Ivan is instructed to destroy the giant egg containing the ogre's soul, and Kastchei’s power vanishes. A solo horn, intoning the score's most-famous folk tune, announces the joyful arrival of sunlight. Together with Ivan and his betrothed, the rescued captives celebrate with music that swells and rings out in glorious triumph. The Firebird clearly shows Stravinsky on the cusp of a new world, mixing the orchestral mastery of his Russian mentors with the rhythmic vitality of the revolutionary about to burst out of his shell.
Thomas May writes and lectures about music and theater and is a
frequent contributor to Los Angeles Philharmonic programs.
The ballet, written in 1910, is based on a Russian folk tale about
Prince Ivan, who is lost in an enchanted forest belonging to the
immortal, evil ogre Katschai. The prince aids the Firebird, a
nondescript, red bird, who in return gives him one of its
magic feathers. As the tale concludes, Prince Ivan, with
the help of the Firebird, destroys the ogre, thus
releasing the spellbound kingdom, including his beloved Princess Elena.
Listen and Draw Lesson Igor Stravinsky’s The Firebird can be used to explore the connection between music and story. Stravinsky knew the traditional Russian folktale, the Firebird, when he wrote the music for the ballet and the subsequent orchestral suite. Each of the 6 sections of the Firebird Suite evokes a radically different mood that illustrates the action of the story. These contrasting sections can be used for a listening and drawing project.
MATERIALS NEEDED: Biography of Stravinsky Firebird story in six sections LISTEN AND DRAW worksheets (a paper divided into 6 boxes) Firebird Suite (1919) CD. Optional: pictures of each section
PROCESS: 1. Briefly discuss the life of Stravinsky. 2. Play 1-2 minutes of each section of the Firebird Suite. As they listen, the students draw whatever characters and actions they imagine in the appropriate section of their LISTEN AND DRAW worksheet.
(This worksheet is a paper divided into six boxes to draw those images in which to create their own story for the music. The result is like an over- sized comic strip, but without any words.) Play each 1-2 minute excerpt twice to give the students time to draw. The sections might connect into a story or each section can stand alone.
3. When finished, let the students tell their stories to one another, 2 by 2.
4. Ask the students to find one word that describes each section and make a list on the board of student words. Discuss similarities and differences in the mood of the words.
5. For another music class, do the following for each of the 6 sections: Show the Firebird story picture (if available) Listen to the music again, Read their one-word descriptions Then read the story. Discuss similarities with the Firebird story and their own stories.
6. Extension: Have the students write out the action for each of the sections to create a written version of their story.