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Plot of the prince of the pagodas?

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We were watching a video of different pas de deux, and it had a pas de deux from ballet "Prince of the pagodas".

She had a blindfold on; both looked a tiny bit untidily dressed. Their dancing felt like the characters were having an inner conflict or were at times unsure of their feelings. Or maybe the choreography had echoes of earlier scenes of the ballet. I could not figure out what the context was. Somebody in the group knew that the plot involved people turning into lizards and rats, but that was all.

Can somebody tell me what is the storyline in this ballet? What is happening in this pas de deux? Why is she blindfolded? Who are turning into lizards and rats, and why? And what is a pagoda?


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the excerpt you saw was likely one from kenneth macmillan's version of this fairy tale, to benjamin britten's score of the same name. although there are some 6 or 7 versions of the ballet catalogued in the NY Public Library for the Perf. Arts, the only one that is on video to the best of my knowledge is MacMillan's, which was filmed with Darcey Bussell (as the princess Rose) and Jonathan Cope, the prince who has been bewitched into the form of salamander. British readers of this site can undoubtedly give you a full account of the plot but if mem. serves from the few performances I saw of this ballet at the Lincoln Center Festival some years ago, is that it comes from the first of 3 acts, where Rose dances with the Prince in a kind of dream, as i THINK he's still a reptile at that moment in the plot. (The designs, btw, are by Nicholas Giorgiadas.) Neither my video nor my programs are at hand now, but the full plot is rather complicated, and not all that clearly delineated on stage. Overall the story has a King Lear-like theme with an aging father, a land divided by him and given to his daughters, one of whom is the virtuous Rose and the other of which is Epine, who devious and selfish.

i have just found the following on google:

With the always-entrancing elements of a fairy-tale - a wicked sister, transforming spells, a handsome prince - Kenneth MacMillan's 1989 full-length ballet adds that extra pyschological twist, as much about the real world of human emotions as an imaginary one of storybook characters. On the betrothal of his favourite child Princess Rose to a handsome Prince, the old king divides his kingdom between his two daughters. Princess Épine, furiously jealous, turns the Prince into a salamander and banishes him from the kingdom. With the help of the Fool, Rose is taken to a subconscious twilight world in search of him, pursued by the threatening kings of the four corners of the world spurned by Rose and now on the side of Princess Épine. Not recognizing her Prince in his reptile form when she finds him in the land of the Pagodas, it is her compassion for him that finally breaks the spell. Faced with the now united Prince and Princess, Épine loses her powers and flees. Benjamin Britten's score for this full-length ballet sparkles with its rhythmic and inventive orchestral score, given an extra exoticism through the influence of gamelan music, while the stylized Elizabethan designs of Nicholas Georgiadis complete a work rich in colour and fantasy.

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Thank you both, but I must confess to being quite confused now. :)

The stories in the link beckster gave and in the excerpt rg gave above are somewhat contradicting. They probably refer to different versions of the ballet. I tried looking for more information on the net, but found nothing.

I think the performers in the pas de deux may indeed have been Darcey Bussell and Jonathan Cope so then I would have seen the McMillan version?

In the pas de deux bit I saw she would be dancing with her betrothed-prince-bewitched-to-salamander out of compassion because she does not recognize him. Why she is blindfolded still escapes me, though. Maybe that is why she is dancing with the prince/salamander - she doesn't see he's a reptile, and being of good heart just dances with somebody because that is what happens in ballet dreams? :confused:


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the program notes to the video cassettes of macmillan's 'prince of pagodas' (recorded in 1990) spell out the action of Scene 2, Act II as follows:

Princesss Rose's journey continues into a place of illuminated beauty, where the Prince of her betrothal is in exile. He is transmuted, almost faceless. Forced by the Fool, she follows him throught a shifting maze, thinking him a reptile, then falls exhausted.

The Fool blindfolds her, and the salamander Prince, transfigured into human shape, approaches. She dances with him unseeing. When she removes her blindfold, he reverts to a reptile; but her compassion is aroused and she hesitantly comforts him. His ugliness and her pity confront each other as the curtain falls.

The confusion that you note here concerning the libretto probably comes from the fact that macmillan re-worked the scenario for his 1989 ballet after the original one, worked out in 1957 by britten and john cranko, the first choreographer of the ballet (see particulars below).

Prince of the pagodas (Choreographic work : Cranko) Chor: John Cranko; mus: Benjamin Britten; scen: John Piper; cos: Desmond Heeley; lighting: William Bundy. First perf: London, Covent Garden, Jan 1, 1957, Sadler's Wells Theatre Ballet.//First U.S. perf: New York, Metropolitan Opera House, Sept 18, 1957, Royal Ballet.

Prince of the pagodas Chor: Sir Kenneth MacMillan; mus: Benjamin Britten (The prince of the pagodas); scen & cos: Nicholas Georgiadis; scen: Colin Thubron after John Cranko; lighting: John B. Read. First perf: London, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Dec 7, 1989; Royal Ballet.

pa-go-da (puh goh'duh) n. pl. <-das> 1. a temple or sacred building of the Far East, usu. a tower having an upward-curving roof over each story.

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