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FOR RELEASE JULY 1, 2013
David Bintley's Aladdin:
A Story of Romance, Trickery and Adventure
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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 ballets, 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.
Aladdin is a co-production with Birmingham Royal Ballet.