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Houston Ballet Caps the Season with Stanton Welch's Romantic Classic Swan Lake

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FOR RELEASE MAY 30, 2014
CONTACT:
SARAH LAM
713-535-3226
KIMBERLY CEDENO
713-535-3224
pr@houstonballet.org

 

HOUSTON BALLET CAPS THE SEASON WITH STANTON WELCH'S
ROMANTIC CLASSIC SWAN LAKE 

New Zealand Designer Kristian Fredrikson's Spectacular
Scenery and Costumes Inspired by Pre-Raphaelite Paintings

 

First Soloist Katharine Precourt and Newly Promoted Soloist Nozomi Iijima
Make Their Debuts as the Swan Queen

 

Principal Karina Gonzalez Performs the Swan Queen for the First Time in Houston

 

Houston Ballet Offers Free Screening of the film Black Swan
on Tuesday, May 27 at Sundance Cinema

 

Houston, TX - From June 5-15, 2014, Houston Ballet will cap its 2013-14 season with Stanton Welch's vibrantly theatrical staging of Swan Lake, which he created for Houston Ballet in 2006. Set to the hauntingly beautiful Tchaikovsky score, Swan Lake tells the classic tale of Odette - a beautiful maiden transformed into a swan by an evil knight - and the prince who swears his enduring love for her. It's good and evil in black and white, danced on rich and spectacular sets by the late, great New Zealand designer Kristian Fredrikson. Houston Ballet will give nine performances of Swan Lake at Wortham Theater Center in downtown Houston.

Houston Ballet will hold a free Dance Talk on Tuesday, May 27 from 7:00-9:30 pm at Sundance Cinemas at 510 Texas Avenue, Houston 77002. Join current and former Houston Ballet dancers at Sundance Cinemas for a free screening of Darren Aronofsky's Academy Award-winning 2010 film Black Swan, followed by a panel discussion led by former principal dancer Dawn Scannell. The film traces the psychological breakdown of a ballerina preparing to dance the leading role in Swan Lake in a fictional New York ballet company. Following the movie, former Houston Ballet principal dancers Lauren Anderson, Barbara Bears and Mireille Hassenboehler will join current principal dancers Karina Gonzalez and Sara Webb and share their thoughts about the film's portrayal of the lead dancer and what it is like to prepare for and dance the lead role Odette/Odile in Swan Lake. Seating for the free screening of Black Swan is first-come, first-served, and tickets will be available beginning at 5:00 PM on May 27th at the Sundance Cinemas box office.

Writing in the May 2006 edition of Dance Magazine, editor in chief Wendy Perron observed of Mr. Welch's staging:

"Artistic director Stanton Welch's Swan Lake, with spectacular costumes and sets by the late Kristian Fredrikson, is a fresh read on the classic story . . . this is an emotionally rich, visually stunning, uplifting production...In Act I, Welch added a rousing dance for the men on their way to the hunt. Emerging singly from their social clusters, they danced with zest and virility, then slipped smoothly back into the groups. The dance not only showed off the company's strong male contingent, but also gave dazzle to the choreography and momentum to the narrative." 

One of the most famous and frequently performed works in the international repertoire, Swan Lake was first performed at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow in 1877, with a specially commissioned score by Tchaikovsky. The production was not an overwhelming success at its premiere. According to the Oxford Dictionary of Dance, "neither the ballet nor its ballerina were well received." On March 1, 1894, Act II of Swan Lake, featuring choreography by Lev Ivanov, was performed for a Tchaikovsky memorial. The Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov production, which became the definitive version, was performed at the Maryinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg on January 27, 1895.

The role of Odette/Odile in Mr. Welch's Swan Lake will be performed by principal dancers Sara Webb, Melody Mennite and Karina Gonzalez (giving her first performance of this role in Houston). First soloist Katharine Precourt and newly promoted soloist Nozomi Iijima will make their debuts in the role. 

"I'm thrilled to be given the opportunity to dance the lead in Stanton Welch's Swan Lake. It is a role that offers such a wide range of expression in both technique and artistry. I look forward to telling this beautiful story of true love to the audience," comments Ms. Precourt.

Appearing as Prince Siegfried are Houston Ballet Principals Simon Ball, Ian Casady and Connor Walsh. First soloist Linnar Looris and soloist Aaron Robison also make their debuts as Prince Siegfried in Mr. Welch's version of Swan Lake.

 

Designer Kristian Fredrikson:
Inspired by John William Waterhouse's Painting, The Lady of Shallott 

Mr. Welch, who collaborated with Mr. Fredrikson on Swan Lake, was inspired by John William Waterhouse's painting, The Lady of Shalott (1888). Waterhouse (1849-1917) was a British Neo-Classical and Pre-Raphaelite painter well-known for works featuring female characters from mythology and literature. The painting, which is based on Lord Alfred Tennyson's poem by the same title, depicts a tragic maiden afloat on a lake. Mr. Welch commented, "When I saw this painting I said, 'This is our Odette.'  Here is a woman, a young heroine, lost in a forest by a lake, touched by tragedy."

Inspired by Pre-Raphaelite paintings, Mr. Fredrikson's designs feature maidens in long flowing gowns, dozens of white swans, Rothbart as a menacing dragon-like monster, four glamorous and steely black swans, sumptuously outfitted Hungarian, Neapolitan, Russian and Spanish princesses, and a royal court boasting costumes made of brocade, cut-velvet, and pearl-encrusted, sequined fabrics. There are more than 50 tutus, 45 costume designs, 31 characters, and 70 headpieces. The costume for Rothbart alone took Houston Ballet's costume shop more than 600 hours to produce.

Mr. Fredrikson was a distinguished performing arts designer whose 40 year career encompassed ballet, opera, contemporary dance, theatre, exhibitions, film and television, Born in Wellington, New Zealand, Mr. Fredrikson started attending art classes at Wellington Polytechnic College while working as a journalist and critic in Wellington newspapers. Theatre and in particular ballet was an early interest and escape for Mr. Fredrikson, who soon became apprenticed to a local theatrical designer. In 1963 he joined the Melbourne Theatre Company as resident designer, a position he held for eight years, collaborating with distinguished directors John Sumner and George Ogilvie on over forty productions. During his lifetime Mr. Fredrikson worked on productions for Sydney Dance Company, The Australian Ballet and Opera Australia.

He collaborated with Mr. Welch on five ballets: Of Blessed Memory (1991), Cinderella (1997) and The Sleeping Beauty (2005) for The Australian Ballet; the Pecos Bill section of Tales of Texas (2004) and Swan Lake (2006) for Houston Ballet. Mr. Fredrikson's design for Swan Lake was the final work of his long and distinguished career. He died in November 2005, and the production was dedicated to his memory.

Mr. Fredrikson's work has been recognized through numerous awards, including four Erik Awards, six Green Room Awards, three Helpmann Awards, and in 1999 he was recognized by an Australian Dance Award for services to dance. In 1995 he was the subject of a solo exhibition at the Arts Centre Melbourne and in 2008 the Kristian Fredrikson Scholarship for Design in the Performing Arts was established.

 

Behind the Music: Houston Ballet's Swan Lake

As the first composer who produced symphonic music for ballet, Tchaikovsky created in Swan Lake something that delighted dancers and music lovers.  For many, the musical melodies from Tchaikovsky's lush score are synonymous with ballet. Houston Ballet Music Director Ermanno Florio worked with Stanton Welch to organize Tchaikovsky's original score in such a manner that it perfectly suits Mr. Welch's vision for the work.

Commented Mr. Florio, "As we began discussing the arrangement for his Swan Lake, Stanton and I agreed that we would try to keep to the original Tchaikovsky score by using as much of the original music as possible in its original order, with few cuts within the individual musical numbers. For example, Stanton wanted the White Swan pas de deux and the Black Swan pas de deux music to be performed as is traditionally done, and we restored all of the music for the harp cadenza before the White Swan pas. 

"Stanton organized the ballet into three acts with two intermissions. This would require combining the original Act I and Act II. As the musical numbers that end the original Act I and that start the original Act II are similar, Stanton decided to keep the Act 1 finale music (which is usually cut) and create a pas de deux on it. Also, in the 'White Act' (the second half of Stanton's Act I), we decided to use the waltz three times, as in the original.

"Additionally, there are two wonderful pieces of music in the appendix to the musical score of Swan Lake that are rarely used in the full-length version of the ballet: the music used by Balanchine in his Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux, and a fabulous solo for violin called Danse Russe. Stanton is using the 'female variation' music from the Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux and all of the Danse Russe in this version of the ballet."

Houston Ballet performed the world premiere of Stanton Welch's Swan Lake on February 23, 2006 in the Brown Theater, Wortham Theater Center in Houston, Texas. In his staging of Swan Lake, Mr. Welch made slight changes to the story, "the most critical of them," as William Littler noted for the Toronto Star, "showing the prince falling in love not, as fairytale tradition dictates, with the feathered swan queen Odette but with the human princess she originally was." (March 11, 2006). 

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 (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, at the Théâtre des Champs Elysées in Paris, 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

 

# # #

HOUSTON BALLET
SWAN LAKE FACT SHEET

 

 

WHAT: SWAN LAKE
(created for Houston Ballet in 2006,  performed again by Houston Ballet in 2009)
Music by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)
Choreography by Stanton Welch, after Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov
Scenic and Costume Designs by Kristian Fredrikson
Lighting Design by Lisa Pinkham


Houston Ballet's performances of Swan Lake are generously underwritten by Norton Rose Fulbright, Chevron, The Wortham Foundation, Inc. and the Albert and Margaret Alkek Foundation

ABOUT THE PROGRAM:

Houston Ballet caps its 2013-14 season with a revival of Stanton Welch's spectacular staging of the beloved classic, Swan Lake, created for the company in 2006 and featuring sumptuous scenery and costumes by Kristian Fredrikson.  One of the great love stories of classical ballet, Swan Lake tells the story of Odette - a beautiful maiden transformed into a swan by an evil knight - and the Prince who swears his eternal love for her. In his staging, Mr. Welch imbues the main characters with greater psychological complexity, and gives the work a twenty-first century pace. 

 

WHEN: At 7:30 p.m. on June 5, 6, 7, 13, 14, 2014

At 2:00 p.m. on June 8, 15, 2014

At 1:30 p.m. on June 7, 14, 2014

WHERE: Brown Theater, Wortham Theater Center, 501 Texas Avenue in downtown Houston

 

TICKETS: Start at $19.  Call (713) 227 ARTS (2787) or 1 800 828 ARTS.

www.houstonballet.org.

Also available at Houston Ballet Box Office at Wortham Theater Center downtown at 501 Texas at Smith Street Monday - Friday 9 am - 5pm

 

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Visit Houston Ballet online at www.houstonballet.org.