Music: By Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky (Serenade in C for string orchestra, Op. 48, 1880, first three movements; arranged and reorchestrated by George Antheil).
Choreography: By George Balanchine.
Production: Scenery by Gaston Longchamp. Costumes by Jean Lurçat.
Premiere: March 1, 1935, American Ballet, Adelphi Theater, New York. Conductor: Sandor Harmati. (First performed by students of the School of American Ballet, June 10, 1934, at Woodlands, the estate of Felix Warburg, in Hartsdale [near White Plains], New York, in rehearsal costumes; then by the Producing Company of the School of American Ballet, December 8, 1934, Avery Memorial Theater, Hartford, Connecticut, with costumes by William B. Okie, Jr. "Preview" performance of the American Ballet, February 7, 1935, Bryn Mawr College).
Cast: SONATINA: Leda Anchutina, Holly Howard, Elise Reiman, Elena de Rivas, 13 women; WALTZ: Anchutina, Howard, Sylvia Giselle [Gisella Caccialanza], Helen Leitch, Annabelle Lyon, 10 women; ELEGY: Howard, Kathryn Mullowny, Heidi Vosseler, Charles Laskey, 8 women, 4 men.
Note: Created for students during the first year of the School of American Ballet, Serenade is the first work Balanchine choreographed for American dancers; it has come to be considered the signature piece of the New York City Ballet and is one of Balanchine's most widely performed works. A ballet of patterns that newly explores academic ballet technique, the choreography, as the music, has overtones of love, loss, yearning. During the inaugural season of the American Ballet, the company formed by Balanchine, Lincoln Kirstein, and Edward M. M.Warburg, Serenade was performed in repertory with Alma Mater, Errante, Reminiscence, Dreams, and Transcendence. A ballet to the same music, Fokine's Eros, was in the repertory of the Maryinsky Theater during Balanchine's youth.
Revisions: 1936, American Ballet Ensemble at the Metropolitan Opera: Male dancer added to WALTZ. 1940, Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo: Solo parts (originally divided among several dancers) reworked for single ballerina, two male dancers, and supporting female dancer (with full corps de ballet); fourth movement of the Serenade (Tema Russo [with some passages omitted]), called RUSSIAN DANCE, inserted before concluding ELEGY, danced by four demi-soloists and ballerina; Tchaikovsky's original scoring adopted, rather than Antheil's; these revisions incorporated in all subsequent stagings. Early-mid 1960s, New York City Ballet: Slight additions at beginning and extensive new material added at end of RUSSIAN DANCE, with all previous omissions in score of Tema Russo restored; 1977 [?], New York City Ballet: Three ballerinas dance 'Dark Angel' section (beginning of ELEGY) with hair loose.
Although the steps have remained basically the same, solo measures have been allocated in various ways, most frequently to three ballerinas and two male dancers (New York City Ballet variations have included, among others, five ballerinas [1950, London], four ballerinas [1953, 1955, 1958], three ballerinas ).
New Productions by Balanchine Companies: From 1936, American Ballet: Performed without décor. 1941, American Ballet Caravan: Costumes by Candido Portinari. New York City Ballet: 1948, costumes uncredited, lighting by Jean Rosenthal; 1952, costumes by Karinska; 1964, lighting by Ronald Bates.
Film: 1973, RM Productions.
2004, Kultur, Balanchine (SONATINA [excerpt]); 2005, Zeitgeist Films Ballets Russes (excerpt); 2008, City Lights Media, Bringing Balanchine Back: The Historic Return to Russia (excerpts); 2014 Video Artists International, New York City Ballet in Montreal, Vol. 1 (complete recorded 1957).