The Steadfast Tin Soldier, based loosely on a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, focuses on the wistful courtship and love between a tin soldier and a paper-doll ballerina. The work was commissioned by the Saratoga Performing Arts Center.
The present pas de deux stems from a 1955 collaboration in which Balanchine, Francisco Moncion, and Barbara Milberg choreographed all of Bizet’s Jeux d’Enfants. Both the context and the woman’s variation of The Steadfast Tin Soldier were derived from this earlier work. The soldier’s variation was restaged for the new pas de deux.
Georges Bizet (1838-1875) is best known for Carmen, one of the most successful operas ever written. However, he had more success in his lifetime with non-operatic works. He was an excellent pianist, and wrote many pieces for that instrument, including Jeux d’Enfants. Many of the operas Bizet wrote, with the exceptions of Carmen and The Pearl Fishers, were destroyed by the composer or never finished.