A festival of classic adventures, full of magic, energy, unrestrained dreams, romance, unimaginable riches, dangerous sorcerers, strange encounters, and complete with Emperor’s daughter, whom young Aladdin falls in love with, is set to a new full-length ballet, by a well-known choreographer David Bintley, for Houston Ballet. The performance debuted at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, Chicago.
The ever-inventive and popular Middle-Eastern tale is rooted in the “One Thousand and One Nights», a collection of stories that were historically contributed to by many authors, and the initial story involves the ruler and his wife Scheherazade, who keeps on inventing the stories as her very life depends on her ability to remain creative. (Variations of this ancient tale include many different national possibilities, from Aladdin being Chinese, or Jewish, or Arab, Syrian, Persian, etc. — albeit, never a Houston boy, until now.) The ballet spectacle, in turn, maintains its artistry and creativity on a high level all throughout the show, based overall in classical technique that caters to the young and to the old. The original plot, with its excessive and exuberant fantasy and the play of the complete opposites, is known to be symbolically evocative of the workings of human desire, as contrasted by the decisive naiveté of young Aladdin undergoing his dream-like adventures.
The ballet was originally created for the New National Ballet of Japan in Tokyo in 2008, and is currently a co-production between Birmingham Royal Ballet and Houston Ballet Foundation and is co-presented with the Ravinia Festival. The ballet premiered in London in 2013, garnering praises and accolades, as it traveled from Tokyo to London to Houston and to Chicago. The show was uplifted greatly by the full set by the designer Dick Bird, consisting of several different fairy-tale places on stage. The costumes were by Laurence Olivier Award nominee Sue Blane’s and the lighting design by Mark Jonathan. The organizers note that 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). In addition to Tokyo and London, the company toured in Spain, Canada, Russia — at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow, as well as in New York’s City Center and The Joyce Theater. The Chicago performance was accompanied by the Chicago Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Ermanno Florio. The memorable and lovely soloists were Connor Walsh as Aladdin, and Karina Gonzalez as Princess Badr al-Budur.
S. Telis, L. Mogul for Kontinent Media