Posted on 31 January 2018 By Rose Mulready

The story of Graeme Murphy's Firebird is a strange and wonderful tale of good and evil, enchantments, love and malice.

The original ballet of The Firebird, first performed by Serge Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, was a collaboration between Diaghilev, the composer Igor Stravinsky and the choreographer Michel Fokine. The scenario, by Alexandre Benois, amalgamated Russian fairytales to bring together the magical Firebird with the wicked magician Kostchei.

Graeme Murphy's version follows Benois' scenario closely; Murphy's distinctive movement and Leon Krasenstein's vibrant design bring a modernity to the tale that Diaghilev, himself a champion of the avant garde and an orchestrator of explosive cultural moments, would surely have appreciated. Murphy also introduces a subtle twist to the ending: instead of good triumphing decisively, the seeds of evil are seen within the garden even in the moment of victory. The battle between these forces is circular, and one can never entirely overcome the other.

Here's the story as told by Murphy in his synopsis of the ballet.

Firebird can be seen in our Murphy program - or as a lunchtime culture break in Sydney.

The evil Kostchei dominates a barren and wintry world.

Chengwu Guo. Photography Alex Makayev

The only warmth and light is generated by the magical Firebird. When Ivan Tsarevich enters this icy realm and encounters the Firebird, his hunter desire wants only to capture this exotic creature. He succeeds, and when the Firebird begs to be released, he acquiesces in exchange for her gift – a magical feather. This feather is to become his talisman.

Lana Jones and Kevin Jackson. Photography Alex Makayev

Kostchei has enslaved the very souls of his subjects, among them the princesses whom Ivan encounters.

Kevin Jackson, Dana Stephensen and Vivienne Wong. Photography Alex Makayev

Encaged in their midst is one, Tsarevna, whom he must free, if he is to experience a love that could break Kostchei’s hold.

Kevin Jackson and Danielle Rowe. Photography Alex Makayev

In the inevitable battle that ensues, it is the Firebird who enables Ivan to overcome Kostchei and release the entrapped souls. On this elliptical journey, once again the garden blooms – but even in Eden, hidden within, a spectre of evil has already built its nest …

Lana Jones, Kevin Jackson and Danielle Rowe/ Danielle Rowe and Kevin Jackson. Photography Alex Makayev