The 1929 premiere of Prodigal Son opened what was to be the last Paris season of Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. The story of Prodigal Son comes from the parable in the Gospel According to St. Luke. Kochno added much dramatic material and, to emphasize the themes of sin and redemption, ended the story with the prodigal’s return. When the ballet was revived in 1950, the title role was danced by Jerome Robbins.
Balanchine’s choreography upset Prokofiev, who conducted the premiere. The composer had envisioned a production that was “real”; his concept of the Siren, whom he saw as demure, differed radically from Balanchine’s. Prokofiev refused to pay Balanchine royalties for his choreography. However, Prodigal Son was enthusiastically received by both audiences and critics, and was one of the first of Balanchine’s ballets to achieve an international reputation.
Sergei Sergeyevich Prokofiev (1891-1953) was a leading Soviet composer and a brilliant pianist. He left Russia in 1918 and lived in Germany and Paris for the next sixteen years, with frequent trips to America for concert appearances. In 1934 he settled in Moscow and composed prolifically until his death. Among his better known works are the ballet scores Romeo and Juliet, Cinderella, and The Prodigal Son; the opera Love for Three Oranges; the children’s classic Peter and the Wolf; and the film score and cantata for Alexander Nevsky.