Rahul Sharma

Polovtsian Dances

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Polovtsian Dances

The Polovtsian Dances, or Polovetsian Dances (Russian: Половецкие пляски, Polovetskie plyaski from the Russian "Polovtsy"—the name given to the Kipchaks and Cumans by the Rus' people) form an exotic scene at the end of Act II of Alexander Borodin's opera Prince Igor.

Contents

The work remained unfinished when the composer died in 1887, although he had worked on it for more than a decade. A performing version was prepared by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Alexander Glazunov, appearing in 1890. Several other versions, or "completions," of the opera have been made. The dances are performed with chorus and last between 11 and 14 minutes. They occur in Act I or Act II, depending on which version of the opera is being used. Their music is popular and sometimes given in concert as an orchestral showpiece. At such performances the choral parts are often omitted. The opera also has a "Polovtsian March," which opens Act III, and an overture at the start. When the dances are given in concert, a suite may be formed: Overture, Polovtsian Dances and March from "Prince Igor."

Ballets Russes performances

As part of his first "Saison Russe" at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, Sergei Diaghilev presented Polovtsian Scenes and Dances, consisting of Act II of Prince Igor, with full orchestra and singers. The premiere took place on 18 May 1909. The choreography was by Michel Fokine and the sets and costumes were designed by Nicholas Roerich. In later seasons, without singers, the work was given as The Polovtsian Dances. For the 1923 season, it was partly re-choreographed by Bronislava Nijinska.

Analysis

The first dance, which uses no chorus and is sometimes omitted in concerts, is No. 8, entitled "Dance of the Polovtsian Maidens" ["Пляска половецких девушек"]: presto, 6/8, F major; it is placed directly after the "Chorus of the Polovtsian Maidens," which opens the act and is followed by "Konchakovna's Cavatina". The dances proper appear at the end of the Act as an uninterrupted single number in several contrasting sections listed as follows (basic themes are indicated with letters in brackets and notated in the accompanying illustration)

  • No. 17, "Polovtsian Dance with Chorus" ["Половецкая пляска с хором"]
  • [a] Introduction: Andantino, 4/4, A major
  • [b] Gliding Dance of the Maidens [Пляска девушек плавная]: Andantino, 4/4, A major
  • [c + a] Wild Dance of the Men [Пляска мужчин дикая]: Allegro vivo, 4/4, F major
  • [d] General Dance [Общая пляска]: Allegro, 3/4, D major
  • [e] Dance of the Boys [Пляска мальчиков] and 2nd Dance of the Men [Пляска мужчин]: Presto, 6/8, D minor
  • [b’ + e’] Gliding Dance of the Maidens (reprise, soon combined with the faster dancing of the boys): Moderato alla breve, 2/2, A major
  • [e’’] Dance of the Boys and 2nd Dance of the Men (reprise): Presto, 6/8, D minor
  • [c’ + a’’] General Dance: Allegro con spirito, 4/4, A major
  • Notable instrumental solos include the clarinet (in No. 8 and the Men's Dance [c]) and the oboe and English horn (in the Women's Dance [b]).

    Translation

    The text of the first stanza of this particular section in the opera is given below.

    The English translation of the remaining is:

    POLOVTSIANS
    Sing songs of praise to the Khan! Sing!
    Praise the power and valor of the Khan!
    Praise the glorious Khan!
    He is glorious, our Khan!
    In the brilliance of his glory,
    The Khan is equal to the sun!
    There is none equal to the Khan in glory, None!
    The Khan female slaves praise the Khan,
    Their Khan!

    KONCHAK [the Khan]
    Do you see the captives
    From the distant sea;
    Do you see my beauties,
    From beyond the Caspian Sea?
    Oh, tell me, friend,
    Tell me just one word:
    If you want to,
    I will give you anyone of them.

    POLOVTSIANS
    Sing songs of praise to the Khan! Sing!
    Praised be his generosity, praised be his mercy!
    Praise him!
    To his enemies the Khan is merciless
    He, our Khan!
    Who may equal the Khan in glory, who?
    In the brilliance of his glory,
    He is equal to the sun!
    Our Khan, Khan Konchak, is equal
    In glory to his forefathers!
    The terrible Khan Konchak is equal
    In glory to his forefathers! Glorious is our Khan Konchak!
    Glory, glory!

    ALL THE SLAVES
    (Repeats the opening stanza)

    POLOVTSIANS
    Our Khan, Khan Konchak, is equal
    In glory to his forefathers!
    The grim Khan Konchak is equal
    In glory to his forefathers!
    Glory, glory to Khan Konchak!
    Khan Konchak!
    With your dancing entertain the Khan,
    Dance to entertain the Khan, slaves!
    Your Khan!
    Dance to entertain the Khan, slaves!
    Your Khan!
    With your dancing entertain the Khan!
    Entertain with dancing!
    Our Khan Konchak!

    References

    Polovtsian Dances Wikipedia


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