A monumental work that is both powerful and raw, Les Noces is grounded in the Russian-Jewish folk themes of Stravinsky’s score and features a full choir and four onstage grand pianos.
Stravinsky’s Les Noces was first performed in Paris in 1923, in Bronislava Nijinska’s legendary staging for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. The libretto for the ballet depicts a Russian wedding in four scenes: The Blessing of the Bride, The Blessing of the Bridegroom, The Bride’s Departure from Her Parent’s House, and The Wedding Feast.
Stravinsky used the ritualistic elements found in the ancient customs and traditions of Russian peasant weddings as material for Les Noces. The text is adapted from folk songs and popular verses. In 1965, Jerome Robbins created his staging of Les Noces for American Ballet Theatre, in a monumental production featuring set designs by Oliver Smith, with the musicians including four pianists, six percussionists, four solo voices, and full chorus — sharing the stage with the dancers.
In 1998, as the last work before his death, Robbins re-staged Les Noces for New York City Ballet in a new production, set to a recorded version of the score by the Pokrovsky Ensemble, a group of classically trained Russian singers performing the piece in a traditional folk style. For the Jerome Robbins Celebration in 2008, NYCB remounted Robbins’ Les Noces in its original 1965 staging with live onstage musicians.