Bizet composed his Symphony in C major when he was a 17-year-old pupil of Charles Gounod at the Paris Conservatory. The manuscript was lost for decades, and was published only after it was discovered in the Conservatory’s library in 1933. Balanchine first learned of the long-vanished score from Stravinsky. In only two weeks, he choreographed the work as Le Palais de Cristal for the Paris Opera Ballet, where he was serving as a guest ballet master in 1947. When he revived the work the following year for the first performance of New York City Ballet, he simplified the sets and costumes and changed the title to Symphony in C.
Following the structure of the symphony, the ballet is in four movements, each featuring a different ballerina, cavalier, and corps de ballet. The first movement is formal and regal. The second movement features one of Balanchine’s greatest pas de deux, and its ballerina role is considered one of the most privileged in all the Balanchine repertory. The third and fourth movements feature bravura allegro dancing. The entire cast of dancers from all four movements gathers for the impressive finale.
Bizet: Symphony in C (EMI Classics)
Notes by Doug Fullington.