The Prince Of The Pagodas

A brief history of the ballet and a run down of the plot.
Written by dance ambassador Kelly McFarland

The Prince of the Pagodas

The Prince of The Pagodas is a relatively new ballet. It was created in 1957 so it’s only fifty six years old. The ballet was created by choreographer John Cranko.

 In The Prince of the Pagodas, an Emperor must decide which of his two daughters should inherit the throne, and he chooses the evil older sister Belle Epine over the young and beautiful Belle Rose. Belle Rose is taken by magical flying frogs to Pagoda Land, and meets the Prince of Pagoda Land disguised as the Salamander. Belle Rose and the Prince return to the land of her father and confront her evil sister, in the end driving her away.

Ayako Ono as Princess Bell Sakura and Yudai Fukuoka as Salamander Prince; photo Hidemi Seto

Ayako Ono as Princess Bell Sakura and Yudai Fukuoka as Salamander Prince. photo by Hidemi Seto

The score was written and commissioned by Benjamin Britten who had agreed sometime in1954-1955 to write a ballet with John Cranko.

 The Prince Of The Pagodas first premiered on Jan 1st 1957 in Covent Garden. It later gained critical acclaim when it was revived by Kenneth MacMillan in 1989, with Darcey Bussell premiering in the principal role.

Darcey Bussell and Bruce Sansom starring in The Prince of Pagodas (1989)

Darcey Bussell and Bruce Sansom starring in The Prince of Pagodas (1989)

It has most recently been revived by David Bintley for Birmingham Royal Ballet. In 2011 he announced he would be staging his own adaptation with new staging and choreography as a joint venture with the New National Theatre Tokyo. The new version combines an updated plot with all-new choreography, drawing inspiration from the visual world of Japanese ukiyo-e paintings by Kuniyoshi.

photo Hidemi Seto

photo by Hidemi Seto

Bintley has been considering a new version of The Prince of the Pagodas for more than 30 years, prompted by a suggestion from Dame Ninette de Valois. As director of both National Ballet of Japan and Birmingham Royal Ballet he is realising a dream of creating “a fusion of British and Japanese culture and mythologies”. The Ballet premiered in Japan in October/November 2011.It will tour the UK in 2014 as one of the closing highlights of the Britten centenary. It will premiere at The Lowry Theatre om 30th January. From there it will tour the rest of the country.

Ayako Ono as Princess Bell Sakura; photo Hidemi Seto

Ayako Ono as Princess Bell Sakura; photo Hidemi Seto

If we have whetted your appetite and you are eager to find out more, click here to book tickets.

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