The Queen of all ballets - Cleopatra
The story of Cleopatra is to be brought to the stage in a new ballet interpretation by Northern Ballet Theatre (NBT). Cleopatra will open in February 2011 and a distinguished creative team is currently working on the scenario before rehearsals begin later this year. Claude-Michel Schönberg, celebrated composer of, amongst others, Les Misérables, Miss Saigon and NBT's Wuthering Heights, has written a new score for Cleopatra. David Nixon OBE, Artistic Director of NBT, will choreograph, design and direct the ballet. Nixon has brought together a group of established NBT collaborators to work with him on Cleopatra including: Patricia Doyle (Co-director), Christopher Giles (Co-designer) and Tim Mitchell (Lighting Designer). Cleopatra will premiere on Saturday 26 February 2011 at the Grand Theatre, Leeds before touring throughout the UK.
Although not widely performed in British ballet, Cleopatra gained mass popular appeal through the 1963 Hollywood film starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. More recently it has been announced that Catherine Zeta Jones is to star in a musical film about Cleopatra directed by Steven Soderbergh.
Nixon's ballet for NBT will focus on Cleopatra, as arguably the most powerful woman in the world at the time, and on her passionate love affairs with Marc Antony and Julius Caesar. Nixon explains: "I have been fascinated by the story of Cleopatra for a long time. There is little factual information about her yet she managed to hold in her grasp two of the most powerful men in history. She was in some ways beautiful and unbelievably sensual for the almost barbaric Romans but she was also a woman, mother and above all a queen."
Claude-Michel Schönberg says: "From the moment David Nixon suggested the ballet of Cleopatra, it took me five years to find an elusive spark of inspiration. I had to understand how sensuous the way of life was in Egypt, the opposite to the culture of Rome. I realised that the chaos of being in love with such a woman as Cleopatra put the Roman Emperor and his Empire in danger. That's what the score is trying to reflect without falling into clichés associated with that era. The relationship between Rome and Egypt is another aspect of the Yin and the Yang: the perfect incompatibility responsible for the drama of destinies."
Cleopatra has been created by a number of ballet companies outside of the UK including the Ballet Russes, originally presented in 1908 as Nuit d' Egypte by Mikhail Fokine and The Houston Ballet brought its Cleopatra to Sadler's Wells in 2001. This will be Nixon's first new full-length ballet for three years following a very successful 40th Anniversary year of retrospective works and a move for the Company to new purpose-built headquarters.
NBT is renowned for its full-length narrative productions which embrace popular culture and take inspiration from literature, opera, or give a unique interpretation of classical ballets. The Leeds-based company is committed to touring throughout the UK and overseas, developing new audiences for dance. It has carved a unique place in the UK's cultural landscape and was voted Britain's favourite ballet company for three consecutive years at the National Dance Awards. David Nixon received an OBE for services to dance in the last New Year Honours list.