FOR RELEASE CONTACT:
IN SEPTEMBER 2006 MELISSA CARROLL
CASSIE PATTERSON MCCLUNG
713 535 3226
HOUSTON BALLET REVIVES DRACULA
Blockbuster Production Returns to Houston After Performances in
Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Toronto, and Washington, D.C.
Company Honors Dracula Designer Thomas Boyd
on His 30th Anniversary with Houston Ballet
Houston, TX -- From September 21 – October 1, 2006, Houston Ballet delivers an early Halloween treat with Ben Stevenson’s blockbuster production of Dracula, set to the music of Franz Liszt in an arrangement by John Lanchbery. Hailed by The New York Times as “a Dracula Beyond Stoker’s Darkest Dreams,” the wildly theatrical ballet features vampire brides who fly through the air, a ghastly coach that careens on and off stage, and a magnificent cape in which Dracula ensnares his victims. Houston Ballet will give seven performances of Dracula in the Brown Theater at Wortham Theater Center in downtown Houston. Tickets may be purchased by calling 713 227 2787 or by visiting the company’s Web Site at www.houstonballet.org
Houston Ballet Artistic Director Emeritus Ben Stevenson created Dracula in March of 1997 in honor of the centennial of the publication of Bram Stoker’s classic novel. In adapting the novel to the stage, he streamlined the story, jettisoning its subplots and sojourns to Britain, focusing the action entirely in the Transylvanian village, and imbuing the title character with a darkly erotic magnetism.
Commented Houston Ballet Artistic Director Stanton Welch, “Dracula is an iconic character, and this is one of Ben’s most beloved works.”
In his quest to bring Dracula to life in balletic form, Mr. Stevenson turned to the conventions of the great ballets of the nineteenth century for inspiration and guidance. He created the work in three acts, with a corps de ballet (comprised of Dracula’s 18 vampire brides), scenes of peasant revelry, and four stunning pas de deux for the central characters that firmly anchor the dramatic action of the ballet.
Mr. Stevenson was immeasurably aided by his three collaborators in evoking the Gothic grandeur of Stoker’s novel: Houston Ballet’s own scenic designer Thomas Boyd, costume designer Judanna Lynn and the acclaimed ballet arranger John Lanchery. Inspired by the works of the great German Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840), Mr. Boyd created three distinct spaces for the ballet, each redolent with dramatic atmosphere: the dank crypt of Dracula’s castle in the first act; the picturesque village square of the second act; and the bedroom of the count, where he ravishes his victims, in the third act. For her creation of the 70 exquisitely detailed costumes used in the production, designer Judanna Lynn was also influenced by late 19th century German Romantic painters, including Caspar David Friedrich and Arnold Bocklin (1827-1901). In preparing her designs, Ms. Lynn did research on costume design in Romania at the Metropolitan Museum Costume Institute in New York, as well as drawing on memories of a trip to Budapest.
Following its premiere in Texas, Houston Ballet toured the work across the globe, performing it in Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Toronto, Ft. Lauderdale and at The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.
With this season’s performances of Dracula, Houston Ballet will mark the thirtieth anniversary of Mr. Boyd with Houston Ballet. Mr. Boyd joined Houston Ballet as a dancer 1976, became Houston Ballet’s director of production in 1985, and began to design scenery for ballet in the 1990s. He has created scenery for four of Houston Ballet’s most lavish and spectacular full-length works: Don Quixote (1995), Dracula (1997), Cleopatra (2000), and Peter Pan (2002). Jennifer Dunning of The New York Times praised his work on Dracula, observing, “The sets, costumes and lighting are not just lavish, but exquisitely beautiful and atmospheric….For once, $1 million, the cost of Dracula, looks like a million.” (March 17, 1997) Under the headline “Dracula looks like a million,” Clive Barnes of The New York Post praised Mr. Boyd’s “sumptuously imaginative scenery,” calling the production “magnificently and spookily spectacular.” (March 18, 1997) Writing in the German newspaper The World on Sunday, dance critic Marieluise Jeitschko noted, “The moody ambiance of the stage actually drew spontaneous applause from the audience for the set.” (March 23, 1997)
Houston Ballet’s performances of Dracula have been generously underwritten by Fulbright & Jaworski LLP, Noble Corporation, The Wortham Foundation, Inc., and The Methodist Hospital Center for Performing Arts Medicine.
Houston Ballet premiered the work in 1997 to sold-out houses and critical acclaim. Dance Magazine pronounced the work “a Dracula to die for,” and the Chicago Tribune enthused, “Houston Ballet’s count gives new life to old art form.” After its premiere, Boston Ballet took the production into its repertory in 1999.
During Houston Ballet’s 2006-2007 season, the company will honor the celebrated ballet arranger and conductor John Lanchbery who passed away in 2003 by performing two of his works: Dracula and Stanton Welch’s Madame Butterfly. Mr. Lanchbery has played a major role in Houston Ballet’s development, and nine works arranged by the celebrated musician are in the company’s repertory.
Mr. Lanchbery provided the perfect score for Dracula, utilizing pieces by the renowned Hungarian composer Franz Liszt, including “Dance of Death” and the Mephisto Waltzes. Dance Magazine praised his work as “a masterly arrangement of Liszt, charged with foreboding and spasms of feverish excitement.”
Born in 1923, John Lanchberry’s career in the dance world spanned more than five decades, and took him from his native England to Manhattan, Australia, China, and Hollywood. He worked with some of the greatest figures of twentieth century dance, including Sir Frederick Ashton (on the scores for La Fille mal gardee in 1960, The Dream in 1964, Creatures of Prometheus in 1970, and A Month in the Country in 1976); Sir Kenneth MacMillan (on the scores for House of Birds in 1955; and Mayerling in 1978); Rudolf Nureyev (on the scores for Don Quixote in 1966 and La Bayadere in 1991); and Dame Margot Fonteyn (from 1960 - 1972, the period that he served as principal conductor of London’s Royal Ballet). During that time, he has also amassed a slew of prestigious awards. Notably, he was the first foreign conductor to receive the Bolshoi Medal, and in 1990, he was appointed an officer of the Order of the British Empire for his services to music.
Scores that Mr. Lanchbery arranged especially for Houston Ballet include: Papillon, Peer Gynt, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Snow Maiden, and Cleopatra.
WHAT: DRACULA (1997)
Music by Franz Liszt (1811 – 1886)
Arrangement by John Lanchbery (1923 – 2003)
Totentanz, Tasso, Mephisto Waltz No. 1, Orpheus, Hungarian March, From the Cradle to the Grave
Choreography by Ben Stevenson, O.B.E.
Scenic Designs by Thomas Boyd
Costume Designs by Judanna Lynn
Lighting by Timothy Hunter
Generously Underwritten by:
Fulbright & Jaworski LLP
The Wortham Foundation, Inc.
The Methodist Hospital Center for Performing Arts Medicine
Hailed by The New York Times as “a Dracula Beyond Stoker’s Darkest Dreams,” Ben Stevenson’s production of Dracula caused a sensation at its premiere. Set in a Transylvanian village, the production includes several thrilling theatrical moments that linger in the mind long after the performance has ended: vampire brides who fly magically through the air; a ghastly coach that careens on and off the stage carrying Dracula’s victims; and a climactic showdown between the Count and his enemies with an exploding chandelier.
WHEN: At 7:30 pm on September 21, 23, 29, 30, 2006
At 2:00 pm on September 24, 30 and October 1, 2006
WHERE: Brown Theater, Wortham Theater Center
501 Texas Avenue in downtown Houston
TICKETS: Start at $17. Call (713) 227 ARTS or 1 800 828 ARTS
Also available at Houston Ballet Box Office at Wortham Theater Center downtown at Texas at Smith Street, or purchase tickets online at www.houstonballet.org
INFORMATION: Visit Houston Ballet on the Web at www.houstonballet.org