighteenth-century scores with the idea of orchestrating them for a ballet. “When he said that the composer was Pergolesi, I thought he must be deranged,” Stravinsky later remembered, but he did promise to at least consider the idea.
“I looked, and I fell in love,” the composer recalled. Diaghilev showed Stravinsky a manuscript dating from 1700 which he had found in Italy; the subject of its many comic episodes was Pulcinella, the traditional hero of the Neapolitan commedia dell’arte, and a perfect fit for their own eighteenth-century ballet. Stravinsky later wrote that “Pulcinella was my discovery of the past, the epiphany through which the whole of my late work became possible. It was a backward look, of course—the first of many love affairs in that direction—but it was a look in the mirror, too.”
Pulcinella was a huge success –“one of those productions,” the composer reported, “where everything harmonizes, where all the elements―subject, music, dancing, and artistic setting―form a coherent and homogeneous whole.”
The concert dates and locations for Pulcinella will be announced in 2018.
We are pleased that we can already announce the Equilibrium artists that will be part of the Pulcinella concerts:
Australian mezzo-soprano Kate Howden studied at Trinity Laban with Ameral Gunson, the Royal Academy of Music with Elizabeth Ritchie and the National Opera Studio. Recent opera roles include title role/Cendrillon, Isolier (Le Comte Ory) and Carlotta (La scuola de’gelosi). Soloist performances include the complete mélodies of Duparc at the Machynlleth Festival with Sachika Taniyama, Mark Antony Turnage’s one-woman Twice Through the Heart with Shadwell Opera and Scottish Opera’s Opera Highlights tour. Kate works often with the Australian contemporary circus group Circa in their show Il Ritorno, which to date has toured to Luxembourg, France and Canada.
Born in Sussex, tenor James Way was winner of 2nd Prize in the 62nd Kathleen Ferrier Awards at Wigmore Hall. He was awarded the 2016 Simon Sandbach Award from Garsington Opera, an Independent Opera Voice Fellowship, and is a former Britten-Pears Young Artist. James is a member of Les Arts Florissants young artist programme Le Jardin des Voix and has also been awarded the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment’s Rising Stars prize for the 2017-2018 season. He studied at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama and continues his studies with Susan Waters.
Antoin Herrera-Lopez Kessel
Antoin Herrera-Lopez Kessel hails from Havana, Cuba, where he studied classical and contemporary dance at the National School of Arts in Havana, and later Engineering and Mathematics at university. He moved to France where he studied opera at Besançon Conservatoire and subsequently at the National Superior Conservatory in Lyon. He performed the Mozart roles including Guglielmo and Leporello, after completing a Mozart residency at the Festival d’Aix en Provence. He is passionate about neoclassicism in music, and some of his favorite works are Stravinsky’s Les Noces and Kurt Weill’s Seven Deadly Sins. He also trains actively in volleyball.