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#Throwback Thursday: The Prince of the Pagodas

This week's #ThrowbackThursday features the Cranko-MacMillan ballet The Prince of the Pagodas.

Darcey Bussell in MacMillan's 1989 production

The ballet follows the story of an ageing emperor, who must split his kingdom between his two daughters. He chooses his eldest daughter, Belle Epine, to succeed him, over the younger and more beautiful Belle Rose. Rose is taken away to Pagoda Land, where she meets the Prince in the guise of a salamander. Together they confront Rose's evil sister, driving her away.

Momoko Hirata and Joseph Caley in The Prince of the Pagodas at the Birmingham Royal Ballet, 2011 (Bintley)

The Prince of the Pagodas was created in 1957 for the Royal Ballet by choreographer John Cranko, to a score by Benjamin Bitten. The then Sadler's Wells Ballet announced in January 1954 that the ballet was in the process of being staged. Cranko drew on elements from King Lear, Beauty and the Beast, and the oriental tale published by Madame d'Aulnoy as Serpentin Vert to create the story he was originally going to call The Green Serpent. Cranko then wrote out a rough synopsis with timings and gave it to Bitten, who composed relatively freely. Bitten dedicated his score to Imogen Holst and Ninette de Valois. Cranko's production premiered at the Royal Opera House on January 1, 1957, and was conducted by Bitten.

Sarah Lamb and Federico Bonelli in The Prince of the Pagodas, The Royal Ballet (MacMillan)

In 1989, Kenneth MacMillan revived and, to some extent, re-choreographed The Prince of the Pagodas. His production premiered on December 7, 1989, again at the Royal Opera House, and starred Darcey Bussell as Rose. The production was dedicated to Margot Fonteyn. A second version set in Japan, by choreographer David Bintley, was created for the National Ballet of Japan, and premiered on October 30, 2011. This version has also been performed by the Birmingham Royal Ballet, premiering on January 30, 2014.

Darcey Bussell in the 1989 production (MacMillan)

Unfortunately The Prince of the Pagodas has been missing from the repertoire in recent years; as one of MacMillan's most demanding full-length works, one can only hope it returns to Covent Garden soon.

Sarah Lamb and Federico Bonelli, The Royal Ballet (MacMillan)

Here's Darcey Bussell and Jonathan Cope of the Royal Ballet in MacMillan's 1989 production:

Thanks for reading!

- Selene


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