The Seasons

Ballet allégorique in one act
Music by Alexander Glazunov

World Première
20th February [O.S. 7th February] 1900
Imperial Theatre of the Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

Original 1900 Cast
Alexei Bulgakov

Anna Pavlova

Julia Sedova

Vera Trefilova

Lyubov Petipa

Nikolai Legat

The Rose
Olga Probrazhenskaya

The Swallow
Varvara Rykhlyakova

The Spirit of the Corn
Matilda Kschessinskaya

The Faun
Mikhail Obukhov

The Satyrs
Alexander Gorsky
Alexander Shiryaev

Pavel Gerdt

Marie Petipa

Frost, Ice, Hail and Snow press tightly around harsh Winter. Frost weaves its lace, Ice drifts and Hail patters. Two grey-haired gnomes emerge from the forest. They set fire to the brushwood and drive off Winter with its hot flames. The first breaths of Spring merge with Zephyr’s warm wind. The birds and flowers lovingly surround Spring. Summer approaches. The Sun heats the earth with its bright rays. Curly-headed cornflowers and scarlet poppies circle in a waltz, as if embracing the ripe ears of rye. The sounds of a reed pipe are heard. Satyrs and fauns come running. They begin to struggle with each other as they try to carry off the Spirit of the Corn, but Zephyr comes to the rescue and the Spirit is saved. Autumn arrives and with it the grape harvest. Satyrs and bacchantes perform elaborate dances, drawing in everyone around.

Pavel Gerdt as Bacchus and Marie Petipa as Bacchante (1900)
Pavel Gerdt as Bacchus and Marie Petipa as Bacchante (1900)

The Seasons was the second of the three ballets created by Petipa for the 1900-1901 season at the Hermitage Theatre, commissioned by Ivan Vsevolozhsky. The ballet is a plotless ballet divertissement that represents the four seasons through Petipa’s classical formula of danced tableaux. The music was composed by Alexander Glazunov, though it had been originally planned that Riccardo Drigo would compose The Seasons, while Glazunov would compose the third ballet of the trilogy Harlequinade. However, the two composers and friends agreed that Glazunov should compose The Seasons, while Drigo should compose Harlequinade.

The Seasons premièred on the 20th February [O.S. 7th February] 1900 at the Hermitage Theatre, with the entire Imperial Court in attendance.

Julia Sedova as Ice (1900)
Julia Sedova as Ice (1900)

In 1907, Petipa’s version of The Seasons was revived by Nikolai Legat and premièred at the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre with Olga Preobrazhenskaya as the Spirit of the Corn, Vera Trefilova as the Rose, Georgy Kyaksht as the Faun and Anna Pavlova as Bacchante. Legat’s production was performed on occasion by the Imperial Ballet after the Russian Revolution. The ballet was performed for the final time by the company in 1927.

The Seasons was made famous in the west when Mikhail Fokine choreographed and staged a new version of the Bacchanale and inserted into his ballet Cléopâtre, which premièred at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris. Fokine’s Bacchanale was for six Dionysus priestesses, two Corybantes and two Silenes and was first performed by Vera Fokina and Sophia Fedorova as the leading dancers. In 1910, Fokine presented his edition of the Bacchanale at the Hall of the Assembly of the Nobility in Saint Petersburg, performed by Anna Pavlova and Laurent Novikov. Pavlova included Fokine’s Bacchanale in her company’s repertoire, with the role of Bacchante being one of her favourite roles.

Alexander Gorsky as a Satyr (1900)
Alexander Gorsky as a Satyr (1900)

The Seasons has been presented in various productions all over the world and Glazunov’s music has even been used in popular culture. For example, the Autumn Bacchanale is used as the introductory music for the BBC’s annual Richard Dimbleby Lectures. Part of the Adagio from the Autumn tableaux was used by Guy Mauffette as the musical theme for the long-running Radio-Canada soap opera Un homme et son péché (1939-1962) and its later adaptation for television Les Belles Histoires des pays d’en haut (1956-1970).


Related pages




  • Garafola, Lynn (1989) Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. USA: 1998 ed. Da Capro Press, Inc.
  • Nijinska, Bronislava, (1992) Bronislava Nijinska: Early Memoirs. Translated ed. by Irina Nijinska and Jean Rawlinson. Duke University Press Books

Photos and images: © Dansmuseet, Stockholm © Большой театр России © Victoria and Albert Museum, London © Государственный академический Мариинский театр © CNCS/Pascal François © Bibliothèque nationale de France © Musée l’Opéra © Colette Masson/Roger-Viollet © АРБ имени А. Я. Вагановой © Михаил Логвинов © Михайловский театр, фотограф Стас Левшин. Партнёры проекта: СПбГБУК «Санкт-Петербургская государственная Театральная библиотека». ФГБОУВО «Академия русского балета имени А. Я. Вагановой» СПбГБУК «Михайловский театр». Михаил Логвинов, фотограф. Martine Kahane.