In Houston Ballet's second co-production with Birmingham Royal Ballet, David Bintley’s The Tempest conjures up exhilarating new magic from William Shakespeare’s late masterpiece. The Tempest is a powerful story of one man’s determined to right past wrongs by all means and the consequences of his actions. Set on an enchanted island, magic and mayhem run wild with a cast of colorful characters, featuring a commissioned score by acclaimed British composer Sally Beamish and extraordinary designs by Rae Smith (War Horse). Bintley’s The Tempest is a spectacular ballet production that defines the power of love and magic of forgiveness.
Houston Ballet and its orchestra gave the sophisticated spectacle a thrilling ride during the production's American premiere...
Prospero, The Former Duke of Milan; Miranda, Prospero's daughter; Caliban, Prospero’s slave; Ariel, A spirit; Alonso, the King of Naples; Ferdinand, Alonso’s son; Sebastian, Alonso's brother; Antonio, The Duke of Milan; Trinculo, The Court Jester; Stephano, A Druken Butler
Alonso, the King of Naples, is returning from his daughter's wedding in Tunis. He is accompanied by his son Ferdinand, his brother Sebastian, and Antonio, the Duke of Milan. Their ship is caught in a furious storm and all the passengers and crew are thrown into the boiling sea.
Prospero, the former Duke of Milan and a magician of some Power, and his 15-year-old daughter, Miranda, are watching the tempest from their island home. He tells her, for the first time, how they came to be castaways. 12 years before, when he had been Duke of Milan, his brother Antonio had, with the aid of Alonso and Sebastian, usurped Prospero, and cast him and the baby Miranda adrift on the sea. Providence had washed them ashore on this island and Prospero had turned the only inhabitant, Caliban, a deformed and savage creature, into his slave.
Prospero has used his time on the island to develop his magic powers and now commands a host of spirits, foremost amongst whom is Ariel, an airy spirit who has overseen the magical tempest that has brought Prospero's enemies within his grasp. The ship's passengers are cast up on the island unharmed. Alonso believes his son to be dead, but Ferdinand has landed on another part of the island where he encounters Miranda and the two instantly fall in love.
Apart from her father and Caliban, he is the first man she has ever seen. Prospero plans to wed his daughter to Ferdinand but first puts the prince to manual labour in order to prove his love. On another part of the island, Ariel leads the King towards Prospero's cave. During this journey Antonio persuades Sebastian to kill Alonso so that Sebastian may become king. Two other members of the party, Trinculo, the court jester, and Stephano, a drunken butler, are also wandering about on the island. Caliban recruits them to help overthrow his hated master. They all get drunk then set off for Prospero's cave.
Caliban and his newfound master Stephano continue their journey towards Prospero’s cell with the intention of murdering the magus and seizing the island.
Antonio and Sebastian, still looking for an opportunity to murder King Alonso, are presented with the illusion of a great banquet which suddenly vanishes to be replaced by a hellish vision of Ariel as a winged harpy, who accuses them of their previous crimes against Prospero. The Royal party is driven mad by this manifestation.
Meanwhile, Prospero has released Ferdinand and given his blessing to the marriage of the two young people. He conjures up a masque to celebrate their contract of true love but it is abruptly brought to an end when the three would-be usurpers Caliban, Stephano and Trinculo arrive. However they are distracted by some gaudily coloured clothes that have been hung out for them, then chased away by spirits who have taken on the form of a pack of hounds.
Ariel conjures up another tempest, which drives all the castaways to Prospero’s cave. There they are all spell-stopped and within Prospero's power, but in an about-face Prospero reveals his great humanity and in declaring that'...the rarer action is in virtue than in vengeance', he ends the cycle of hatred, envy and revenge by forgiving his brother Antonio, and restoring Alonso’s son Ferdinand to him. Even Caliban’s crimes are forgiven him as Prospero acknowledges his own part in creating the creature’s anger and resentment.
Mariners arrive to announce that the ship is miraculously saved, anchored off the island and ready to sail. Prospero renounces magic and prepares to return to Milan to resume his dukedom. Ariel is set free and Caliban is left as sole inhabitant and king of the island.
It was at the barely there age of four, at a Sunday-school concert in his native Pennine village of Honley, that David Bintley was bitten by the performing-arts bug. ‘It was just being on stage,’ he says. ‘I was on a bunch of planks laid over some pews, and lighting courtesy of car headlamps on a broomstick. It was that sophisticated – and I was utterly entranced, stage-struck at four!’ Bintley has gone on to be one of the major players in British ballet: first as a marvellously musical and entertaining character dancer with what was then Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet; for 20 years now, as Director of the company it became, Birmingham Royal Ballet; and, throughout, as one of the most distinguished neo-classical choreographers of the modern age.
Born in 1957, he trained throughout his teens and, at 16, won a place at the Royal Ballet Upper School. A contract at SWRB followed in 1976, and before long he was delivering gold-standard interpretations of such characters as the Ashton Ugly Sister in Cinderella, Alain and Widow Simone in La Fille mal gardée, Bottom in The Dream and the lead in Petrushka. It was in 1978 – thanks to SWRB’s sharp-eyed director, Peter Wright – that Bintley received his first commission with the company, and created The Outsider, a work very much in the dramatic tradition of Ashton, MacMillan and de Valois. But he had already, for some time, had an inkling that choreography might be where his future would lie.
‘Before I went to the Royal Ballet School,’ he says, ‘I was 16, and I made a version of The Soldier’s Tale, the Stravinsky. I loved the music, and I wanted to play the soldier, but I got so carried away with the making of the ballet that I virtually didn’t choreograph my own part. It was the actual making of it – I suddenly thought, this is fascinating!’ That fascination continued to burgeon. In 1983, Bintley became SWRB’s resident choreographer. From 1986 to 1993, he held the same post with the Royal Ballet in Covent Garden. And, in 1995, after two years spent freelancing around the world, he took over from Wright at what by now was Birmingham Royal Ballet. From 2010 to 2014, he was also artistic director of the National Ballet of Japan, on whom he created Aladdin and The Prince of the Pagodas.
The works that Bintley’s career has yielded are as plentiful they are varied. ‘Still Life’ at the Penguin Café (1988) was a series of sparkling vignettes dedicated to the world’s endangered fauna, and yet the following year he found his dramatic voice just as richly in the cheery and very human carousing of Hobson’s Choice. For every lighthearted romance such as 2007’s Cyrano and 2009’s Sylvia, there is something far darker: 1993’s noirish Tombeaux, say, or 1995’s murderously eloquent Edward II. On one hand, Bintley remains first and foremost a creator of narrative ballets. Carmina burana (1995) was a no-holds-barred tale of troubled seminarians that perfectly channelled the heft of Carl Orff’s music, Far from the Madding Crowd (1996) a sensitive reading of Hardy. No less articulate or colourful in their storytelling, meanwhile, were two spectacular fairy-tales: Beauty and the Beast (2003), and Cinderella (2010).
However, he has also repeatedly demonstrated an appetite and an aptitude for abstraction. Allegri diversi (1987) was a craftsmanlike and plotless response to Rossini, while the latter’s compatriot, Verdi, inspired the charming ebullience of The Seasons (2001). More recently, Bintley – together with composer Matthew Hindson – also made a remarkably exhilarating foray into physics, with E=mc² (2009). Of course, Bintley’s 20 years with Birmingham Royal Ballet haven’t only been a matter of creating new works and – wherever possible – commissioning new scores. New ballets are expensive gambles, besides which, the other, vital side of his job is a curatorial one, and he has at his fingertips a particularly fine collection of classics. (Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Nutcracker, Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty, Wright productions all, are among the best in the world.) ‘If we had more money,’ says Bintley, ‘I would be steering towards even more new pieces. But at the same time, I’m a great champion of the history of the Royal Ballet companies, and it’s so important to me that the lineage is kept alive. It informs our new work,’ he concludes. ‘It makes our new work better.’
Written by MARK MONAHAN Mark Monahan, Dance Critic of the Daily Telegraph
Sally Beamish was born in London. Initially a viola player, she moved to Scotland in 1990 to develop her career as a composer. Her music embraces many influences: particularly jazz and Scottish traditional music. The concerto form is a continuing inspiration, and she has written for many renowned soloists. Her music is performed and broadcast internationally, and since 1998 she has been championed by the Swedish label BIS. Recent work incudes A Shakespeare Masque for Ex Cathedra, with text by poet Carol Ann Duffy. Recent premieres include Hill Stanzas for pianist Ronald Brautigam, West Wind at the Wigmore Hall (James Gilchrist and Anna Tillbrook), and Merula Perpetua (BBC Chamber Proms – Lise Berthaud and David Saudubray). She is the recipient of an honorary doctorate from the University of Glasgow, and was recently made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. With composer Alasdair Nicolson, she co-directs the annual St Magnus Composers' Course in Orkney. She is currently completing her third piano concerto, for Jonathan Biss, to be premiered by the St Paul Chamber Orchestra in20l7. Her second was commissioned by the BBC SSO and will be premiered in Glasgow by Martin Roscoe in December. Her music is published by Edition Peters and by Norsk Musikforlag.
THE TEMPEST REPERTOIRE HISTORY
This was Houston Ballet’s first time performing David Bintley’s The Tempest This was Houston Ballet’s second work by David Bintley and second co-production with Birmingham Royal Ballet following Houston Ballet performances of Aladdin in 2014.
THE TEMPEST PRODUCTION DETAILS
CHOREOGRAPHER: David Bintley
GENRE: Full-length Classical Ballet
RUN TIME: Ballet in 2 Acts; approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes
ADAPTED from William Shakespeare’s play “The Tempest” (1611)
COMPOSER: Sally Beamish
ORIGINAL PREMIERE DATE: October 1, 2016 at the Birmingham Hippodrome in Birmingham, England by the Birmingham Royal Ballet
SCENIC & COSTUME DESIGN: Rae Smith
LIGHTING DESIGN: Bruno Poet
PUPPETRY/STORM EFFECT DESIGN: Finn Caldwell and Toby Olie
SOUND DESIGN: Clement Rawling
STAGER FOR HOUSTON BALLET (2017): Denis Bonner with David Bintley
BALLET MASTER (2017): Barbara Bears
HOUSTON BALLET ORCHESTRA CONDUCTOR (2017): Ermanno Florio
HOUSTON BALLET STAGE MANAGER (2017): Josh Daniels
HOUSTON BALLET ASSISTANT STAGE MANAGER (2017): Vanessa Chumbley