Houston Ballet announces premiere of The Taming of the Shrew

March 17, 2011

Ballet, Ballet News, Press Releases

Houston Ballet caps its 2010-11 season with the company premiere of John Cranko’s The Taming of the Shrew IN JUNE 2011

Third Work by Cranko to Enter Houston Ballet’s Repertoire

two dancers backing into each other

Melody Herrera and Connor Walsh Photograph : Pam Francis

HOUSTON, TEXAS – From June 9-19, 2011, Houston Ballet will present John Cranko’s staging of The Taming of the Shrew, a masterful choreographic depiction of Shakespeare’s perpetually battling lovers, Petruchio and Katherina, and of Petruchio’s determination to bend the feisty, independent-spirited and tempestuous Katherina to his will. Incorporating a stunning array of dramatic moods, virtuoso dancing and vivid characterization, The Taming of the Shrew conveys like no other ballet Shakespeare’s wit, brilliant comic invention and sharp understanding of human character.  Houston Ballet will give seven performances of The Taming of the Shrew at Wortham Theater Center in downtown Houston. Tickets may be purchased by calling 713 227 2787 or by visiting Houston Ballet’s website.

Originally created for Stuttgart Ballet in 1969, the two-act work has become a staple of the international repertoire, danced by companies across the globe, including American Ballet Theatre, The Royal Ballet, The National Ballet of Canada, The Australian Ballet and The Joffrey Ballet. 

Houston Ballet Artistic Director Stanton Welch commented, “The Taming of the Shrew helped me fall in love with dance at 16.  I was an audience member and thought the piece was hilarious.  I was cast in Cranko’s The Taming of the Shrew, and I learned a lot from the experience.  The characters are well defined and require intelligent acting.  I am glad we can bring the ballet to Houston.”  Mr. Welch fell in love with what many critics have praised: Cranko’s ability to create a full-length ballet full of emotion and comedy, while making the story accessible to today’s audiences.

In the opening scene, three suitors, Hortensio, Lucentio and Gremio, arrive at Baptista’s house to serenade Baptista’s younger daughter Bianca. Her older sister Katherina interrupts the scene. Baptista declares that Bianca shall not marry until Katherina is wed. The rumpus awakens a crowd of neighbors, whom Katherina sends packing.  In the tavern, Petruchio arrives tipsy and is robbed of his last penny by two ladies of the street. Hortensio, Lucentio, and Gremio offer to introduce him to an heiress. To their delight, he accepts. Back at Baptista’s house, Petruchio arrives and asks for Katherina’s hand. After a stormy courtship, she agrees. Meanwhile Bianca’s suitors, in disguise, press their claims under the pretense of giving singing, dancing and music lessons. Bianca favors Lucentio. The first act culminates at Katherina and Petruchio’s wedding, where Petruchio arrives late and behaves outrageously. He carries off the bride without waiting for the wedding festivities to begin.

Act II begins at Petruchio’s home, where Petruchio does not allow Katherina to eat, protesting that the food is not good enough.  She then refuses to consummate the marriage and spends the night on the kitchen floor.  The next scene takes place at a carnival where Lucentio, bribing two ladies of the street to wear cloaks and masks like Bianca, tricks Hortensio and Gremio into marrying them.  Back at Petruchio’s home, Petruchio’s mocking and trickery provoke Katherina. Eventually she surrenders, and they admit they love each other. On the way to Bianca’s wedding, Petruchio indulges in some whims, but Katherina has learned to humor him. At the wedding, Bianca treats her husband scornfully, but Katherina shows her how a wife is expected to behave.  Left alone, she and Petruchio revel in their new-found love.

Born in South Africa in 1927, John Cranko was one of the most successful choreographers of full-length story ballets in the twentieth century. He studied dance mainly at the University of Cape Town and at the Sadler’s Wells School in London. He joined the Sadler’s Wells Ballet (later The Royal Ballet) in 1946 and in a few years began his choreographic career. In 1957, he created his first full-length ballet, The Prince of the Pagodas, for The Royal Ballet. He was appointed director of Stuttgart Ballet in 1961, and in 1962, he premiered his breakthrough staging of Romeo and Juliet to great critical acclaim. His productions of Onegin (1965), The Taming of the Shrew (1969) and Carmen (1971) are now part of the international repertoire. Some other works he created in Stuttgart include Swan Lake (1963), Opus I (1965) and Initials R.B.M.E. (1972).  In addition, he encouraged young dancers in his company, including Jiří Kylián and John Neumeier, to try their hand at choreography. The untimely death of Cranko in 1973, at the age of 45, deprived the ballet world of one of its most talented choreographers of story ballets.

Houston Ballet has two other works by Cranko in its repertoire: Onegin, which the company first performed in 2005; and The Lady and the Fool (1954), which the company first performed in 1978.

Houston Ballet’s performances of The Taming of the Shrew are made possible from the generous support of JP Morgan Chase, Sysco Corporation, and The Wortham Foundation.

About Houston Ballet

On February 17, 1969 a troupe of 15 young dancers made its stage debut at Sam Houston State Teacher’s College in Huntsville, Texas.  Since that time, Houston Ballet has evolved into a company of 53 dancers with a budget of $18.4 million, a state-of-the-art performance space built especially for the company, Wortham Theater Center,  and an endowment of just over $55 million (as of January 2011), making it the United States’ fourth largest ballet company by number of dancers.  Under the administrative leadership of managing director C.C. Conner since 1995, the company has maintained a strong financial position.    

Houston Ballet has toured extensively both nationally and internationally.  Over the last decade, the company has appeared in London at Sadler’s Wells, at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow, in six cities in Spain, in Montréal, at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., in New York at City Center, and in cities large and small across the United States. 

Houston Ballet has emerged as a leader in the expensive, labor-intensive task of nurturing the creation and development of new full-length narrative ballets.  The company has also commissioned new one-act ballets from some of the world’s most respected choreographers, including Julia Adam, Christopher Bruce, James Kudelka, Trey McIntyre, Paul Taylor, Glen Tetley, Natalie Weir and Lila York.

Writing in The Financial Times on March 6, 2006, dance critic Hilary Ostlere praised Houston Ballet as “a strong, reinvigorated company whose male contingent is particularly impressive, a well-drilled corps and an enviable selection of soloists and principals.”  Dance Europe editor Emma Manning observed of the company in November 2004, “One of the first things that hits you about this company is the technical strengths not just of the principals, but throughout the ranks. Watching artistic director Stanton Welch take class on a Sunday morning before a matinee, one could not help but marvel at the multiple turns tossed off by the young women in the corps….The three new works shown in this program will be followed by no fewer than four more Houston premieres.  Can any other major ballet company in the world match that?”

Houston Ballet Orchestra was established in the late 1970s and currently consists of 62 professional musicians who play all ballet performances at Wortham Theater Center under music director Ermanno Florio.

Houston Ballet Academy has reached over 19,000 Houston area students (as of the 2009-2010 season) and has had five academy students win prizes at the prestigious international ballet competition the Prix de Lausanne, with one student winning the overall competition in 2010.

HOUSTON BALLET
THE TAMING OF THE SHREW
FACT SHEET

WHAT:                      THE TAMING OF THE SHREW (1969): Houston Ballet Premiere

Music by Kurt-Heinz Stolze (1926-1970),
after Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757)
Choreography by John Cranko
Scenic and Costume Designs by Susan Benson
Lighting by Steen Bjarke

Generously underwritten by:
JP Morgan Chase, Sysco Corporation, and The Wortham Foundation

ABOUT THE
PROGRAM:

Featuring lavish scenery and costumes, John Cranko’s staging of The Taming of the Shrew is a masterful choreographic depiction of Shakespeare’s perpetually battling lovers, Petruchio and Katherina, and of Petruchio’s determination to bend the feisty, independent-spirited and tempestuous Katherina to his will. Incorporating a stunning array of dramatic moods, virtuoso dancing and vivid characterization, The Taming of the Shrew conveys like no other ballet Shakespeare’s wit, brilliant comic invention and sharp understanding of human character. 

WHEN:                       At 7:30 p.m. on June 9, 11, 17, 18, 2011
At 2:00 p.m. on June 12, 18, 19, 2011

WHERE:                     Brown Theater, Wortham Theater Center
501 Texas Avenue in downtown Houston

TICKETS:                   Start at $18. Call (713) 227 ARTS or 1 800 828 ARTS
Tickets are also available at online & at Houston Ballet Box Office at Wortham Theater Center, 501 Texas Ave. (at Smith St.)

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One Response to “Houston Ballet announces premiere of The Taming of the Shrew”

  1. Ashley Says:

    Ooh, I’d love to see this in Houston!

    Thank you so much for stopping by my blog and leaving a lovely comment!