A ballet choreographed by Jean-Cristophe Maillot for the Bolshoi
The legendary Bolshoi Theatre Ballet inaugurated the Russian year celebrations in Monaco on Saturday, December 20, 2014, with the premiere of Jean-Christophe Maillot’s The Taming of the Shrew at the Grimaldi Forum, in the presence of HSH Prince Albert and HSH Princess Caroline of Hannover and distinguished personalities from the Principality and Russia. This ballet in two acts based on the play by William Shakespeare, was specially choreographed by Jean Christophe Maillot who also selected music by Dmitry Shostakovich. This fantastic production was given a standing ovation at its premier in July 2014 in Moscow, and was again a success in the Principality with the participation of the Philharmonic Orchestra of Monte-Carlo directed by talented contemporary Russian conductor Igor Dronov.
It is a historic event as it is the first time the Bolshoi invited a foreign choreographer to create a large-scale narrative ballet for its dancers. Maillot had previously refused all offers to create a new ballet for any other company, but artistic director Sergei Filin, who more than a year ago had been almost blinded by a cruel acid attack but never lots his aesthetic vision, finally persuaded him to take the challenge. Maillot succeeded in producing an exhilarating and at times violent and very sensual dance like we have never seen before on stage, with that touch of fantasy that is his trademark. Maillot is a genius and the performance was truly memorable!
The Shakespearean play
The Taming of the Shrew is a comedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1590 and 1592. The main plot depicts Baptista as a rich gentleman and the father of Katherina and Bianca, and tradition forced him to marry his elder daughter Katherina first even when all suitors prefer younger and gentler Bianca. The subplot features a competition between the elder sister suitors and her more desirable sister Bianca.
The main story centers on the courtship of Petruchio, a gentleman of Verona, and Katherina, the headstrong, obdurate shrew, defined as a woman with violent temper and how her husband tames her to submission. The play has been subject to critical controversy, misogynist and patriarchal even if it is a farce. It has been adapted numerous times for stage, screen, opera and musical theatre, with the most famous one being Cole Porter’s musical Kiss Me, Kate and the 1967 film version of the original play, starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.
The argument of The Taming of the Shrew as described in the Bolshoi website
Rather than a macho handbook, The Taming of the Shrew can be construed as an encounter between two forces of nature, which recognize one another at last. If they are abrupt, obnoxious, it stems from their solitude; they are fundamentally different from the society they live in, albatrosses among sparrows, and their excesses signal that they have yet to find a man (or a woman) who can measure up to them.
Their love is out of the ordinary: while Petruchio could appear to be interested only in Baptista’s fortune, once the ink is dry on their marriage certificate, he doesn’t let go of Katharina. If he is interested, it’s by this woman; the real dowry, the actual gold mine, it’s her. He still needs to put her through a series of challenges to make sure that he wasn’t mistaken, that they are right for each other — measure for measure, so to speak. He was right. So was she. If she gives in to her husband’s demands, it’s not because she has found her master, but because she has met her match. Her submissiveness is an act. It hardly matters whether or not the sun is the moon, because the two of them have their own, extra-ordinary light. Petruchio isn’t fooled by by his wife’s new attitude.
For the outside world, however, the prevalent social norms are safe. Everyone can breathe a sigh of relief: even the most reluctant among them have complied. In truth, Katharina and Petruchio play their parts in perfect harmony, and their singular tune sets them apart in what is a game of artifice.
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