March 18, 2014

Press Releases

BIRMINGHAM ROYAL BALLET presents the LONDON premiere performances of David Bintley’s THE PRINCE OF THE PAGODAS


  • The full-length ballet is one of the  closing highlights of the world-wide Britten 100 celebrations


  • Britten’s only full-length ballet score to be performed during the Britten 100 celebrations   


  • Designs by Olivier award-winning and War Horse designer Rae Smith 


Birmingham Royal Ballet will present the London premiere performances of David Bintley’s imaginative reworking of a classic story that celebrates the power of family love, The Prince of The Pagodas, at the London Coliseum from Wednesday 26 – Saturday 29 March 2014.   

The Prince of the Pagodas choreographed by BRB Director David Bintley to Benjamin Britten’s only full-length ballet score will be one of the closing highlights of the Britten 100 celebrations.  The Prince of the Pagodas is the only full-length narrative ballet to be performed as part of the year-long, world-wide dedications to the British composer Benjamin Britten. Bintley considered his version for over 30 years before his new production came to fruition.

Bintley created new choreography for The Prince of the Pagodas.  It received its world premiere in Japan in October 2011 performed by National Ballet of Japan and Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra and was rapturously received by audiences and critics.  Past choreographic versions have been a three-act ballet created by John Cranko for The Royal Ballet in 1957.  This was subsequently revisited and choreographed by Kenneth MacMillan in 1989.  The production also played its part in reviving interest in Britten’s score.

When Bintley was asked why Pagodas, he instantly replied “the score”.  He continued:  “In 1979, shortly after the premiere of my second piece for Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet (now BRB), Dame Ninette de Valois suggested to me that I listen to Benjamin Britten’s score for The Prince of the Pagodas. Unfortunately, a complete recording of the ballet wasn’t available at the time, but I got hold of the extended highlights, conducted by Britten, and found that I loved Britten’s score.”

When Bintley considered the story he revisited Cranko’s 1957 version.  He said: “In the original there’s a Beauty and the Beast-type premise where a Princess falls in love with a Salamander, but there really isn’t a struggle towards love; there are very few romantic moments in the action…I thought it was far better to make it a different type of love story. Not a man for a woman, but a sister for a brother, and a father for a son – a love for the family.”

Through a lonely childhood the Princess Sakura mourns the death of her brother and the slow disintegration of her once all-powerful father the Emperor of the Chrysanthemum Throne, who, broken by the death of his son, allows his new wife to take control of his kingdom. Presented with a choice of four powerful and wealthy husbands, Sakura’s memories of the true love she once felt for her brother gives her the courage to refuse her suitors. Her resolve is reinforced when a fifth suitor arrives at the Palace- a scaly Salamander, both fascinating and repellent. Determined not to be forced to follow her stepmother’s bidding, Princess Sakura throws herself on the mercy of the new arrival.

After a long and dangerous journey through the elements of earth, air, fire and water, they arrive at the Salamander’s kingdom, but Sakura’s adventure has only just begun.

Bintley took a Japanese fairytale and combined the restructured plot with inspiration drawn from Kuniyoshi, one of the last great masters of Japanese ukiyo-e paintings. His inspiration continues with the use of the gestural language of Noh theatre in his choreography. Complementing Britten’s score, Bintley brings together British and Japanese culture and mythologies in this production.

The Prince of the Pagodas adds another full-length ballet to Bintley’s incredible career and history of dance making. Full length ballets choreographed by Bintley, the award-winning Director of Birmingham Royal Ballet, include Hobson’s Choice, Edward II, Far from the Madding Crowd, Cinderella and Aladdin.

The spectacular and imaginative set and costumes from award-winning British designer Rae Smith bring to vibrant life the elegance and beauty of the Chrysanthemum Kingdom, and capture our imagination in the fantastical journey through the elements. Smith’s designs include War Horse at the National Theatre winning her an Olivier Award in 2008 and an Evening Standard Best Design Award in 2007.  Most recently Smith designed The Light Princess for the National Theatre. Bintley approached Smith after seeing her designs for A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The Prince of the Pagodas marks Bintley’s first collaboration with Smith.

Accompanying BRB will be the Company’s full-time orchestra, the Royal Ballet Sinfonia, under the Musical Directorship of Koen Kessels. The Royal Ballet Sinfonia is Britain’s busiest ballet orchestra, playing for Birmingham Royal Ballet’s wide-ranging programme in the UK and abroad.

The Prince of the Pagodas

Performances at The Coliseum, London:

Wednesday 26 March at 7.30pm

Thursday 27 March at 2pm and 7.30pm

Friday 28 March at 7.30pm

Saturday 29 March at 2.30pm and 7.30pm

Tickets: online or 020 7845 9300 or in person at The London Coliseum, St. Martin’s Lane, London, WC2N 4ES

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  1. Ballet News Says:

    Roger Handley Commented: roll on the 29th March’