Looking at the etymology of the word "pagoda", we see that it derives from words meaning "the house of a deity" or "the house of the Buddha". The Prince of the Pagodas was originally conceived as a ballet in three acts by choreographer John Cranko, with music commissioned from the English composer Benjamin Britten. Cranko's production premiered at the Royal Ballet of London in 1957. Cranko was quite fond of the ballet which, while it has been restaged often by many different ballet companies, did not become a regular piece of the repertoire at the Royal Ballet. Many years later, choreographer Kenneth MacMillan, who held Cranko in the highest regard, undertook a major reworking of The Prince of the Pagodas. The new production, which took several years to develop, greater emphasized the narrative qualities of the ballet. The newly completed ballet was performed at the Royal Ballet in 1989 as part of a gala production honoring MacMillan's 60th birthday.
Now, the National Ballet of Japan is set to perform the world premiere of a new version of The Prince of the Pagodas, with an updated plot and all-new choreography by David Bintley. Mr. Bintley, who is our current artistic director, trained at the Royal Ballet and studied under Kenneth MacMillan. Bintley drew inspiration from Japanese art such as the ukiyo-e prints of Utagawa Kuniyoshi, and adapted the plot of the narrative to create a ballet that is highly approachable.
The captivating music by Benjamin Britten shows the influence of the gamelan music of Bali. This will be first time that the score will be performed in its entirety in Japan.
In 2008, the National Ballet of Japan performed the world premiere of David Bintley's Aladdin. It drew international attention, and the ballet is now in the planning stages to be performed by at least one ballet company overseas. With the premiere of Aladdin, the high level of artistry of the National Ballet of Japan was on display for the world to see. The eyes of the world will be on us again as the NNTT stages The Prince of the Pagodas.
This is also the first work to be choreographed by David Bintley for the National Ballet of Japan since he assumed the position of Artistic Director. Let the magic of David Bintley take you to another world, in The Prince of the Pagodas.
The emperor has lost his son to an untimely death, and he is paralyzed with grief. Some time passes, and four kings from different lands come seeking to marry his daughter, Princess Rose. Her stepmother, the empress, pushes her stepdaughter to marry as a path to gain wealth and power, but Princess Rose rejects each of the suitors. Then a fifth prince appears. He is in fact Rosefs brother, who has been turned into a golden salamander by a spell cast by their stepmother. Princess Rose endures various ordeals, but eventually makes her way with the salamander to the Pagoda Land, where she learns that he is indeed her long-lost older brother. Can brother and sister combine forces to restore peace to the kingdom?