The Creatures of Prometheus, Ballet, op. 43, Act One, Arranged for Piano
Author: Willem and Mark S. Zimmer
Picture by courtesy of Donna Dralle.|
More of her work can be found at http://www.graphixnow.com
This allegorical ballet is based on the myth of Prometheus. The Greek philosophers, who knew of him, elucidate the story in the following manner--they depict Prometheus as a lofty spirit who, finding the human beings of his time in a state of ignorance, refined them through art and knowledge and gave them laws of right conduct.
In accordance with this source, the ballet presents two animated statues who, by the power of harmony, are made susceptible to all the passions of human existence.
Prometheus takes them to Parnassus, to receive instruction from Apollo, god of the arts, who commands Amphion, Arion and Orpheus to teach them music, Melpomene and Thalia tragedy and comedy. Terpsichore aids Pan who introduces them to the Pastoral Dance which he has invented, and from Bacchus they learn invented, and from Baccus they learn his invention, the Heroic Dance.
The music is by Herr van Beethoven.
Ritorni wrote a commentary on Vigano's ballets, and he gives the following summary (which incidentally agrees with occasional stage directions LvB wrote in the sketches in Italian and German):
Overture: Pursued by the mighty wrath of Heaven, Prometheus enters, running through the forest towards his two clay-figures, to whose hearts he hastily applies the celestial fire.
Nr. 1 At the touch of the heavenly flame the statues acquire life and motion, and become man and woman.
Nr. 2 Prometheus, who has fallen exhausted onto a rock, recovers and is delighted at his success, but realizes that neither of the statues have reason for feeling. His loving gestures make no impression and they apathetically sink to the ground beneath a tree.
Nr. 3 The statues become hostile and moving around clumsily, try to escape from Prometheus, who finally seizes them and drags them away.
The scene is Mount Parnassus where Apollo is attended by the Muses, the Graces, Bacchus with his rout and Orpheus, with Amphion and Arion (a bold anachronism, since these three were not yet born).
Nr. 4 Prometheus appears and presents his children to Apollo in the hope that the god will instruct them in the arts and sciences.
Nr. 5 At a sign from Apollo, Euterpe begins to play, supported by Amphion; hearing their melodies, the youthful forms (i.e., the statues) show signs of responding to music and to the beauties of nature around them. Arion and Orpheus join in the consert and finally Apollo himself (presumably the god is a cellist).
Nr. 6 The statues, now awakened to human consciousness, move around animatedly in their exceitement and joy; when they recognize Prometheus, they run to embrace him.
Nr. 7 Terpsichore enters with the Graces, then Bacchus with his train.
Nr. 8 This is the warlike Bacchic dance. Aroused by the sight of weapons, the statues sieze them and are carried away by the desire for military glory. As they try to join in the dance, Melpomene (the Muse of Tragedy) intervenes.
Nr. 9 (subtitled in Beethoven's sketches "La muse tragique") Melpomene takes up a dagger and by mimed actions reveals to the new beings the harsh truth that every human life ends in death. As they recoil in horror, she rushes on Prometheus and stabs him, as punishment for his impiety in exposing his creations to the fate of mortality. In the sketch, Beethoven wrote over the final pp chords the words "Promethe mort" followed by "Les enfants pleurent."
Nr. 10 Presumably this is the rustic dance, led by Pan, during which Prometheus returns to life, while Thalia (the Muse of Comedy)holds masks before the weeping faces of the statues.
There is nothing in the surviving evidence to account for the sequence of movements nos. 11-14 except that no. 12 is marked solo di Gioja and no. 14 solo della Cassentini. Gaetano Gioja was a famous dancer who himself produced ballets, and Cassentini was a ballerina, so these numbers were probably solos for the male and female statues.
Nr. 15 This scene, with three sections is marked solo di Vigano. Surely the maitre de ballet would himself take the principal role and this penultimate number can be identified as the solo allotted to Prometheus.
Nr. 16 The grand Finale is a rondo on the theme used in the op. 35 piano variations and as the basis of the Eroica finale several years later. Although the chronology has been disputed, it seems that the first appearance of this theme was as nr. 7 of the 12 Contredanses, of which nr. 11 in G major is also used as an episode in the Prometheus rondo.
Thayer notes that the piano version presented here, Hess 90, was originally published by Artaria in 1801 as op. 24. That number is now allocated to the Violin Sonata in F (the "Spring" Sonata).