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George Balanchine


Igor Stravinsky, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, & Gabriel Fauré
2 hours and 4 minutes

Program Notes

It’s said that a visit to famed French jewelers Van Cleef & Arpels piqued George Balanchine’s imagination. Who knew that those tiny light refracting brilliant bursts of color from some of the world’s most sought-after gemstones would inspire one of Balanchine’s most revered ballets?

In Jewels, each gemstone suggests contrasting moods and situations. When the ballet premiered in April 1967 at the new New York State Theater (now the Koch) at Lincoln Center, Balanchine evoked these moods in terms of dance styles and musical characteristics associated with the countries of its three composers. “Emeralds,” set to music by the French composer Gabriel Fauré, is gracious, elegant, languorous. “Rubies,” to the music of Russo-American Igor Stravinsky, is a spirited jazz essay, brash and irreverent. “Diamonds,” set to music by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, is reminiscent of Marius Petipa’s Mariinsky ballet.


Each ballet was dominated by its lead ballerina. In “Emeralds,” Violette Verdy, was known for her supremely witty musicality; Patricia McBride’s teasing sauciness made sparks fly in “Rubies”; and the astounding Suzanne Farrell, at the time Balanchine’s primary instrument for reinventing the hallmarks of classical ballet, blazed in “Diamonds”.

“Emeralds,” the first ballet in this full-evening trilogy, is remarkable for its mysterious and plangent romanticism. It is the quietest – and, to some viewers, the most profound – section of Jewels. The Fauré music Balanchine chose to employ is distinguished by a seamless haunting fluidity.

“Rubies” spotlights a small female with a big personality and her dynamo partner, a role created for the amazing pyrotechnics of Edward Villella. The couple flirt and compete with each another, engaging in provocative clashes and amorous contests as Balanchine exhibits a full array of what dance critic Deborah Jowitt called his “Stravinsky” steps: “The pinup-girl poses, the jutting hips, the legs that swing down and up like scythes, the paw-hands, the prances, the big quick lunges, the flexed feet, the heelwalks.” Sensational!

“Diamonds” – to Tchaikovsky at his grandest -- represents Balanchine’s homage to the classicism of late 19th century Imperial Russia. Whereas, “Emeralds” showcased two couples, and “Rubies” a playful pair, “Diamonds” – majestic and daring – is the ultimate statement of Balanchine’s famous credo, “Ballet is woman.”

Miami City Ballet's original production of the full-length Jewels was underwritten by Texaco.

Special thanks to Ophelia and Juan Js. Roca, who underwrote the original and newly refurbished Tony Walton sets for Jewels.

Miami City Ballet premiere on November 22, 1992 at the Raymond F. Kravis Center for the Performing Arts; West Palm Beach, Florida.

“The performance of Jewels a Balanchine® Ballet, is presented by arrangement with The George Balanchine Trust and has been produced in accordance with the Balanchine Style® and Balanchine Technique®, Service Standards established and provided by The Trust.”

Ballet Credits

Choreography by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust

Music for Emeralds by Gabriel Fauré*

Music for Rubies by Igor Stravinsky**

Music for Diamonds by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky***

Staged by Miami City Ballet

Principal coaching for Emeralds and Diamonds by Merrill Ashley

Principal coaching for Rubies by Bart Cook

Scenic Design by Tony Walton

Scenery built by I. Weiss

Costumes original design by Karinska

Lighting Design by John Hall

*Pelléas et Mélisande and Shylock

** Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra (1929), by arrangement with Boosey & Hawkes, Inc., publisher and copyright owner

***Symphony No. 3 in D major