Two elegant story ballets by legendary choreographer Sir Frederick Ashton will lead audiences on a journey from hilarity to exquisite heartbreak, when The Australian Ballet performs the double bill The Dream / Marguerite and Armand exclusively at the Sydney Opera House this November.
One of the most important figures in twentieth-century dance, Sir Frederick Ashton was a Founding Choreographer of The Royal Ballet. He is credited with developing a unique English ballet style that is both delicately restrained and technically demanding.
His enchanting Shakespeare adaptation, The Dream, was last performed by The Australian Ballet in 2015, while the passionate and tragic tale of Marguerite and Armand will be staged by the company for the first time in this season.
“Sir Frederick Ashton and the works he created for The Royal Ballet played an integral role in shaping the repertoire of The Australian Ballet,” said Artistic Director David Hallberg.
“Our founding Artistic Director Dame Peggy van Praagh introduced many of his ballets to Australian audiences. It is therefore a fitting tribute that we perform two of his great works in our 60th Anniversary year.”
Created for The Royal Ballet in 1964 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth, The Dream is a deft one-act adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Set and costume designer David Walker transports audiences to the magical night-time forest, and offers the unforgettable spectacle of Bottom, performed by a male dancer wearing an imposing donkey head and prancing en pointe.
Ashton’s choreographic intricacies balance perfectly with Felix Mendelssohn’s score of precise strings and resounding horns, arranged for the ballet by John Lanchbery.
Marguerite and Armand takes the program into the realm of romantic tragedy, with the tale of a doomed courtesan and her lover. Ashton’s 1963 work drew inspiration from Alexandre Dumas Fils’ novel and play, La Dame aux Camélias, which was also the basis for the Giuseppe Verdi opera La Traviata.
Marguerite and Armand unfolds through a series of flashbacks, underscored by the tempestuous music of Franz Liszt, with sumptuous set and costume designs by Sir Cecil Beaton. The ballet was created for, and made famous by, the legendary pairing of Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev.
With its daring lifts and passionate pas de deux, Ashton’s choreography helped cement Fonteyn and Nureyev as one of the greatest dance partnerships of all time. Brimming with whimsy and magic, drama and desire, this stylish double bill is the perfect celebration of Sir Frederick Ashton’s place in ballet history.
The Dream and Marguerite and Armand are two of over one hundred ballets created by Frederick Ashton (1904– 1988). The Frederick Ashton Foundation is a registered charity which exists to enrich the legacy of Frederick Ashton and his ballets.
Choreography: Frederick Ashton | Staging: Christopher Carr | Benesh Choreologist: Grant Coyle | Music: Felix Mendelssohn | Orchestrations: John Lanchbery | Scenery and Costume Design: David Walker | Original Lighting Design: John B Read | Lighting Reproduced in 2023: Simon Bennison | Production Supervision: Doug Nicholson | Scenery and Costumes: courtesy of Ballet West, Adam Sklute, Artistic Director
Marguerite and Armand
Choreography: Frederick Ashton | Staging: Grant Coyle | Music: Franz Liszt | Orchestrations: Dudley Simpson | Scenery and Costume Design: Cecil Beaton | Original Lighting Design: John B Read | Lighting Reproduced in 2023: Simon Bennison | Production Supervision: Doug Nicholson | Scenery and Costumes: courtesy of The Sarasota Ballet, Iain Webb, Director | Solo Piano: Andrew Dunlop
The Dream | Marguerite and Armand
Joan Sutherland Theatre – Sydney Opera House, Bennelong Point, Sydney
Season: 10 – 25 November 2023
Information and Bookings: www.australianballet.com.au
Image: Dimity Azoury and Callum Linnane in The Dream – photo by Simone Eeles