Orpheus is a thirty-minute ballet created by choreographer George Balanchine in collaboration with composer Igor Stravinsky in Hollywood, California in 1947. The work was commissioned by the Ballet Society, which Balanchine founded together with Lincoln Kirstein and of which he was ballet master. Sets and costumes were created by Isamu Noguchi.
The original cast consisted of 30 dancers: Orpheus; Eurydice; the Dark Angel of Death; Apollo; the leader of the Furies; the leader of the Bacchantes; eight women Bacchantes; nine women in various roles (Friends to Orpheus, Furies, Pluto, Satyr, and Nature Spirits); and seven men as Lost Souls.
The action was divided into three scenes and 12 dance episodes: (Scene One) Orphee; l'Ange de la mort et sa danse; Interlude; (Scene Two) Pas des furies; Air de danse; Interlude; Air de danse conclusion; Pas d'action; (Scene Three) Apostheose d'Orphee.
The premiere took place on April 28, 1948, at City Center of Music and Drama, New York, and directly resulted in City Center's chairman, Morton Baum, inviting Balanchine and Kirstein to establish a resident company. The new company was named (or Ballet Society renamed) New York City Ballet and Balanchine remained its ballet master until his death.
The program for City Ballet's first performance at City Center, conducted by Igor Stravinsky, consisted of Orpheus, Concerto Barocco and Symphony in C on October 11, 1948; and Noguchi's rendition of Orpheus' lyre was adopted as and remains City Ballet's official symbol.