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#Throwback Thursday: The Winter's Tale

Romeo and Juliet isn't the only Shakespeare play to have been turned into a ballet. This week's #ThrowbackThursday features Christopher's Wheeldon's three act ballet The Winter's Tale.

The ballet follows the plot of Shakespeare's lesser known play. Leontes, king of Sicilia, is madly jealous, believing that his pregnant wife Hermione is having an affair with his best friend, Polixenes, king of Bohemia. Hermione denies it, but Leontes doesn't believe her and has her infant daughter exposed (left out in the woods and abandoned). Both Hermione and their son Mamillius die of distress. Meanwhile in Bohemia, a shepherd has found the baby princess and adopted her. She is named Perdita ('the lost one'). After sixteen years, Perdita meets Polixenes' son Florizel and falls in love with him. The two plan to marry, but Florizel''s father isn't happy that his son intends to marry a commoner. They flee from his fury to Sicilia. While hiding out in the court of the king, Perdita is recognised by a remorseful Leontes as resembling Hermione. Hermione then miraculously returns from the dead, and the family are reunited.

The Winter's Tale is considered one of Shakespeare's problematic plays. It is neither entirely a romance, a comedy, or a tragedy. The first half of the play is a complicated tragedy, but the second half is light-hearted and almost comedic. It struck Wheeldon as a good basis for a full-length ballet. His choreography is set to Joby Talbot's score, and the work was a joint effort between The Royal Ballet and The National Ballet of Canada. It premiered at the Royal Opera House in London on April 10 2014. The original cast included Edward Watson as Leontes, Lauren Cuthbertson as Hermione, Federico Bonelli as Polixenes, Zenaida Yanowsky as Paulina, Sarah Lamb as Perdita, and Steven McRae as Florizel.

The ballet was well received by critics at its premiere, with most giving it excellent reviews, though one called it 'dramatically flawed'. Despite this, it was also a popular success, and has remained in the repertoire.

Don't forget that if you missed World Ballet Day last week, the livestream is available for the next month on the YouTube pages of The Royal Ballet, The Australian Ballet, The Bolshoi Ballet, The National Ballet of Canada, and The San Francisco Ballet. There were some absolutely stunning performances featured (I particularly loved The Australian Ballet's rehearsals for Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and The Sleeping Beauty) as well as a chance to see new and rare works (Jerome Robbins and George Balanchine works were featured!). Enjoy!

Thanks for reading!

- Selene


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