Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Nijinsky and Afternoon of a Faun

Many of you are probably quite familiar with Claude Debussy’s lovely Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun, or perhaps even with the poem by Stephane Mallarme on which it is based. But did you know that this work is also a ballet? Today we’ll learn how Mallarme’s 1876 poem and Debussy’s 1894 score inspired ballet legend Vaslav Nijinsky to choreograph his first ballet in 1912.

Vaslav Nijinsky as the Faun
Courtesy of
Nijinsky worked alongside Jean Cocteau in creating what became a scandalous ballet. Cocteau wrote the ballet scenario, as Nijinsky admitted to never having read the French poem by Mallarme. The ballet was created for Diaghilev’s famous Ballets Russe in Paris. Like the ballets we discussed last week, this premiere also caused a scandal, Nijinsky not hesitating to incorporate the sensual side of the faun after he encounters several nymphs who leave behind a veil.

Did you know that Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring began as a ballet? Find out more next time on Clef Notes! 

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