The Firebird takes flight

Photography Ross Brown

How we treat one another and how we care about the world for the next generations is at the forefront of the newly commissioned Royal New Zealand Ballet (RNZB) production of The Firebird which will soar across the country in July and August.

Paired for the national tour with the dazzling Russian classic PaquitaThe Firebird is created for a new time and a new generation by RNZB Choreographer in Residence and multi-award-winning choreographer for stage and screen Loughlan Prior. 

Following the triumph of his Hansel and Gretel in 2019, Artistic Director Patricia Barker invited Prior to create a new production with fresh ideas for the fantastical fairy tale set in a mystical world.  

Barker says, “How we treat one another and how we care about the world for the next generations is at the forefront of our new production. Loughlan has dived into the world of The Firebird and the magic of Stravinsky’s score and has created a work that brings us closer to our own humanity.” 

First staged in Paris in 1910, The Firebird changed the direction of ballet and catapulted Stravinsky to star status. Together with designer Tracy Grant Lord, Prior’s The Firebird is one in which the natural world is threatened and humanity is staring into the abyss of extinction. Captured, the Firebird – a fertility goddess with magical powers – offers the possibility of redemption, if only humankind is brave enough to follow her.   

Prior says, “The Firebird draws on the beauty of the earth at its most elemental, the vastness of the cosmos and the impact – both good and evil – of humans on our precious world.” 

Generations of choreographers have been inspired by the elemental power of Stravinsky’s music, and by the Firebird herself – a timeless, untamable force. In the iconic and spine-tingling score, sinuous melodies spiked with shimmering orchestration create an exotic universe full of wild enchantment that was worlds away from the classics of Russian ballet. 

The RNZB has paired The Firebird with the Russian classic, Paquita – two very different kinds of ballet. Paquita, first staged in 1846, is a scintillating romp in which the dancers’ classical technique takes centre stage. This one-act version features sparkling tutus inspired by Russian master jeweller Fabergé, fleet footwork, soaring leaps, turns like spinning tops, and a finale which leaves the audience as breathless and exhilarated as the dancers themselves. Paquita will be staged by RNZB Artistic Director Patricia Barker.

The Firebird with Paquita will tour Aotearoa from 29 July to 2 September. Tickets are available here.

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