HOUSTON BALLET REVIVES RONALD HYND’S ROMANTIC COMEDY THE MERRY WIDOW
Production Features Spectacular Scenery and Costumes by Italian Designer Roberta Guidi di Bagno
Beloved Company Star Mireille Hassenboehler
Gives Final Performances with Houston Ballet in the Title Role
Houston, TX — From September 19-29, 2013, Houston Ballet presents Ronald Hynd’s comic and enchanting The Merry Widow. Adapted from Franz Lehár’s beloved operetta, the internationally-admired British choreographer Ronald Hynd adds a new layer of lavish spectacle and choreography to the original story of The Merry Widow to create an irresistibly charming and intoxicating tale of high jinks, finance, romance, and intrigue. The production features magnificent scenery and costumes by Italian designer Roberta Guidi di Bagno. The company will give seven performances at Wortham Theater Center in downtown Houston. Tickets start at $19, and may be purchased via Houston Ballet’s website or by calling 713 227 ARTS (2787).
The Merry Widow was premiered by The Australian Ballet to outstanding success on November 13, 1975 at the Palais Theatre in Melbourne and immediately established itself as a classic of the twentieth century full-length ballet repertoire. Like the operetta which debuted in 1905, the ballet has proven to be very popular and has been adopted into the repertoires of many companies, including American Ballet Theatre, the National Ballet of Canada, Pacific Northwest Ballet, and Teatro alla Scala in Milan. Houston Ballet first performed Mr. Hynd’s The Merry Widow in 1995.
Set in Paris in 1905, The Merry Widow is the story of the fictitious Balkan state of Pontevedro and a beautiful and rich widow, Hanna Glawari. With the threat of losing Hanna and her fortune to a foreigner, the nation’s dashing Count Danilo reluctantly prepares to woo and win her – and her fortune – thus securing the country’s economic status. At the embassy ball in Paris, however, the plan is thwarted as Danilo and Hanna realize they were once young lovers. Fueled by the possibility of rekindled love, the ballet deftly intertwines the plot’s political and economic intrigue with the characters’ devious and comical undertakings.
With its combination of sensuality, charisma and female empowerment, the title role of Hanna Glawari has proven to be a spectacular vehicle for a number of celebrated female dancers, including Australian ballerinas Marilyn Rowe and Marilyn Jones, Dame Margot Fonteyn, the National Ballet of Canada’s Karen Kain, Bolshoi ballerina Nina Ananiashvili, and Houston Ballet Principal Dancer Janie Parker, who performed the title role when the company danced The Merry Widow for the first time in 1995. In September 2013, beloved principal dancer Mireille Hassenboehler will appear as Hanna, a role she first performed in 2007. Additionally, former principal dancer Amy Fote, who retired from the stage in December 2012, will return to dance the title role at select performances.
On returning to the lead role of Hanna for the final performances of her 21-year career with Houston Ballet, acclaimed principal dancer Mireille Hassenboehler mused, “What better way to go than with a waltz and a champagne glass in hand?”
Houston Ballet will pay tribute to Ms. Hassenboehler at its 2013 Jubilee of Dance on Friday, December 6, 2013 at 7:30 pm.
A native of New Orleans and a graduate of Houston Ballet Academy, Ms. Hassenboehler joined Houston Ballet in 1992, and was promoted to the rank of principal dancer in 2000. In a long and memorable career, she has created the leading female roles of Sluefoot Sue in Stanton Welch’s Pecos in 2004 and Odette/Odile in Stanton Welch’s staging of Swan Lake in 2006. She has danced the leading female roles in all the great classical ballets, making a particularly strong impression with her dramatic gifts in the title role of Giselle in 2005. That same year, readers of Houston Press selected her as “Best Ballet Dancer.” She has also excelled at more contemporary works such as William Forsythe’s In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated. Reviewing her performance in this work, Houston Chronicle dance critic Molly Glentzer observed, “Mireille Hassenboehler attacked the featured role, originally created for the rubber-jointed French star Sylvie Guillem, with super-charged aplomb. She and Phillip Broomhead plugged into an amazing energy force in a pas de deux that brought the piece to an electrifying climax.” But Ms. Hassenboehler’s most rewarding role is mother to her young son Teddy, born in 2011, and she has successfully managed to balance the demands of being both a full-time ballet dancer and mother of a young child.
“I’m very thankful for my career here at Houston Ballet,” Ms. Hassenboehler reflected. “I’ve been such a lucky dancer and Houston has been a wonderful place for me to grow as an artist. I will definitely miss the professional career that I’ve enjoyed and worked for all these years.”
Former Houston Ballet Principal Dancer Amy Fote will also return to appear as a guest artist in the title role of The Merry Widow at select performances.
Ronald Hynd has a long and rich history spanning three decades with Houston Ballet, having created such full length works as Papillon (1979) and The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1988) for the company. Born in London, England, Mr. Hynd trained with Marie Rambert and later made his performing debut with Ballet Rambert. In 1951, Mr. Hynd joined the Sadler’s Wells Ballet (now Royal Ballet) where he rose to the rank of principal dancer performing an extensive range of classical and dramatic roles. His first ballet, The Fairy’s Kiss, was choreographed in 1967 for the Dutch National Ballet and was later taken into the repertoire of London Festival Ballet (now English National Ballet). Between two directorships of the Munich Ballet, Mr. Hynd has enjoyed an international career and created many works. Many of his productions have entered the repertoires of such companies as Houston Ballet, The Royal Ballet, PACT Ballet (South Africa), Santiago Ballet of Chile and many other European and American companies to great critical acclaim.
Houston Ballet has seven works in its repertory choreographed by Ronald Hynd: The Merry Widow (created in 1975, performed by Houston Ballet in 1995, 1999, 2007), Papillon (which was created for Houston Ballet in 1979, also performed 1980, 1981, 1984), Dvořák Variations (created in 1980, performed by Houston Ballet in 1980 and 1982), The Seasons (created for Houston Ballet in 1980), Rosalinda (created in 1978, performed by Houston Ballet in 1987, 1988), The Firebird choreographed with Annette Page after Michel Fokine (created for Houston Ballet in 1981) and The Hunchback of Notre Dame (which was created for Houston Ballet in 1988).
Born in Rome, Roberta Guidi di Bagno enjoys an international reputation as a set and costume designer. She created scenery and costumes for John Cranko’s Onegin for Teatro all Scala, and her designs were later taken into the repertoires of Deutsche Oper Barlin, Teatro Colòn Buenos Aires and Opéra de Nice. For English National Ballet, she created designs for two new productions by Derek Deane: Romeo and Juliet (1998) and The Sleeping Beauty (2000) both performed at The Royal Albert Hall in London. In 2000, she also created new sets and costumes for Mr. Hynd’s productions of The Nutcracker for Teatro alla Scala and Coppélia for Deutsche Oper Berlin. In 1996, Ms. Guidi di Bagno was commissioned to create new sets and costumes for Mr. Hynd’s The Merry Widow for Teatro alla Scala, which was restaged in Seattle by the Pacific Northwest Ballet.
Stanton Welch has collaborated with Robert Guidi di Bagno on two of his productions: Ønsket (“The Wish”) (1998) and Ander (“The Ghost”) (1999) for Royal Danish Ballet.
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 55 dancers with a budget of $22.8 million (making it the United States’ fourth largest ballet company by number of dancers), a state-of-the-art performance space built especially for the company, Wortham Theater Center, the largest professional dance facility in America, Houston Ballet’s $46.6 million Center for Dance which opened in April 2011, and an endowment of $53.7 million (as of August 2012).
Australian choreographer Stanton Welch has served as artistic director of Houston Ballet since 2003, raising the level of the company’s classical technique and commissioning many new works from dance makers such as Christopher Bruce, Jorma Elo, James Kudelka, Julia Adam, Natalie Weir and Nicolo Fonte. James Nelson serves as the administrative leader of the company, assuming the position of executive director of Houston Ballet in February 2012 after serving as the company’s general manager for over a decade.
Houston Ballet has toured extensively both nationally and internationally. Since 2000, the company has appeared in London at Sadler’s Wells, at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow, Ottawa, in six cities in Spain, in Montréal, at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., in New York at City Center and The Joyce Theater, 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.
Houston Ballet Orchestra was established in the late 1970s and currently consists of 61 professional musicians who play all ballet performances at Wortham Theater Center under music director Ermanno Florio.
Houston Ballet’s Education and Outreach Program has reached over 25,000 Houston area students (as of the 2012-2013 season). Houston Ballet’s Academy has 950 students and has had four academy students win prizes at the prestigious international ballet competition the Prix de Lausanne, with one student winning the overall competition in 2010.
THE MERRY WIDOW
WHAT: THE MERRY WIDOW
(created in 1975, performed by Houston Ballet in 1995, 1999, and 2007)
Music by Franz Lehár
Musical adaptation by John Lanchbery and Alan Abbott
Choreography by Ronald Hynd
Scenery and Costume Design by Roberta Guidi di Bagno
Lighting Design by Randall G. Chiarelli
Staged by Ronald Hynd and John Meehan
ABOUT THE PROGRAM:
Houston Ballet revives Ronald Hynd’s deliciously comic love story, The Merry Widow, featuring spectacular scenery and costumes by Italian designer Roberta Guidi di Bagno. Set in turn of the century Paris, this production has it all: lilting waltzes by Franz Lehár; saucy can-can girls, glamour and champagne; and a wonderful love story featuring an unlikely couple, separated in their youth, who rekindle their lost romance.
At 7:30 p.m. on September 19, 21, 27, 28, 2013
At 2:00 p.m. on September 22, 28, 29, 2013
WHERE: Brown Theater, Wortham Theater Center, 501 Texas Avenue in downtown Houston
TICKETS: Start at $19. Call (713) 227 ARTS or 1 800 828 ARTS. Online.
Also available at Houston Ballet Box Office at Wortham Theater Center downtown at 501 Texas at Smith Street