Dramatic Vocalise Database

Tcherepnin, Nikolay (1873–1945)

Narcisse et Echo, Op. 40 (1911)

In 1909, Nikolay Tcherepnin (1873–1945), turned down a request from Diaghilev to write a Firebird ballet. The honor went to Stravinsky. However, there exists an orchestral sketch of Tcherepnin’s “Firebird” that came to be known as Le Royaume enchanté, op. 39, in order to avoid any confusion with Stravinsky’s masterpiece.

Two years later, when Diaghilev found that Ravel would not have time to compose the music to enable Daphnis et Chloé to be given during the next Paris season, he commissioned Tcherepnin to compose the music for a ballet in the “Grecian” style, Narcisse et Echo, to a scenario by Léon Bakst, after Ovid’s Metamorphoses. The premiere took place on 26 April 1911 in Monte Carlo, with the composer conducting. The scenery used was that for Daphnis et Chloé, designed by Bakst, and the choreography was by Mikhail Fokine. The principal roles of Echo and Narcissus were performed by Diaghilev’s leading dancers—Tamara Karsavina and Vatslav Nizhinsky.

Tcherepnin’s Narcisse et Echo is essentially a continuous score, in the manner of Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé, later produced by Diaghilev in 1912. One particular feature of the scoring is the use of a wordless chorus to represent Echo in the introduction to the ballet and in her scenes with Narcissus. According to Guy Richards:

The ballet was performed at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden by the Ballets Russes on 9 July 1912, again conducted by the composer. According to the reviewer for The Sunday Times:

(Nauman 2009, 200–1)



I. Un paysage panthéiste (A pantheistic landscape)

V. Chants lointains (Distant Voices)

VI. Danse de Narcisse (Danse of Narcissus)

IX. L'arrivée Echo (Echo arrives)

X. Narcisse se transforme en une fleur (Narcissus is transformed into a flower)


1 Guy Richards, review of, Narcisse et Echo, by Nikolai Tcherepnin, The Hague Choir, Residentie Orchestra, The Hague, Genady Rozhdestvensky, Tempo 213 (2000): 57.

2 Nesta Macdonald, Diaghilev Observed by Critics in England and the United States 1911–1929 (New York: Dance Horizons, 1975), 72.