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JUNE 13, 2006 MELISSA CARROLL
CASSIE PATTERSON MCCLUNG
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HOUSTON BALLET ANNOUNCES
37th Season Features 10 New Works
Stanton Welch Creates a New Ballet to Launch the Season in September
Carnival of the Animals, First Work by Christopher Wheeldon, Enters Repertory
Company Premieres of Works by Kylián, Robbins, Tetley, and van Manen
Highlight the Season
Houston, Texas – Houston Ballet Artistic Director Stanton Welch has announced the company’s 2006-2007 season.
Mr. Welch continues to put his stamp on Houston Ballet, raising the company’s profile, enlarging the repertory with some of today’s most noteworthy choreographers (including Jiří Kylián, Hans van Manen, Christopher Wheeldon, and Glen Tetley), and creating new works. Since taking the helm of the company in 2003, Mr. Welch has drawn considerable attention and acclaim to Houston Ballet. He has revitalized the company, bringing in new dancers and attracting a top-flight artistic staff. Dance International has observed, “It’s not your mother’s ballet company any more. After almost thirty years of British classicism and homegrown Texas talent, Houston Ballet is morphing into a new company for the new millennium.” (Winter, 2004) In the coming season, the company will present ten new works, offering a clear picture of the continued evolution of Houston Ballet and where Mr. Welch is taking the company.
Houston Ballet launches the season in style with a world premiere by Mr. Welch in September. In honor of American choreographer Glen Tetley’s 80th birthday, Houston Ballet will give the Houston premiere of Tetley’s signature work, Voluntaries. Also on the season opener is the company premiere of Grosse Fuge by European master Hans van Manen. The company premiere of English wunderkind Christopher Wheeldon’s charming Carnival of the Animals is the highlight of the spring repertory program in May 2007. Mr. Wheeldon is one of today’s hottest young dance makers, and this will be the choreographer’s first work to enter Houston Ballet’s repertory. In February, the company will perform Jerome Robbins’s comic masterpiece The Concert for the first time alongside the company premiere of Stanton Welch’s cheeky classical work Tu Tu. Houston Ballet will add another work by landmark Czech choreographer Jiří Kylián to the repertory, performing Svadebka in the spring, and present the company premiere of Mr. Welch’s ballets Clear, his powerful response to 9/11, and Red Earth a moving ode to the settlers who tamed the Australian outback.
During the company’s 2006-2007 season, Houston Ballet will pay tribute to the late, celebrated ballet arranger John Lanchbery, who died in 2003. An artist who worked extensively with Houston Ballet, he was specially commissioned by the company to create scores for six works. Commented Mr. Welch, “We will honor and acknowledge Lanchbery’s contribution to the dance world and his role with the company by bringing back two of his works.” Houston Ballet will perform Ben Stevenson’s Dracula in September, and Mr. Welch’s Madame Butterfly in March 2007. The scores for both works were arranged by Mr. Lanchbery. Continued Mr. Welch, “He was passionate about ballet, and few in the world of classical ballet had his deep knowledge of classical music, his ability to construct a soundscape that so beautifully supported and enhanced the theatrical action taking place on stage, or his sensitivity to the needs and wishes of choreographers. Nobody has replaced him or approached his oeuvre.”
Houston Ballet will reprise its popular one-night-only gala evening performance with Jubilee of Dance: A Celebration of Movement on Friday, December 1, 2006, with the company premiere of Mr. Welch’s Carmina Burana.
WORLD PREMIERE BY STANTON WELCH
LAUNCHES 2006-2007 SEASON
Works by Glen Tetley and Hans van Manen Enter the Repertory
From September 7 – 17, 2006, Houston Ballet launches its thirty-seventh season with Simple Elegance, a program of premieres by three of the world’s most influential choreographers: Stanton Welch, Glen Tetley and Hans van Manen. A new large scale classical work by Stanton Welch will be unveiled. Also on the program are the Houston premieres of Voluntaries, American master Glen Tetley’s breathtaking tribute to John Cranko, and Grosse Fuge by Holland’s best known dance maker Hans van Manen.
Simple Elegance will feature three beautiful interpretations of classical ballet that show the range and evolution of dance styles – from classical to contemporary. Commented Mr. Welch, “Both Tetley and van Manen were extraordinary leaders in the dance world, choreographers who merged modern and classical technique, which at the time – in the late 1960s and early 1970s – was revolutionary.”
Mr. Welch’s new work for Houston Ballet will be a full-company classical ballet set to “Soirées musicales” and “Matinées musicales” by English composer Benjamin Britten. Mr. Welch commented, “This music is something I’ve wanted to choreograph to for 15 to 20 years. I’ve danced to it in school; it’s wonderful.” Mr. Welch’s ballet, which will emphasize the strong classical technique of Houston Ballet’s artists, will feature numerous pas de deux and solos in a memorable showcase of classical dance. “It will be a true classical tutu ballet,” said Mr. Welch.
Mr. Welch, one of the most sought after choreographers of his generation, has created ballets for such prestigious international companies as San Francisco Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, The Australian Ballet, Birmingham Royal Ballet in the United Kingdom, and Royal Danish Ballet. His new work for Houston Ballet will be his eighth work for the company.
With the renowned American choreographer Glen Tetley celebrating his 80th birthday this year, Houston Ballet joins companies around the world in honoring his achievements with the company premiere of Voluntaries. The Royal Ballet, Stuttgart Ballet, the National Ballet of Canada, the Norwegian National Ballet and the Dresden Opera Ballet are all joining together to perform works by Tetley in his honor.
An emotional outpouring of grief and simultaneous celebration of life, Voluntaries was Glen Tetley’s tribute to the acclaimed choreographer John Cranko, who created the dramatic masterwork Onegin in 1965. Mr. Tetley had already been asked to create a work for Stuttgart Ballet when Mr. Cranko died unexpectedly in 1973, and so Mr. Tetley conceived of a work specifically “in memoriam” for the choreographer and his bereaved company in Stuttgart.
A large pure dance piece featuring seventeen dancers in an exhilarating display of sensuous and virtuosic movement, Voluntaries is considered a twentieth century classic. Set to French composer Francis Poulenc’s Concerto in G minor for Organ, Strings, and Timpani, the choreography is closely connected to the music. As Mr. Tetley said, “Voluntaries – by musical definition – are free-ranging organ improvisations, often played before, during and after religious service. The Latin root of the word can also connote flight or desire, and ballet is conceived as a linked series of voluntaries.” With its shifting moods and colors – the dancers and sets sparkle in white and multi-colored spots – Voluntaries explores spiritual themes about life, death and the perseverance and importance of art in times of despair.
Glen Tetley was one of the pioneering choreographers who first put his dancers in unitards, and became a key figure in the movement to fuse classical and contemporary idioms. Commented Mr. Tetley, “Throughout my career, I was a dancer who didn’t believe in barriers. I began my training as a classical dancer, then began immediately to train in contemporary technique.
“Historically, I was one of the first dancers to be a principal with American Ballet Theatre and a soloist with the Martha Graham Dance Company. When I became a choreographer, it was natural that I should work for a fusion of classical dance and contemporary techniques. I’ve pursued this fusion throughout my career.”
Born in Cleveland, Ohio on February 3, 1926 Mr. Tetley is one of the twentieth century’s most renowned and respected choreographers. He has created more than 65 ballets for the world’s major dance companies. His impressive list of commissions include works for American Ballet Theatre, Ballet Rambert, The Royal Ballet, The Australian Ballet, English National Ballet, Royal Danish Ballet, Norwegian National Ballet, and the National Ballet of Canada, among others. He has also been artistic director of two of Europe’s most influential companies: Netherlands Dance Theater and Stuttgart Ballet.
Voluntaries was premiered by Stuttgart Ballet on December 22, 1973 at the Wurtembergische Staatstheater. It has since entered the repertories of the world’s leading companies, including American Ballet Theatre, The Royal Ballet, the National Ballet of Canada, Dutch National Ballet, The Australian Ballet, and Pacific Northwest Ballet. Houston Ballet has four works by Tetley in its repertoire: Rite of Spring (1973), Daphnis and Chloe (1975), Praeludium (1978), and Lux in Tenebris, which was created especially for Houston Ballet in 1999.
Another premiere on the program is Hans van Manen’s Grosse Fuge, originally created for Netherlands Dance Theater on April 8, 1971. An abstract, contemporary work for eight dancers, Grosse Fuge examines love and relationships, a common theme in van Manen’s choreography. It is set to Ludwig van Beethoven’s Grosse Fuge, Op. 133 and Cavatina Op. 130, one of the composer’s last works for string quartet.
Pulitzer-Prize-winning author and musician Edmund Morris recently observed that Beethoven’s Grosse Fuge is “deliberately harsh music that is cruel to play and cruel to listen to. It’s like Beethoven wanted to push the body always beyond its own limits.” Beethoven’s aggressive music is reflected to some degree in van Manen’s choreography, which features vigorous male partnering, and strong group and ensemble work. The costumes, designed by van Manen, are notable for the long, divided, Martha Graham-like skirts worn by the male dancers.
Commented Mr. Welch, “van Manen choreographs well on men, and his work really looks good on macho dancers. Grosse Fuge is a great ballet for strong guys. You have to be dynamic, accented, musical and quick, and we certainly have that with our men.”
Hans van Manen began to work with the Netherlands Dance Theater in 1960, first as a dancer, next as a choreographer, then as the artistic director (from 1961 to 1971). For the following two years he worked as a freelance choreographer, then joined the Dutch National Ballet in Amsterdam in 1973. Outside of the Netherlands, he has staged his ballets for many international companies. In September 1988 van Manen rejoined Netherlands Dance Theater as a resident choreographer. In the course of his career, he has created more than 100 works, 58 of which have been for Netherlands Dance Theater. Van Manen has also been awarded numerous prizes. In 1991 he received the Sonia Gaskell Prize for his entire body of work. In 1992—his 35th year as a choreographer— he was knighted by the Queen of the Netherlands in the Order of Orange Nassau.
Houston Ballet has one work by van Manen in its repertory, Adagio Hammerklavier, which entered the company’s repertory in 1978.
Dracula Returns to Houston in September 2005
From September 21 – October 1, 2006, Houston Ballet delivers an early Halloween treat with Ben Stevenson’s blockbuster production of Dracula. 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 Artistic Director Emeritus Ben Stevenson created Dracula in 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. With Thomas Boyd’s gothic sets, Judanna Lynn’s exquisite Romanian-inspired costumes, and a memorable score arranged by John Lanchbery, Dracula will be the spooky treat this season.
Commented Mr. Welch, “Dracula is an iconic character, and this is one of Ben’s most beloved works.”
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 the production was performed by Houston Ballet in Los Angeles, Hong Kong, and the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. In 1999 Boston Ballet took Dracula into its repertory.
During Houston Ballet’s 2006-2007 season, the company will honor the celebrated ballet arranger and conductor John Lanchbery 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 thirteen 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 gardée 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 Bayadère 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.
Houston Ballet Decks the Halls with The Nutcracker
From November 24 – December 27, 2006 Houston Ballet invites Texans of all ages to celebrate the holiday season at Wortham Theater Center with Ben Stevenson’s spectacular production of The Nutcracker. The beloved ballet tells the story of a little girl named Clara who is given a magical nutcracker doll on Christmas Eve. Join Clara as she encounters the frightful rat king, dances with snowflakes, and embarks on a journey to the Kingdom of Sweets. Houston Ballet’s dazzling production features exciting battle scenes, flying cooks, a tree that grows to 40 feet, and 200 pounds of snow that fall to the stage in a memorable snow scene. It’s a holiday delight for the whole family.
JUBILEE OF DANCE
Features Company Premiere of Stanton Welch’s
On Friday, December 1, 2006, Houston Ballet presents the third annual Jubilee of Dance, a special one-night only performance showcasing the talent and artistry of the company dancers. One of the evening’s premieres will be Mr. Welch’s vibrantly theatrical work, Carmina Burana. Set to German composer Carl Orff’s epic, beloved score Carmina Burana, Mr. Welch’s work will feature a live chorus in a spectacularly memorable program of music and dance.
Commented Mr. Welch, “Orff’s music is so rich and multi-layered that I was inspired to create a story within the music. Carmina Burana tells the story of one man’s journey through life and his pursuit of fulfillment. Two characters, representing fate and fortune, push and pull him through the stages of his journey to enlightenment.”
The work first premiered in New York when American Ballet Theatre performed it as one part of HereAfter, a two-act evening-length program, in the spring of 2003. Mr. Welch is significantly revising the staging for the Houston premiere, and Houston Ballet’s performance of the piece will feature new scenery and costumes.
Life & Laughter Features Premieres by Stanton Welch and Jerome Robbins’s Classic The Concert in February 2007
From February 22 – March 4, 2007, Houston Ballet presents Life & Laughter, a winter repertory program bursting with color and cheer. Highlights include the Houston premiere of Stanton Welch’s witty classical ballet, Tu Tu, and the company premiere of American choreographer Jerome Robbins’s comic masterpiece, The Concert. Christopher Bruce’s lively ode to Irish immigrants forging a new life in America, Sergeant Early’s Dream, rounds out a program that will chase away the winter blues.
Mr. Welch’s lively and colorful ballet Tu Tu is a large ensemble work in three movements featuring 22 dancers. A humorous and sexy romp, Tu Tu is full of life with cheeky, athletic partnering that will showcase the superb classical technique of Houston Ballet’s artists. “This is a playful, humorous look at classical ballet,” explained Mr. Welch. “Tu Tu is tart and very tongue in cheek.”
Set to Maurice Ravel’s Concerto for Piano in G major, the dancers are outfitted in brilliantly colored tutus and briefs. Designed by Holly Hynes, the stunning costumes were inspired by Gustav Klimt’s gold-hued paintings. Austrian-born Klimt (1862-1918) was a well-known Art Nouveau painter who became famous for his sensual depictions of women. The tutus and briefs worn by the dancers feature a dazzling array of colors: gold, turquoise, red and orange. Bare midriffs and striped retro-fashioned shorts ramp up the sex appeal.
Commented Mr. Welch, “Tu Tu is based on paintings by Klimt. I tried to capture the luscious feeling of Klimt’s work in the costume design and choreography.”
Created for San Francisco Ballet in 2003, it was Mr. Welch’s third work for that company. At its premiere, Octavio Roca of the San Francisco Chronicle enthused, “Stanton Welch’s very musical Tu Tu also is very funny….It is a strikingly original work.” (May 3, 2003)
Life and Laughter also features the company premiere of Jerome Robbins’s The Concert, a comic spoof of a classical music concert. Set to music by Chopin and orchestrated by Hershy Kay, the piece begins with a pianist onstage. The audience for this particular concert is made up of dancers who file in carrying chairs. This audience, like many others, gets distracted once the music starts, and that is when the fun begins.
Jerome Robbins once observed, “One of the pleasures of attending a concert is the freedom to lose oneself in listening to the music. Quite unconsciously, mental pictures and images form…” This sentiment is brought comically and vividly to life in his choreography, when the hilariously unthinkable happens in the concert hall. Some of the vignettes from the ballet feature a young lady whose enormous hat blocks the view, a bickering married couple who chase each around the stage, and a confusion with the tickets which causes everybody to switch seats.
Commented Mr. Welch, “The Concert is one of the funniest ballets ever created. It’s still fresh and funny today. Jerome Robbins was one of the true gods of classical dance. He had a unique and subtle sense of choreography which is lovely, and he had an enormous impact on classical dance.”
New York-born choreographer Jerome Robbins, one of the first great American ballet masters, had a wide-ranging career in the fields of both theater and dance – as a performer and choreographer in ballet and musical theater, and as a director and choreographer in theater, movies, television and opera. In a career that spanned five decades, he won four Tony Awards, two Academy Awards, an Emmy, and countless other awards for his achievements. He joined Ballet Theatre (now American Ballet Theatre) in 1940 and choreographed his first work, Fancy Free, for that company in 1944. This was followed by Interplay (1945) and Facsimile (1946), after which he embarked on a prolific and enormously successful career as a choreographer and later as a director of Broadway musicals and plays. He was simultaneously creating ballets for New York City Ballet, which he joined in 1949 as associate artistic director with George Balanchine. Among his outstanding works for that company were The Guests (1949), Age of Anxiety (1951), The Cage (1951), The Pied Piper (1951), Afternoon of a Faun (1953), and Fanfare (1953). For his own company, Ballets U.S.A. (1958-1962), he created N.Y. Export: Opus Jazz (1958), Moves (1959) and Events (1961). For American Ballet Theatre's Twenty-Fifth Anniversary (1965), he staged Stravinsky's dance cantata, Les Noces, a work of shattering and immense impact. After the triumph of Fiddler on the Roof in 1964, Mr. Robbins dedicated his energies to creating ballets for New York City Ballet, for whom he became ballet master in 1972. After the death of Balanchine in 1983, he shared the post of ballet master in chief of New York City Ballet with Peter Martins until 1990 when he resigned. He died at the height of his creative powers in 1998 at the age of 79.
The Concert was created for New York City Ballet and was premiered at New York’s City Center on March 6, 1956. Houston Ballet has one other work by Jerome Robbins, In the Night (1970), in its repertory. The Concert is widely regarded as a twentieth century classic, one of the few works to successfully integrate humor into its dramatic storytelling.
Rounding out Houston Ballet’s winter repertory program is Christopher Bruce’s Sergeant Early’s Dream. This delightful ballet tells the bittersweet story of a group of Irish immigrants as they leave their homeland, integrating folk music from Ireland, Britain and America. The title of the piece is taken from one of the folk songs used in the score of the ballet.
Sergeant Early’s Dream is divided into ten sections, featuring five women and four men. The design for the ballet is by Walter Nobbe, a Dutch artist who has collaborated with Mr. Bruce on several productions. The scenic elements evoke a coastline with the sea’s expansive horizon forming the backcloth. Mr. Bruce has observed that the work takes place in an abstract dreamland, “a little Ireland and Scotland, a touch of the sea and a reference or two to New England. Very loosely woven into the ballet is the idea of crossing the sea and taking your culture with you.”
The work was created for Ballet Rambert, which premiered it at the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury, England on October 5, 1984.
Madame Butterfly Returns
In March 2007 on Program with the American Premiere of
Stanton Welch’s Red Earth
From March 8 – 18, 2007, Houston Ballet will give the American premiere of Red Earth, Stanton Welch’s gripping abstract work about pioneers. Also on the program is a revival of Mr. Welch’s acclaimed production of Madame Butterfly, one of the world’s great love stories. Set to Puccini’s memorable score, in an arrangement by John Lanchbery, Stanton Welch’s stunning ballet unfolds dramatically on Peter Farmer’s picturesque sets, which beautifully evoke the mystery and languor of nineteenth century Japan.
An abstract work for seven couples, Red Earth explores issues early immigrants in Australia faced when arriving in a new and foreign land. Coming from cooler and greener countries in Europe, settlers faced adversity when struggling to till the arid red soil of the Australian outback. The dancers are dressed in distressed work clothes splattered with mud, focusing attention on their struggle with the new soil of Australia. The American premiere of Red Earth will be sure to remind audiences of the similar struggles early American pioneers faced in Texas and the arid American Southwest region.
“Red Earth is about finding beauty in a foreign, arid landscape,” explained Mr. Welch. “It’s about struggling with drought and learning to make a new land your own.”
Red Earth was created for The Australian Ballet in 1996 as part of a program celebrating Australian artistry, a theme that Mr. Welch carried through the entire piece. The score, Nourlangie, was created by Peter Sculthorpe, one of Australia’s pre-eminent composers, and the ballet’s scenery was designed by the acclaimed contemporary Australian artist Pro Hart.
Peter Sculthorpe’s music is closely identified with Australia – particularly the landscapes of the outback, the remote and semi-arid interior region of the country. The composer was inspired to create the piece after visiting northern Australia. The piece’s name, Nourlangie, is taken from a sacred place, a large rock monolith in Kakadu National Park in Australia’s Northern Territory. A professor emeritus at the University of Sydney, Mr. Sculthorpe’s works are performed and recorded around the world.
Kevin “Pro” Hart painted the Red Earth backdrop in boldly colored acrylics. A household name in Australia, Pro Hart’s work is associated with the outback mining town of Broken Hill. The vastness of the country’s outback, its harsh landscapes and deep silence are reflected in his artwork. Cities around the world have exhibited Mr. Hart’s work, from Dusseldorf to Los Angeles, New York, London, and Hong Kong.
At the ballet’s premiere, Jaqueline Pascoe of Dance Australia wrote, “Red Earth is magnificent, as a study in the colours and moods of the Australian outback landscape it is a gem. Choreographer Stanton Welch has used movement that is bold, stylish, intricate and gymnastic.” (October/November 1996)
Houston Ballet’s spring repertory program also features the revival of Mr. Welch’s breathtaking version of Madame Butterfly. Premiered by The Australian Ballet in 1995, Madame Butterfly was Mr. Welch’s first full-length ballet. The two-act work tells the story of the beautiful geisha Cio-Cio-San who renounces her faith and her family to wed Lieutenant Pinkerton, the handsome, but cynical American naval officer who is betrothed to another. The centerpiece of the work is a ravishing wedding night pas de deux for Pinkerton and Cio-Cio-San, which closes the first act.
“Madame Butterfly is a wonderful and famous love story, along the lines of Romeo and Juliet,” said Mr. Welch. “When I first became interested in choreography I was working as an extra with The Australian Opera. While my father drove me home, I would quiz him on various opera stories, searching for the one most suited for ballet. The one he spoke about most passionately, and in the most detail, was later to become my passion; it is the story of Cio-Cio-San and her fatal love for Pinkerton.”
At the ballet’s Houston premiere, Marene Gustin of the Houston Press wrote, “Houston Ballet needs more story ballets like this one….the company really danced, flowing through the choreography and shining in the storytelling.” (September 26, 2002)
Mr. Welch’s Madame Butterfly utilizes the score by Puccini, in an arrangement by the late, acclaimed British conductor John Lanchbery. Mr. Lanchbery arranged scores especially for six Houston Ballet productions and was recognized as a world-renowned musician. In bringing Mr. Welch’s Madame Butterfly back to the stage, the company continues a season of honoring Mr. Lanchbery’s contribution to the dance world.
Mr. Welch recalled working with Mr. Lanchberry on the score to the ballet, “I was 24, and he treated me like everybody else, giving me with the same respect and attention as other choreographers. He was very generous, and it was wonderful working with him. He was very interested in and passionate about dance, and nobody has approached his oeuvre or replaced him.”
John Lanchery’s first commission for Houston Ballet was for Ronald Hynd’s reconstruction of Papillon in 1979, featuring music by Jacques Offenbach. In 1981, he created the score for Ben Stevenson’s Peer Gynt, utilizing the music of Edvard Grieg. In 1988, Mr. Lanchbery arranged music by Louis Hector Berlioz for Mr. Hynd’s ballet, The Hunchback of Notre Dame. In March 1997, his score for Mr. Stevenson’s Dracula drew upon the music of Franz Liszt. In March 1988, Mr. Lanchbery created the score for Mr. Stevenson’s The Snow Maiden utilizing the music of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky and in March 2000, Mr. Lanchbery created the score for Mr. Stevenson’s Cleopatra featuring the music of Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov.
Houston Ballet last performed Stanton Welch’s Madame Butterfly in 2002.
Houston Premiere of Christopher Wheeldon’s
Carnival of the Animals Highlights Spring Program in May 2007
Program Also Features Premieres of Stanton Welch’s Clear
and Jiří Kylián’s Svadebka
From May 24 – June 3, 2007, Houston Ballet presents Animal Magnetism, featuring three company premieres. The highlight of the program is Carnival of the Animals, the first work by New York City Ballet Resident Choreographer Christopher Wheeldon to enter Houston Ballet’s repertory. The wonderfully charming ballet follows the adventures of a young schoolboy who falls asleep in New York’s Museum of Natural History. Also on the program are the Houston premieres of Mr. Welch’s explosive and sensual work Clear, set to music by Bach, and Jiří Kylián’s Svadebka, a moving portrait of a Russian couple on their wedding day.
Mr. Welch, who is looking forward to working with Christopher Wheeldon this coming season, commented, “He’s funny, very musical and has a well-crafted sense of theatrics. George Balanchine’s sensibility has taken a life of its own in his choreography.”
Mr. Wheeldon’s large ensemble piece Carnival of the Animals tells the story of a boy named Oliver who spends the night at the Natural History Museum. During that wondrous, dream-like evening, a magical parade of animals comes to life and teaches him valuable lessons about life.
Dancers appearing as colorfully costumed animals use classical ballet technique to bring a wide range people from young Oliver’s world to life. A lion is Oliver’s school teacher, colorful tropical birds are the cheerleaders at his school, and rowdy hyenas are his classmates. A librarian reveals an inner fantasy when she transforms from a kangaroo into a glamorous mermaid, and Oliver’s great aunt recalls her dancing days as a glamorous swan.
Mr. Wheeldon’s ballet is set to French composer Camille Saint Saens’s beloved orchestral work, Carnival of the Animals. Often used as an introduction to musical instruments, the famous score now sets a magical mood for a ballet that will charm audiences for years to come. Narration, written by the Tony Award-winning actor and author John Lithgow, accompanies the ballet. With a familiar score, a deliciously funny and lighthearted mood, the ballet will serve as a perfect introduction for young people to the world of classical ballet.
Mr. Wheeldon created Carnival of the Animals for New York City Ballet in 2003.
Born in Somerset, England, Mr. Wheeldon began his ballet training when he was eight, and later trained at The Royal Ballet School. In 1991 he joined The Royal Ballet and also won the Gold Medal at the Prix de Lausanne competition. In 1993, Mr. Wheeldon was invited to become a member of New York City Ballet (NYCB), where he rose to the rank of soloist in 1998. He began choreographing for NYCB with Slavonic Dances for the 1997 Diamond Project. After creating Mercurial Manoeuvers (2000), he retired from dancing to concentrate on his choreographic work. During NYCB’s 2000-2001 season, Mr. Wheeldon served as the company’s first-ever artist in residence, creating two ballets: Polyphonia and Variations Sérieuses. In July 2001 he was named NYCB’s first resident choreographer. Since that time, Mr. Wheeldon has choreographed several ballets for the company, including Morphoses (2002), Liturgy (2003), and After the Rain (2005). He has also created ballets for such companies as The Royal Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet, and Boston Ballet. He has received the Mae L. Wien Award for choreography from the School of American Ballet, the Martin E. Segal Award from Lincoln Center, the London Critics’ Circle Award, the American Choreography Award, and the Olivier Award.
An abstract work for seven men and one woman, Mr. Welch’s Clear is a showcase for male dancers. Set to music by Bach, the work is an artistic response to 9/11. Mr. Welch began choreographing Clear for New York City’s American Ballet Theatre two weeks after terrorists attacked The World Trade Center in downtown Manhattan. The resulting critically acclaimed work explores his reaction to that time of crisis.
Commented Mr. Welch, “In a time of tragedy, what is the clearest thing that occurs to people? What is most important? What is the common thread? To me it’s love and family. In Clear, the woman brings clarity to the seven men in the ballet. She represents the thing that leads you home and out of the mess you’re in.”
Noted New York fashion designer Michael Kors created the costumes for Clear. Sleek and sexy, Mr. Kors’s flesh-toned designs focus the attention on the dancers, emphasizing the emotional impact of Mr. Welch’s choreography.
When Amerian Ballet Theatre premiered Clear on October 25, 2001 in New York City, Anna Kisselgoff of The New York Times enthused,
Seven Men And One Woman Equals Explosion
Clear is already the major hit of American Ballet Theater’s season. The choreography is explosive, fiercely danced by seven men with no show of diminished energy by the sole woman in the cast. Yet under the almost aggressive exuberance there is a hint of sadness, resolved finally in the comfort of a lover’s embrace….
Above all Clear is a work that uses classical technique but not classical style. That is, it is not a classical ballet. (Think Balanchine or Petipa.) But it explores the academic dance idiom in depth. Mr. Welch knows how to play around with that idiom: Clear has a contemporary look but not the self-consciousness about the ballet vocabulary sometimes seen in Ballet Theater’s works by modern-dance choreographers.
This naturalness extends to the way Mr. Welch has matched the ferocity of his fast footwork with the delicate sound of the violin and oboe in Bach….
As a choreographer Mr. Welch, 32, is something of a chameleon. When The Australian Ballet introduced his work to Americans at the Kennedy Center in Washington in 1994, the roots of his British-derived classical training were obvious. But so was his rebellion against tradition. Clear is a variation on that theme; the early promise is being fulfilled.” (October 30, 2001)
Houston Ballet’s spring repertory program also features the company premiere of Jiří Kylián’s abstract ballet for eight couples, Svadebka. Russian for “wedding,” Svadebka is Kylián’s version of Les Noces, Igor Stravinsky’s powerful cantata about a peasant wedding. The work’s title has roots in the Russian peasant name for the wedding ceremony or wedding play, svádebnaya igrá. In the ballet, a young bride and groom become betrothed through the workings of matchmakers, bid farewell to their parents, and are married in an ecstatic wedding ceremony.
Commented Mr. Welch, “Svadebka is a wonderful ballet that showcases Kylián’s style. I’ve seen it many times and never get tired of it. The bride has to portray an interesting range of emotions, so it’s a real star role.”
Svadebka is set to Russian-born composer Igor Stravinsky’s memorable Les Noces, considered to be one of the landmark works in dance history. One of the most influential artists of 20th century, Stravinsky (1882-1971) composed daring and innovative pieces that changed the dance world. In 1913, the Russian impresario Serge Diaghilev commissioned Stravinsky to create a new work for his influential company Ballets Russes. Ten years later, the Russian dancer and choreographer Bronislava Nijinska created a ballet for Diaghilev’s company to Stravinsky’s Les Noces. The resulting work, Les Noces, has been performed around the world ever since. Jiří Kylián created his version of Les Noces for Netherlands Dance Theater in 1982, creating a powerful reinterpretation of the ballet.
One of the most influential choreographers of his generation, Jiří Kylián has had a profound impact on the world of dance. Jack Anderson, writing in The New York Times about Kylián, observed, “Ballets choreographed by Jiří Kylián are passionate, rhapsodic, even tempestuous. The Czech-born artistic director of Netherlands Dance Theater likes to send dancers surging in great waves across the stage, and he is not afraid to make strong choreographic statements in the theater.” (June 21, 1987)
Svadebka is the second Kylián ballet that Mr. Welch has added to Houston Ballet’s repertory since taking helm of the company in 2003. Houston Ballet has three other works by Kylián in its repertory: Forgotten Land (1981), Sinfonietta (1978) and Symphony in D (1976).
Houston Ballet Caps the 2006-2007 Season
With its Magical Production of Coppélia
From June 7 – June 17, 2007, Houston Ballet will present the nineteenth century comic masterpiece, Coppélia. The perfect introduction for children as well as adults to the beauty of classical ballet, the ballet follows the lighthearted romance between Swanilda and Franz and their relationship with the eccentric toymaker Dr. Coppélius and his unusually lifelike doll Coppélia. Ben Stevenson’s production of this beloved classic ballet sparkles with Desmond Heeley’s breathtaking designs, transporting the audience to a charming Bavarian village.
Commented Mr. Welch, “Coppélia will be great for the company. It has many fun and interesting characters, with very strong, hard classical dancing.”
When Houston Ballet unveiled its current production of Coppélia in March 1992, both dance critics and audiences alike were mesmerized by the splendor of Heeley’s sets and costumes. “At times, the magnificence of the stage as a whole nearly overwhelmed viewer’s senses,” observed Ann Holmes of the Houston Chronicle.
Created in Paris where it premiered on May 25, 1870, Coppélia is a historically significant dance work. The three-act ballet set to a danceable score by Léo Delibes was created at the tail end of the Romantic era, and some consider it to be a precursor of classic ballet. French choreographer Arthur Saint-Léon created Coppélia, his most successful work, for the Paris Opera. He collaborated with Charles Nuitter on the libretto, which drew from E.T.A. Hoffman’s short story Der Sandmann, a gothic fable published in 1815. The ballet, which focuses on a sweet love story, is more lighthearted than Hoffman’s macabre tale.
The ballet, which has gone through many revisions since its premiere, is one of the most popular works in the international repertoire. Notable dancers who performed the role of Swanhilda include Balanchine ballerina Violette Verdy, for Ballet Rambert in 1957, and Karen Kain, artistic director of the National Ballet of Canada, for Ballet Marseille in 1975.
Coppélia first entered Houston Ballet’s repertoire in October 1974, in a staging by Frederic Franklin (who also performed the role of Dr. Coppélius), featuring scenery by Peter Farmer. In November 1979, former Royal Ballet ballerina Anne Heaton restaged the work for the company.
Set in an early nineteenth-century Bavarian village, Coppélia draws the young lovers Swanilda and Franz into the world of the eccentric Dr. Coppélius and the mysterious, enchantingly lifelike doll Coppélia, whom they believe to be his daughter. Attracted to this shy beauty reading in the toymaker’s window, Franz steals into Dr. Coppélius’s fantastic shop; so do the jealous Swanhilda and her curious friends. They soon discover that Coppélia is but a lifeless doll, and decide to play tricks on her proud creator. The confusion and mayhem that follow as Dr. Coppélius seeks revenge are resolved in the final act’s wedding festival, with its brilliant divertissements.
Houston Ballet last performed Coppélia in 2001.
$66 -- $783, depending on seat location and date of performances.
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