Comic Ballet in Two Acts

Choreography by Alexei Ratmansky
Staged by Tatiana Ratmansky
Libretto by Adrian Piotrovsky and Fyodor Lopukhov
Music by Dmitri Shostakovich (The Bright Stream, Op. 39)
Scenery by Ilya Utkin
Costumes by Elena Markovskaya
Lighting by Brad Fields

Act I

Scene 1: Early Afternoon

It is autumn in the steppes of the North Caucasus. Zina, a local amusements organizer, buries her head in a book while her husband, Pyotr, tries to distract her, inducing the others to share in his efforts – Gavrilych, the collective farm activist; Galya, the school-girl, with her friends; and two dacha dwellers, an elderly man and his anxious-to-be-younger-than-she-is wife. They await the arrival of a train carrying a brigade of famous artists to take part in the harvest festival.

After they arrive, Zina hails the ballet dancer; they recognize each other as old friends from ballet school. Zina introduces the ballerina to her husband who, dazzled, begins to court the ballerina as Zina becomes increasingly jealous.

Scene 2: Twilight

Field workers from the Bright Stream collective farm greet the artists with an improvised celebration. The artists distribute gifts to the collective farm’s best workers: a gramophone for Gavrilych and a silk dress for the best milkmaid. The grey-haired ‘inspectors of quality' and Gavrilych break into a dance and force the late-arriving dacha dwellers to join the merriment with an ancient Chaconne. An amateur group organized by Zina continues the celebration lead by the milkmaid and the tractor driver. As the merriment increases, Gavrilych winds up his new gramophone and asks the guest artists to dance.

The accordionist joins the dancing with the schoolgirl Galya, and young field workers from Kuban and the Caucasus burst into a spirited, warlike dance. As the revelers pause for refreshments, the old dacha dweller whispers in the visiting ballerina’s ear that he would like to see her again, and his wife makes a similar proposal to the ballerina’s partner. Meanwhile, Pyotr goes off with the ballerina. Distraught, Zina begins to cry, and the young people, together with Gavrilych, try to calm her down until the ballerina returns and assures Zina that she has no intention of flirting with Pyotr. She suggests that Zina tell the young people that she too used to be a dancer.

Zina agrees and the two friends dance together provoking general astonishment. The ballerina proposes that a joke be played on Pyotr and the unfaithful old dacha dwellers: she will dress up in her partner's costume and go and meet the anxious-to-be-younger-than-she-is dacha dweller; her partner, made up as a female dancer, shall rendezvous with the old dacha dweller; and Zina, dressed in the ballerina’s costume, shall go to meet Pyotr.

Act II

Scene 1: Evening

The young people have assembled. The accordionist has taken a fancy to Galya, the schoolgirl who had danced with him so merrily earlier in the day. He whispers to her that he will soon be back and that she should wait for him.

The pranksters don their costumes as Galya relays her conversation with the accordionist. To add to the fun, the tractor driver puts on a dog costume and suggests to Galya that she should meet the accordionist as proposed, but that he, disguised as a dog, will not allow the accordionist to approach her. The tractor driver protects Galya so enthusiastically that the artist finally realizes he is being mocked and joins the conspirators.

The elderly dacha dweller arrives wheeling a bicycle and sporting his most impressive hunting gear and gun. He catches sight of his beautiful ballerina in the middle of a clump of trees. In the darkness, he is too enchanted to note his Sylphide’s masculine form. His wife arrives in ballet shoes to impress the male dancer and catches her husband flirting. Angered, she chases him off, but the tractor driver frightens her when, still in his dogskin, he rides by on the bicycle. Appearing in her partner's costume, the ballerina helps the anxious-to-be-younger-than-she-is dacha dweller to recover then mocks her romantic illusions. Waiting for the ballerina, Pyotr is met by his own wife in disguise. Zina jokes and flirts with him; when he fails to recognize her, Zina disappears into the bushes.

The old dacha dweller and his “Sylphide” come running in. The ballerina, still dressed in male clothing, tries to intervene by pretending to be the Sylphide’s hurt lover. She challenges the dacha dweller to a duel. The disguised bal¬lerina fires first and misses. As the dacha dweller takes aim, Gavrilych bangs a pail and the old man thinks he has fired. The Sylphide falls to the ground as the horrified dacha dweller flees the scene. After he disappears, the ‘victim' comes to life and dances to the delight of his fellow plotters. The dacha dwellers return and realize they have been victims of an elaborate prank.

Scene 2: Morning of the following day

The field workers gather in a meadow to enjoy the harvest festival performance. Pyotr waits excitedly for the show to begin so that he can relive the experience of the previous evening’s performance. To his great astonishment, two ballerinas dressed exactly alike appear on stage and dance, their faces hidden by masks. When the dance ends, they raise their veils and reveal their secret. The confused Pyotr timidly begs his wife’s forgiveness and they reconcile. Pyotr has learned his lesson: he now knows that his modest Zina is both a first-class worker and a marvelous ballerina.


Alexei Ratmansky’s The Bright Stream received its World Premiere by the Bolshoi Ballet on April 18, 2003, with sets and costumes by Boris Messerer.

The original production, with choreography by Fyodor Lopukhov, was premiered on April 4, 1935 at the Maly Theatre in Leningrad.

This production was premiered by the Latvian National Ballet in Riga, Latvia on September 24, 2004.

The Bright Stream was given its American Ballet Theatre Company Premiere at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. on January 21, 2011, danced by Paloma Herrera (Zina), Marcelo Gomes (Pyotr), Gillian Murphy (Ballerina) and David Hallberg (Ballet Dancer).


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