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The Price of Being an Artist

Ice Maiden Video Shoot

Opening tonight, A Dancer’s Dream is what director/designer Doug Fitch calls an “über Fairy Tale,” combining Stravinsky’s disparate ballets The Fairy’s Kiss and Petrushka to create a new narrative.

Here’s the story: a young woman, played by ballerina Sara Mearns, sits entranced at a Philharmonic concert. She is “kissed” by the passion to become an artist and drawn into the performance, dancing to the complete score of The Fairy’s Kiss. By the second act, she has completed her transformation into an artist, becoming Columbine in Petrushka. But becoming an artist has consequences. As Giants Are Small detailed in a production plan, “she loses her ability to have an ordinary life as the demons of ambition and love claim her as their plaything.”

The real Sara Mearns can relate. As she told The New York Times, "It's kind of true that you have this massive dream to be this ballerina, to be out there onstage performing, and you pour everything into it. Then there is a point where you feel like you are trapped in it and cannot get out. And that is the curse.”

Stravinsky meditated on this theme in The Fairy’s Kiss, which he dedicated to Tchaikovsky, an artist who paid this price (“Tchaikovsky’s personal life was a mess,” Mr. Fitch says in the Times). As Stravinsky inscribed in the score: “I dedicate this ballet to the memory of Pyotr Tchaikovsky by relating the Fairy to his Muse, and in this way the ballet becomes an allegory, the Muse having similarly branded Tchaikovsky with her fatal kiss, whose mysterious imprint made itself felt in all this great artist’s work.”

Petrushka, Three Ways

Bernstein Petrushka Score

This week’s performances of A Dancer’s Dream  will bring Stravinsky's Petrushka to the stage in a way that hasn't been seen before at the New York Philharmonic. And that's saying something, as over the years the Orchestra has presented more than 60 performances of the commedia dell’arte fantasy in various incarnations, including an arrangement for four pianos. Three such incarnations sit in the Digital Archives, all marked by Leonard Bernstein to different degrees of thoroughness. You can browse all three here.

Who's on First?

Mr. Met

Alan Gilbert on the mound … Behind him, the New York Philharmonic … Skipper Joe Torre looks on from the dugout … Mariah Carey steps into the batter’s box … Home run! Everyone wins when this stellar lineup assembles for the 2013 MLB All-Star Charity Concert — especially Superstorm Sandy Relief, the event’s beneficiary. The concert — on Central Park’s Great Lawn on Saturday, July 13, three days before the All-Star Game at Citi Field — is free, but tickets are required. Visit AllStarGame.com/Concert for general-admission seating beginning this Wednesday, June 26.

If you can’t wait, you can get V.I.P. tix today by showing some love for the Phil. New donors giving $500 or more to the New York Philharmonic can receive two (or more) seats in a special section close to the stage. Tickets are limited so step up to the plate now! Check out the details here.

Extra! Extra!

New York Times A Dancer's Dream

“It’s kind of true that you have this massive dream to be this ballerina, to be out there onstage performing, and you pour everything into it. Then there is a point where you feel like you are trapped in it and cannot get out. And that is the curse.” — Sara Mearns

Dance writer Gia Kourlas presents a peek behind the curtain of A Dancer's Dream in this past Sunday's New York Times. Sara Mearns, Doug Fitch, and Karole Armitage spoke with Gia about all-things Dream, including the narrative that will tie together Stravinsky's The Fairy's Kiss and Petrushka.

(Photo: Sara Krulwich/The New York Times)

VIDEOS: The Unspoken Side of Show Business

A casting agent walks into a production studio. Hired on the spot, he's tasked with casting a critical role in A Dancer's Dream. Follow his adventures as he contends with Siri, networks with Sara Mearns, and pumps up the virality in Giants Are Small's five-part "documentary" series.

Deciphering the Dream

Deciphering the Dream

"Tonight, our story unfolds as a kind of über Fairy Tale, connecting two great ballets by Stravinsky,” explains  Doug Fitch,  director/designer of A Dancer's Dream, in a note for Playbill: “The thread that weaves them all together takes the form of a young woman who slips into the world of her own imagination and is swept away by muses to become a ballerina.

"The Fairy’s Kiss is based on a haunting story by Hans Christian Andersen (The Ice Maiden) and was composed by Stravinsky as an homage to Tchaikovsky. Stravinsky saw the ‘kiss’ as a metaphor for the artistic gift — that mysterious, intangible phenomenon that can bestow immortality, but not without extracting its human price. We have merged these into a kind of daydream — a reverie induced by the seductive and transformative power of great music…. She then enters into the world of the Shrovetide Fair-setting of Petrushka and becomes the puppet ballerina character Columbine. Things in this daydream seem to have real consequences and it is hard to distinguish the artifice from the reality it is designed to imitate.

"After its premiere, Stravinsky said that dance is not applied arts — it is a union of arts; they strengthen and complement each other. It is in this spirit of developing a union between artistic media — some old, some new — that we have pursued this project…. We invite you to enter this world with us — to put together the pieces in your own mind and to weave your own stories as you watch and listen. You are very much a part of this collaboration."

(Photo of A Dancer’s Dream rehearsal courtesy of Giants Are Small)

SLIDESHOW: A Dancer's Rehearsal

Exactly two weeks before A Dancer’s Dream, we found New York City Ballet principal dancers Sara Mearns and Amar Ramasar hard at work rehearsing and preparing with choreographer Karole Armitage and director/designer Doug Fitch with his Giants Are Small crew.

Photos by Chris Lee.

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