Composers in Focus


Léon Bakst (1866-1924). Character portrait of Tamara Karsavina and Michel Fokine in L’Oiseau de Feu, 1915. Watercolor and pencil. Howard D. Rothschild Collection. pf MS Thr 414.4 (13). Bequest, 1989.

L’Oiseau de Feu

The first Ballets Russes piece with music specifically composed for the company’s premiere, L’Oiseau de Feu represents the beginning of the fruitful collaboration between Stravinsky and Diaghilev and is also the first of many Ballets Russes works inspired or based on Russian folk tales. 

This enchanting drawing shows Michel Fokine as Ivan Tsarevitch together with Tamara Karsavina as the Firebird, in the 1910 ballet that was to bring Stravinsky to the world’s notice. This is not a costume design, but rather an after-the-fact rendering showing the ballet’s two leading characters in an interesting arrangement, and using color palette of yellows and reds.