The Prince of the Pagodas

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The Prince of the Pagodas is a ballet created for The Royal Ballet by choreographer John Cranko with music commissioned from Benjamin Britten. The Prince of the Pagodas_sentence_0

Its premiere took place on 1 January 1957 at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London, conducted by Britten. The Prince of the Pagodas_sentence_1

In February 1957 a recording of a slightly cut version of the score was made by Decca with Britten conducting the . The Prince of the Pagodas_sentence_2

The ballet was revived at the same venue on 7 December 1989 in a new production by Kenneth MacMillan, achieving acclaim for Darcey Bussell's work in a principal role. The Prince of the Pagodas_sentence_3

Another production, set in Japan, was created by David Bintley for the National Ballet of Japan and premiered by that company on 30 October 2011; this was adopted by Birmingham Royal Ballet and danced in 2014 at The Lowry, Salford. The Prince of the Pagodas_sentence_4

Background The Prince of the Pagodas_section_0

In January 1954, Sadler's Wells Ballet announced that Cranko was collaborating with Benjamin Britten to create a ballet. The Prince of the Pagodas_sentence_5

Cranko devised a draft scenario for a work he originally called The Green Serpent, fusing elements drawn from King Lear, Beauty and the Beast (a story he had choreographed for Sadler's Wells in 1948) and the oriental tale published by Madame d'Aulnoy as Serpentin Vert. The Prince of the Pagodas_sentence_6

Creating a list of dances, simply describing the action and giving a total timing for each, he passed this to Britten and left him to compose what eventually became The Prince of the Pagodas. The Prince of the Pagodas_sentence_7

Britten dedicated the score to Imogen Holst and Ninette de Valois. The Prince of the Pagodas_sentence_8

Plot synopsis The Prince of the Pagodas_section_1

An Emperor must decide which of his two daughters should inherit the throne, and he chooses the evil older sister Belle Epine over the young and beautiful Belle Rose. The Prince of the Pagodas_sentence_9

Belle Rose is taken by magical flying frogs to Pagoda Land, and meets the Prince of Pagoda Land who is in the guise of a Salamander. The Prince of the Pagodas_sentence_10

Belle Rose and the Prince return to the land of her father and confront her evil sister, in the end driving her away. The Prince of the Pagodas_sentence_11

Influence of Balinese gamelan on the music The Prince of the Pagodas_section_2

Britten incorporated many elements of Balinese gamelan music into the score of The Prince of the Pagodas, including simulating the seven-tone pelog tuning on Western instruments. The Prince of the Pagodas_sentence_12

Britten was first exposed to gamelan music by Canadian composer Colin McPhee, who had lived in Bali from 1931–38. The Prince of the Pagodas_sentence_13

Britten utilized a “pseudo-gamelan” sound in several of his works, including Paul Bunyan and Peter Grimes, after meeting McPhee. The Prince of the Pagodas_sentence_14

Britten also performed works of other composers which included references to gamelan music, such as Francis Poulenc’s Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra, which Britten performed with the composer in 1945 and again in 1955, after he had agreed to write a ballet with Cranko. The Prince of the Pagodas_sentence_15

However, perhaps the most influential experience in gamelan music for Britten was a two-week holiday he took in Bali in 1956. The Prince of the Pagodas_sentence_16

He made a thorough study of gamelan music while he was there and immediately began incorporating Balinese musical ideas into The Prince of the Pagodas. The Prince of the Pagodas_sentence_17

For example, in the Prelude of the ballet, the Salamander Prince theme is played by several instruments in a layered texture, where the instruments are playing in different keys and start the theme at slightly different times in a technique called polyphonic stratification, which is typical of Balinese gamelan music. The Prince of the Pagodas_sentence_18

Another way in which Britten achieves a gamelan sound is through his instrumentation. The Prince of the Pagodas_sentence_19

His score calls for a variety of percussion instruments, including gong, cymbals, bells, xylophone, and vibraphone, and uses these Western percussion instruments in different ways to produce a gamelan sound. The Prince of the Pagodas_sentence_20

For instance, Britten combines the sounds of an orchestral gong and a double bass to represent the Balinese colotomic gong. The Prince of the Pagodas_sentence_21

The pentatonic scale, a signature of Oriental music in general, makes frequent appearances in the ballet as well, especially in trumpet fanfares which occur throughout the piece. The Prince of the Pagodas_sentence_22

The interval of the major second appears throughout Britten's gamelan passages, which is normally considered dissonant in Western music but arises from the alternate scales and tunings of gamelan style music. The Prince of the Pagodas_sentence_23

Britten uses the gamelan sound in his music to symbolize the magical pagodas of Pagoda Land, where the main character, the princess Belle Rose, is taken after a confrontation with her father, the emperor, and her evil sister, Belle Epine. The Prince of the Pagodas_sentence_24

When Belle Rose enters Pagoda Land, she is greeted with gamelan music. The Prince of the Pagodas_sentence_25

Similarly, when the Salamander enters the scene, he is portrayed alongside softer gamelan music to produce a mystical air. The Prince of the Pagodas_sentence_26

The Salamander is revealed to be the human Prince of Pagodaland, and when he changes to a human form, the gamelan music is replaced with more traditional Western orchestral music. The Prince of the Pagodas_sentence_27

Cranko The Prince of the Pagodas_section_3

The Prince of the Pagodas_unordered_list_0

  • Production premiere: 1 January 1957The Prince of the Pagodas_item_0_0
  • Choreographer: John CrankoThe Prince of the Pagodas_item_0_1
  • Composer: Benjamin BrittenThe Prince of the Pagodas_item_0_2
  • Set designer: John PiperThe Prince of the Pagodas_item_0_3
  • Costume designer: Desmond HeeleyThe Prince of the Pagodas_item_0_4
  • Lighting designer: William BundyThe Prince of the Pagodas_item_0_5

MacMillan The Prince of the Pagodas_section_4

Main article: The Prince of the Pagodas (MacMillan) The Prince of the Pagodas_sentence_28

The Prince of the Pagodas_unordered_list_1

  • Production premiere: 7 December 1989The Prince of the Pagodas_item_1_6
  • Choreographer: Kenneth MacMillanThe Prince of the Pagodas_item_1_7
  • Composer: Benjamin BrittenThe Prince of the Pagodas_item_1_8
  • Scenario: Colin ThubronThe Prince of the Pagodas_item_1_9
  • Set designer: Nicholas GeorgiadisThe Prince of the Pagodas_item_1_10
  • Costume designer: Nicholas GeorgiadisThe Prince of the Pagodas_item_1_11
  • Lighting designer: John B ReadThe Prince of the Pagodas_item_1_12

This production was dedicated to Margot Fonteyn. The Prince of the Pagodas_sentence_29

Bintley The Prince of the Pagodas_section_5

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  • Production premiere: 30 October 2011The Prince of the Pagodas_item_2_13
  • Company: National Ballet of JapanThe Prince of the Pagodas_item_2_14
  • Location: New National Theatre TokyoThe Prince of the Pagodas_item_2_15
  • Choreographer: David BintleyThe Prince of the Pagodas_item_2_16
  • Composer: Benjamin BrittenThe Prince of the Pagodas_item_2_17
  • Design: Rae SmithThe Prince of the Pagodas_item_2_18
  • Lighting designer: Peter TeigenThe Prince of the Pagodas_item_2_19


Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The Prince of the Pagodas.