Houston Ballet to Stage ALADDIN, 2/20-3/2
From February 20-March 2, 2014, Houston Ballet presents the North American Premiere of David Bintley's Aladdin, the first work by the celebratEd English choreographer to enter Houston Ballet's repertoire.
A run-in with palace guards leads young Aladdin into a whirlwind of adventure and romance, involving unbelievable riches, love at first sight, treachery, and of course a magic lamp containing a powerful genie. The three-act production boasts a stellar creative team with renowned film composer Carl Davis, famed costume designer Sue Blane and accomplished set designer Dick Bird. Houston Ballet will give seven performances of Aladdin at Wortham Theater Center in downtown Houston.
Tickets start at $19, and may be purchased at www.houstonballet.org or by calling Houston Ballet box office at 713 227 2787, or 1800 828 2787.
After the premiere of the work in Houston, Houston Ballet will perform Aladdin on tour in Chicago at The Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University March 22-23, 2013. Tickets to the Chicago performances may be purchased at www.auditoriumtheatre.org or by calling (800) 982-ARTS (2787).
Mr. Bintley choreographed Aladdin for New National Ballet of Japan. It had its world premiere in 2008 where Asahi Shimbun (Japanese national press) praised the ballet as "Elaborate and splendid." On creating the ballet, Mr. Bintley said, "One of the most pleasurable experiences of my choreographic life was the creation of Aladdin for the dancers of the New National Theater Tokyo. I won't go so far as to say it was one of the easiest experiences, but certainly a period of my life that I will always treasure."
At the work's London premiere in February 2013, Laura Thompson of The Telegraph observed, "Aladdin is a full-blown piece of three-act splendor and looks absolutely astonishing....it is a delightful family show, and an ideal first outing to the ballet." (The Telegraph, February 19, 2013)
The music of Aladdin was composed by Carl Davis, who is highly acclaimed in the fields of films and musicals. Mr. Davis has written numerous ballet, TV and film scores including The French Lieutenant's Woman in 1981, for which he won the BAFTA Award for Best Film Music.
Costume designer Sue Blane created the striking costumes seen in Aladdin. She is best known for her costume designs for the iconic The Rocky Horror Show and The Rocky Horror Picture Show by Richard O'Brien. Ms. Blane was nominated for a 1997 Laurence Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Dance for her design of English National Ballet's Alice in Wonderland and a BAFTA nomination for Peter Greenaway's The Draughtsman's Contract. Set designs for Aladdin were created by Dick Bird. He has designed numerous theatre, opera, ballet, TV and film productions including for the Barbican, Opera North, English National Opera, Royal Court Theatre, Chichester Festival Theatre, Young Vic and Crucible Theatre. His recent projects include a production of Hamlet for the Comedie Francaise in Paris and The Lady of the Lake for the Royal Opera House.
Aladdin: Inspiring British Pantomimes in the 18th Century and Broadway Musicals in the 21st Century
The story of Aladdin and his magical lamp originated as a tale that appeared in the epic One Thousand and One Nights or Arabian Nights. This collection of stories was a compilation of tales brought together from countries in the east such as China, India, Egypt, Iraq and Iran. Although the legend of a boy receiving three magical wishes has been around since the third century, the story of Aladdin was not widely known until French scholar Antoine Galland translated the tale and introduced the collection of stories to European readers in the early 18th century. Since then, the tale of the poor boy who finds a magical lamp has enthralled and inspired audiences. In 1885 British explorer Sir Richard Francis Burton published the celebratEd English language translation of the book. It stood as the only complete translation of the Macnaghten or Calcutta II edition (Egyptian recension) of the Arabian Nights until the Malcolm C. and Ursula Lyons translation in 2008. On February 26, 2014 Disney will present the previews of a new Broadway musical version of Aladdin, which officially opens March 20, 2014. The production will be directed by Tony Award winner Casey Nicholaw, and composed by Tony Award winner Alan Menken.
Literary critics Saree Makdisi and Felicity Nussbaum write in The Arabian Nights in Historical Context Between East and West, "A Thousand and One Nights or The Arabian Nights changed the world on a scale unrivalled by any other literary text. Editions, compilations, translations and variations circled the globe to reveal the absorption of The Arabian Nights . . . where it now enjoys a degree of prominence never attained before."
The popularity of Aladdin led to it being performed as a pantomime for the first time at Covent Garden in London in 1788, but not in a pantomime format that audiences would recognize today. The characters were not named and the performance ran for over two hours. The pantomime was not widely acclaimed and, despite repeated attempts at revivals, the story languished until the famed pantomime author Henry J. Byron wrote Aladdin or The Wonderful Scamp, which was performed at the Strand Theater, London in 1861 to great success. It is from Mr. Byron's version that all modern Aladdin adaptations are descended.
Today, Aladdin is one of the most opulent and spectacular pantomimes to be seen. In Britain, the pantomime is a popular Christmas tradition, with productions including rich and colorful costumes and sets. Almost every production includes what is called a "specialty act" in which a magical flying carpet appears to a stunned audience. Also essential to the pantomime production is the magical lamp in which a genie appears to grant Aladdin's wishes.
David Bintley: Inspired by Dame Ninette de Valois and Sir Frederick Ashton
A native of Huddersfield, England, Mr. Bintley began his training at the age of four. In 1973 he joined the Royal Ballet Upper School, where he was influenced by Dame Ninette de Valois and Frederick Ashton. He cites Valois and Ashton as his heroes, and his love for the communicative style of English ballet that they forged springs from the training they gave him. He joined Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet in 1976, where he made his mark playing character roles such as Alain and Widow Simone in Ashton's La Fille mal gardée and the Ugly Sister in Cinderella. At the same time, his choreographic ambition was encouraged, beginning with The Outsider in 1978 and continuing through his first major narrative ballet The Swan of Tuonela in 1982. In 1983, he became resident choreographer of Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet, but left three years later to take up the same position at The Royal Ballet. Mr. Bintley resigned from the Royal Ballet in 1993 and left to work abroad. In 1995, he returned home as artistic director of his old company, now based in Birmingham and renamed Birmingham Royal Ballet.
Since his appointment, he has shaped a company where the dancers share his philosophy of continuing to preserve the classical repertory while introducing new work made in the same idiom. At the same time, he has continued to be a prolific choreographer, with a natural impulse towards story telling that has made popular hits of works such as Carmina Burana (1995), Far From the Madding Crowd (1996) and Beauty and the Beast (2003). In 2010 Mr. Bintley accepted the role of artistic director of the National Ballet of Japan, creating Aladdin (2008) and The Prince of Pagodas (2011), while simultaneously holding the position of artistic director of Birmingham Royal Ballet.
Aladdin is a co-production with Birmingham Royal Ballet. Aladdin has been generously underwritten by the Beauchamp Foundation, JPMorgan Chase, and The Wortham Foundation, Inc.
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 $60,676, 551 million (as of August 2013).
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 Ballets 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. For more information on Houston Ballet visit www.houstonballet.org.