Spartacus, a ballet by Aram Khachaturian (1903-1978), was completed in 1954 and first premiered at the Leningrad Kirev Opera and Ballet Theatre on December 7, 1956. The choreographer for its first premiere was L. Yakobson, and the conductor was P. Feldt. The main dancers included A. Makarov (Spartacus), N Petrova/I. Zubkovskaya (Phrygia) and A. Shelest (Aegina). The four act ballet was premiered later in 1957 and 1958 at the National Theatre in Prague and the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, each time with changes made to the music and choreography. The librettist for this work was N. Volkov, who drew inspiration from historians such as Plutarch and Appian.
The central idea of Spartacus is one often seen in music: of oppression, of slaves rising up against nobility. The ballet also presents the idea of exoticism, however because the music and culture of ancient Rome had not been preserved completely, Khachaturian was faced with the problem of finding the appropriate music to suit the time and style of the ballet. In response to this difficulty, Khachaturian combined his own individual style with his comprehension and feelings of the events within each scene. There are several leitmotifs within the music of the ballet, a few of them being the themes of Spartacus, Rome, Phrygia, and Aegina. These themes change frequently throughout the ballet. As for the success of Spartacus, Khachaturian was awarded a Lenin prize in 1959, and the ballet still remains within the repertoire of many ballet companies in Russia.
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2. Ballets: “Spartacus”. Project Director, Rasmila Alaverdyan. http://www.khachaturian.am/eng/about.htm (accessed 11/21/11)
3. Sarkisyan, Svetlana. “Khachaturian, Aram (Il’ich)”. In The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Second edition. Edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrell. London:...