Spartacus (ballet)

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Commemorative coin of the 225th anniversary of the Bolshoi Theater, with a representation of the ballet Spartacus as the center
ChoreographerLeonid Yakobson
MusicAram Khachaturian
Premiere1956 (1956)
Kirov Theatre, Leningrad
Original ballet companyKirov Ballet
  • Crassus
  • Spartacus
  • Phrygia
  • Aegina
GenreNeoclassical ballet

Spartacus (Russian: «Спартак», Spartak) is a ballet by Aram Khachaturian (1903–1978). The work follows the exploits of Spartacus, the leader of the slave uprising against the Romans known as the Third Servile War, although the ballet's storyline takes considerable liberties with the historical record. Khachaturian composed Spartacus in 1954, and was awarded a Lenin Prize for the composition that same year.[1] It was first staged in Leningrad on 27 December 1956, as choreographed by Leonid Yakobson, for the Kirov Theatre of Opera and Ballet (Mariinsky Theatre),[2] where it stayed in repertory for many years,[3] but only with qualified success since Yakobson abandoned conventional pointe in his choreography.[4] Yakobson restaged his version for the Bolshoi in 1962 and it was part of the Bolshoi's 1962 tour to New York. The ballet received its first staging at the Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow in 1958, choreographed by Igor Moiseyev; however it was the 1968 production, choreographed by Yury Grigorovich, which achieved the greatest acclaim for the ballet.[3]

Spartacus remains one of Khachaturian's best known works and is prominent within the repertoires of the Bolshoi Theatre and other ballet companies in Russia and the former Soviet Union.


Principal characters:

  • Crassus, Roman consul
  • Spartacus, captive king of Thrace
  • Phrygia, wife of Spartacus
  • Aegina, concubine to Crassus

Act I[edit]

Ivan Vasiliev in an extract from Spartacus during re-opening gala of the Bolshoi Theatre, 28 October 2011

The Roman consul Crassus returns to Rome from his latest conquests in a triumphal procession. Among his captives are the Thracian king Spartacus and his wife Phrygia. Spartacus laments his captivity and bids a bitter farewell to Phrygia, who is taken off to join Crassus's harem of concubines. To entertain Crassus and his entourage, Spartacus is sent into the gladiatorial ring and is forced to kill a close friend. Horrified at his deed, Spartacus incites his fellow captives to rebellion.

Act II[edit]

The escaped captives celebrate their freedom. Meanwhile, Crassus entertains the Roman patricians with lavish entertainment. Spartacus and the other escaped captives disrupt the orgy and rescue the slave women, including Phrygia. Aegina insists that Crassus pursue the slave army immediately. The lovers celebrate their escape to the "Adagio of Spartacus and Phrygia".

Act III[edit]

Aegina discovers Spartacus's camp and observes the lovers emerging from their tent the next morning. Aegina sends word to Crassus, who sends his army in pursuit. Internecine struggles break out among Spartacus's forces. Finally, Crassus's forces discover Spartacus and impale him upon their spears. Spartacus's closest followers recover his body and carry it off while Phrygia mourns her loss.

Orchestral adaptation[edit]

Khachaturian extracted and arranged music from the ballet in 1955 for four orchestral suites:

  • Spartacus Suite No.1
    • Introduction – Dance of the Nymphs
    • Adagio of Aegina and Harmodius
    • Variation of Aegina and Bacchanalia
    • Scene and Dance with Crotala
    • Dance of the Gaditanae – Victory of Spartacus
  • Spartacus Suite No.2
    • Adagio of Spartacus and Phrygia
    • Entrance of the Merchants – Dance of a Roman Courtesan –
    • General Dance
    • Entrance of Spartacus – Quarrel –
    • Treachery of Harmodius
    • Dance of the Pirates
  • Spartacus Suite No.3
    • Dance of a Greek Slave
    • Dance of an Egyptian Girl
    • Night Incident
    • Dance of Phrygia – Parting Scene
    • At the Circus
  • Spartacus Suite No.4
    • Bacchante's Melancholy Dance
    • Spartacus Procession
    • Death of the Gladiator
    • Call to Arms – Spartacus' Uprising

Instrumentation: 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons; 4 horns, 4 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba; timpani, percussion; strings.

In popular culture[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Yuzefovich, Victor (1985). Aram Khachaturyan. New York: Sphinx Press. p. 217. ISBN 0823686582.
  2. ^ Spartacus The Mariinsky Theatre
  3. ^ a b "Ballets: Spartacus". Virtual Museum of the Great Armenian Composer Aram Khachaturian. Retrieved 2009-04-19.
  4. ^ Yuzefovich, p.218
  5. ^ "Music". Archived from the original on 2011-04-14.
  6. ^ Spartacus (1977) IMDb
  7. ^ "DCI". Retrieved 2015-07-30.