First Impressions: Daphnis et Chloe by the Ballets Russes (1914)

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The Independent Culture

The important event of the evening was the first performance in England of Maurice Ravel's Daphnis et Chloé, conducted by M. Monteux.

It is an idyll in which the stage pictures of Chloé carried away by robbers, of her recovery by the intervention of Pan and Syrinx, have served to stimulate the composer's imagination, and now act primarily as the link which puts the imagination of the hearers into contact with the spirit of the music. This does not mean that the music is unimportant, but that the beauty of the scenes, the poses of the groups of Grecian figures, the dances of the individuals, the masses of youths and maidens, and of the pirates, seem to take their places primarily as illustrations of the symphonic poem played by the orchestra.

As the music is of such importance, M. Ravel's complaint in his letter to The Times yesterday must carry weight. He may well object to the omission of the chorus since the ballet is being given in a theatre possessing a fine stage choir. The loss of choral colour is most felt in the passage linking the first scene in the grove of Pan with the second in the camp of the pirates.

The dances of the pirates are more on the lines of ordinary ballet, and while they are full of an unbounded vitality they are the least original part. Mme Karsavina's appeal for freedom was an extraordinarily appealing piece of acting and the scattering of the pirates when the Vision of Pan appeared was wonderfully effective. But with the return to the sleeping Daphnis we get back to the main interest of the work in an exquisite piece of orchestration picturing the dawn and the gradual awakening of the world to fresh life. The dancing of M. Fokine as Daphnis matched that of Mme Karsavina in its grace and suppleness and their scene of reunion had a joyousness which seemed the exact counterpart to the rich melody and orchestral colour of the music to which it belongs.