Jewels is unique: a full-length, three-act plotless ballet that uses the music of three very different composers. Balanchine was inspired by the artistry of jewelry designer Claude Arpels, and chose music revealing the essence of each jewel. He explained: “Of course, I have always liked jewels; after all, I am an Oriental, from Georgia in the Caucasus. I like the color of gems, the beauty of stones, and it was wonderful to see how our costume workshop, under Karinska’s direction, came so close to the quality of real stones (which were of course too heavy for the dancers to wear!).”
Each section of the ballet is distinct in both music and mood. Emeralds, which Balanchine considered “an evocation of France — the France of elegance, comfort, dress, perfume,” recalls the 19th century dances of the French Romantics. Rubies is crisp and witty, epitomizing the collaboration of Stravinsky and Balanchine. Diamonds recalls the order and grandeur of Imperial Russia and the Maryinsky Theater, where Balanchine was trained. Mary Clarke and Clement Crisp have written: “If the entire imperial Russian inheritance of ballet were lost, Diamonds would still tell us of its essence.”
Gabriel Urbain Fauré (1845-1924), was Maurice Ravel’s teacher, and his life and work bridged the eras of Romanticism and Impressionism. He wrote piano and chamber music as well as incidental music for plays such as Pelléas et Mélisande and Shylock; he composed operas and many songs set to the words of French poets of the late nineteenth century, especially Verlaine.
Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971), born in Russia, is acknowledged as one of the great composers of the twentieth century. His work encompassed styles as diverse as Romanticism, Neoclassicism and Serialism. His ballets for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes included The Firebird, Petrushka, The Rite of Spring, and Apollo. His music has been used in over 30 ballets originating with New York City Ballet from 1948 through 1987, including Danses Concertantes, Orpheus, The Cage, Agon, Monumentum pro Gesualdo, Rubies, Symphony in Three Movements, Stravinsky Violin Concerto, Concerto for Two Solo Pianos, Suite from L’Histoire du Soldat, Concertino, and Jeu de Cartes.
Peter Ilyitch Tschaikovsky (1840-1893) studied at the Conservatory in St. Petersburg, where Balanchine later studied piano in addition to his studies in dance. Tschaikovsky is one of the most popular and influential of all romantic composers. His work is expressive, melodic, grand in scale, with rich orchestrations. His output was prodigious and included chamber works, symphonies, concerti for various instruments, operas, and works for the piano. His creations for the ballet, composed in close partnership with Marius Petipa, include Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, and The Sleeping Beauty.