Houston Ballet to Finish Out Season with THE TAMING OF THE SHREW, 6/11

HOUSTON, TEXAS - From June 11-21, 2015, 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 Shrewconveys 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 Shrewat Wortham Theater Center in downtown Houston. Tickets may be purchased by calling 713 227 2787 or by visiting www.houstonballet.org.

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, "Upon first seeing The Taming of the Shrew at age 16, I fell in love with the work. I knew that if I should ever become director of a company, I would want that piece for the repertoire. From being cast as a young dancer in The Taming of the Shrew and having the opportunity to work with wonderful coaches, I grew significantly as an artist. And I wanted our dancers to have the opportunity to experience that same type of growth.

"Cranko is one of the master storytellers in dance. His choreography is classically based combined with a love for acting, which is an ideal fit for Houston Ballet," explains Mr. Welch.

Dance critic Joseph Campana praised Houston Ballet's performance of the ballet stating, "Houston Ballet proves dance is by no means immune to the appeal of complex comedy and they prove themselves more than up to the challenge of John Cranko's masterful The Taming of the Shrew." (CultureMap, June 2, 2011).

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.

Cranko developed Marcia Haydée into a great dramatic ballerina and her partnership with Richard Cragun became legendary. Haydee and Cragun were Cranko's muses for his most popular full-length ballets, Romeo and Juliet (1962), Onegin (1965), and The Taming of the Shrew (1969). "Marcia and Richard were great actors and dancers and told the timeless stories Cranko choreographed well. They inspired Cranko," remarks Mr. Welch.

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 Ji?í 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.

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