Houston Ballet, La Bayadere, Stanton Welch
From February 21-March 3, 2013, Houston Ballet presents Stanton Welch's La Bayadère ("The Temple Dancer"), a historic classic staged by Houston Ballet Artistic Director Stanton Welch and set in royal India of the past.
La Bayadère is a dramatic ballet of eternal love, mystery, fate, vengeance and justice, featuring spectacular scenery and costumes by the acclaimEd English designer Peter Farmer. This lavish production recounts the story of Nikiya, a temple dancer, her lover Solor, and the vengeance that keeps them apart -- at least in this life.
Houston Ballet will give seven performances of La Bayadère at Wortham Theater Center in downtown Houston. Tickets may be purchased by calling 713 227 2787 or by visiting www.houstonballet.org.
La Bayadère's third act, the famous Kingdom of the Shades section, showcases 24 female dancers in white tutus, executing 38 synchronized and seamless arabesques while descending onto the stage, and is one of the purest forms of ballet-blanc, or white tutu ballet. "The Kingdom of the Shades is a challenging segment because it requires such control and precision from the corps de ballet women," says Mr. Welch. "There are few works in the classical repertoire that require more precision from the corps de ballet." The Kingdom of the Shades is so popular it is often performed on its own. Houston Ballet first performed The Kingdom of the Shades scene, staged by Ben Stevenson after Marius Petipa, in March 1994 and revived it in 1998.
Mr. Welch choreographed La Bayadère on Houston Ballet in 2010. "La Bayadere is a grand 19th-century classical ballet, and Peter Farmer has given us a big, visually stunning, Bollywood-like production. It's a colorful story that's sexy, provocative and very dramatic," observed Mr. Welch.
The piece was his second staging of a 19th century classic for Houston Ballet, after Swan Lake in 2006. He has choreographed a number of full-length story ballets for The Australian Ballet, including Madame Butterfly (1995), Cinderella (1997) and The Sleeping Beauty (2005); as well as two original evening-length works for Houston Ballet, Tales of Texas (2004) and Marie (2009).
English designer Peter Farmer, who has a long and rich history with Houston Ballet, created the spectacular scenery and costumes for La Bayadère. Mr. Farmer created a total of nine full-length productions for Houston Ballet since 1972 and is one of the few designers to have worked with three of the company's directors: Nina Popova, Ben Stevenson and Stanton Welch.
The costume designs are reminiscent of brightly colored traditional Indian attire, such as harem pants and saris, for the first and second acts. "Peter's scenic design is not a realistic depiction of India. It's like looking through an old picture book from western culture with a view of romanticized India," comments Mr. Welch. "The production has a very painterly look, almost reminiscent of Monet that will give it dreaminess and romance." The lavish production includes 121 costumes, comprised of 568 items. This also includes 26 handmade white tutus for The Kingdom of the Shades scene.
Born in Luton, England in 1941, Mr. Farmer's prolific career in scenic and costume design includes over 300 productions in dance and theater. Mr. Farmer was first commissioned for his designs in 1964 for Jack Carter's production of Agrionia, performed by the London Dance Theatre. The following year, he was asked to create designs for Ballet Rambert's Giselle. This ballet has since been associated with Mr. Farmer and led him to create designs for leading ballet companies around the world. His designs for ballet productions include Swan Lake (Royal Winnipeg Ballet), The Sleeping Beauty (Munich Opera House and The Royal Ballet), Manon (Houston Ballet, Vienna State Opera and The Australian Ballet), Coppélia (Birmingham Royal Ballet) as well as several modern pieces for the London Contemporary Dance Theatre. His designs for drama include The Night of the Iguana, A Woman of No Importance and What Every Woman Knows. Other productions that he has designed for Houston Ballet include Frederic Franklin's productions of The Nutcracker (1972) and Coppélia (1974); Ben Stevenson's stagings of Cinderella (1976), The Sleeping Beauty (1978), Peer Gynt (1981) and Lady in Waiting (1984); Peter Wright's staging of Giselle (1979); Sir Kenneth MacMillan's Manon (1992); and Patricia Olade's one-act work Conceptual Contrast (1989).
A tragic soap opera set in an Indian royal court, La Bayadère blends exoticism, white tutus, venomous snakes and opium. In his book, The World's Great Ballets, critic John Gruen places La Bayadère in the following historical context, "The creators of Romantic ballet shared with other artists of the time a fascination with the spiritualism and exoticism of the Orient. The most notable early dance treatment of such themes was Filippo Taglioni's opera-ballet Le Dieu et la Bayadère, based on a poem by Goethe. More than 40 years later, Marius Petipa conceived of the idea for his own Oriental ballet. At its premiere on February 4, 1877, at the Bolshoi Theatre in St. Petersburg, La Bayadère was a triumph: it catered to the Russian taste for spectacular theatrics, exotic settings, and convoluted, melodramatic plot lines, yet also contained classical choreography of breath taking purity."
Marius Petipa (1818-1910), the "father of classical ballet," was born in Marseille, France in 1818, and produced over 60 full-evening pieces, including works that have become the foundation of the classical ballet repertoire such as The Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake. Swan Lake and La Bayadère share many similarities: Both were premiered in 1877, and both made spectacular use of the corps de ballet in performance to a symphonic score. (Although the original 1877 production of Swan Lake was choreographed by Julius Reisinger; Petipa, with Lev Ivanov, later staged the definitive version of the work for the Maryinsky Theater in 1895.)