|HOUSTON BALLET'S THE NUTCRACKER KICKS OFF THE HOLIDAY SEASON IN NOVEMBER 2010|
Chinese Principal Jun Shuang Huang Dances in The Nutcracker for the First Time Ever
Soloists Karina Gonzalez and Melissa Hough Give Their First Appearances as the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Snow Queen in Houston
Lauren Ciobanu Gives Her First Appearance as the Sugar Plum Fairy in Houston; Peter Franc and Charles Louis-Yoshiyama Debut as the Prince
Houston Ballet Orchestra Performs Live at All 34 Performances
HOUSTON, TEXAS – From November 26 – December 26, 2010, Houston Ballet will bring Texas its most joyous holiday gift, Ben Stevenson's breathtaking production of The Nutcracker, seen by over 1,000,000 people since its premiere 23 years ago. The beloved ballet tells the story of a little girl named Clara who is given a magical nutcracker doll on Christmas Eve. She encounters the frightful King Rat before embarking on a wondrous journey through the Land of Snow and the Kingdom of Sweets. Young and old alike will experience the many special effects, including the Christmas tree which “grows” to 40 feet, 200 pounds of “snow” falling during the snow scene, and the firing of a cannon onstage. Houston Ballet will give 34 performances of The Nutcracker, to a live orchestra, in the Brown Theater at Wortham Theater Center in downtown Houston. Tickets may be purchased by calling 713-227-2787 or logging on to www.houstonballet.org.
Houston Ballet's production of The Nutcracker has been hailed by the Houston Chronicle as “the crown jewel of holiday entertainment.” Lee Williams of the Houston Press called Houston Ballet's production of The Nutcracker, “ Gorgeous . . . Desmond Heeley's sets and costumes are reason enough to see this show . . . The Nutcracker reminds us that the holidays have always been a time of dreams, and with productions as yummy as this, sleeping never seemed so sweet.”
Houston Press dance critic Christie Taylor praised the production in 2003, “The ballet's vibrantly colored costumes were captivating, and its choreographic nuances marvelous….This year's show was as surprising as going to unwrap a sweater on Christmas morning and instead finding a box of diamond earrings.” A wonderful ballet for the entire family, The Nutcracker is the perfect way to ring in the holiday season and to introduce young children to the power and beauty of classical dance.
For over one hundred years, the story of the ballet has proven irresistible to both children and adults alike. Set in nineteenth-century Germany, the ballet opens at a Christmas party at which the mysterious Dr. Drosselmeyer gives his little niece Clara a magical toy that takes her on an unforgettable journey. From the battle scene between the Rat King and the Nutcracker in the first act to the cooks who fly magically through the air in the second act, The Nutcracker is sure to enchant audiences of all ages.
Tickets are available at a discount for select performances of The Nutcracker, including evening performances on opening night Friday, November 26; Saturday, November 27; Sunday, November 28; Sunday, December 5; Friday, December 10; Sunday, December 12; Tuesday, December 14; and Thursday, December 16. Matinee performances will also offer the discounted tickets on the following dates: Saturday, November 27 and Sunday, November 28.
The Nutcracker has a special place in Houston Ballet's history as the first full-length work to enter Houston Ballet's repertoire in a staging by Frederic Franklin, featuring scenery and costumes by the English designer Peter Farmer. The company gave six performances of The Nutcracker in 1972 at Jones Hall for the Performing Arts, and has danced the work each December without fail for the following 38 years. In 1976, Houston Ballet presented the production with revised choreography by the company's new artistic director Ben Stevenson. In 1987, the current production with designs by Desmond Heeley, lighting by Duane Schuler, and choreography by Mr. Stevenson was unveiled to a glowing critical response.
Today, the company gives 34 performances of The Nutcracker at Wortham Theater Center, and the production plays a key role in Houston Ballet's financial picture, drawing 67,000 theatergoers to Houston's Theater District and bringing in over $3.3 million revenues in 2009.
Houston Ballet's performances of The Nutcracker are generously underwritten by Continental Airlines, Shell Oil Company, and The Methodist Hospital System.
Chinese Principal Jun Shuang Huang Debuts as the Prince
This season there are many firsts for Houston Ballet's newest principal dancer Jun Shuang Huang from China, and performing the Prince in The Nutcracker is one of them.
Winner of a gold medal in the senior division at the Helsinki Ballet International Competition in 2009, Mr. Huang began his dance training, and was an honor student, at the Shanghai Dance School in China. In 2007, he joined the the Guangzhou Ballet Company as a principal dancer. His repertoire includes classical principal roles in Swan Lake, La Bayadere, La Sylphide, Coppélia, Paquita, Variations for Four, Le Corsaire, Don Quixote, and Diana & Actaeon. He joined Houston Ballet in the spring of 2010 as a principal dancer.
“I have never performed The Nutcracker before, so I have to learn everything from scratch. I am thankful to have great partners and coaches to rehearse with,” comments Mr. Hunag.
“This will also by my first time to be part of an American company in a classical ballet. American audiences are wonderful and I hope I add to their holiday cheer.”
Soloist Melissa Hough will give her first performances as the Sugar Plum Fairy in Ben Stevenson's staging of The Nutcracker. (She has previously appeared as the Sugar Plum Fairy in Mikko Nissinen's version of The Nutcracker at Boston Ballet.) Soloist Karina Gonzalez will give her first Houston performances as the Sugar Plum Fairy in Ben Stevenson’s production of The Nutcracker, having previously danced leading roles in Marcello Angelli's version of The Nutcracker for Tulsa Ballet. Ms. Hough and Ms. Gonzalez will also give their first performances of the Snow Queen in Houston with these performances of The Nutcracker.
Lauren Ciobanu will also have her Houston debut as the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker. Peter Franc and Charles Louis-Yoshiyama will debut as the Prince.
The Story of The Nutcracker
The Nutcracker tells the story of Clara and her magical nutcracker doll. One Christmas Eve, the mysterious Dr. Drosselmeyer arrives at the Stahlbaum family’s Christmas party and presents Clara with a special gift: a wooden nutcracker. After the party, as the clock strikes midnight, Clara awakens to find the room filled with giant mice. The nutcracker comes to her rescue and a fierce battle ensues as the nutcracker leads the toy soldiers against the mice and their leader, King Rat. The nutcracker overcomes King Rat, and then is transformed into a handsome prince who takes Clara on a magical journey.
To the delight of Clara and the audience, the evening is filled with dance. The Snow Queen leads eighteen snowflakes in a brilliant waltz in the Land of Snow, where the trees are laden with icicles. Then the Nutcracker Prince takes Clara on a boat ride across the Lemonade Sea to the Kingdom of Sweets where they are greeted by the Sugar Plum Fairy. The Sugar Plum Fairy treats Clara to sweets and entertainment provided by the inhabitants of the kingdom: chocolate, a Spanish dance; coffee, an Arabian dance; and tea, a Chinese dance. Next comes the comical Madame Bonbonaire whose huge skirt is filled with tiny clowns. Then there is the Russian dance and the Waltz of the Flowers. Finally, the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Nutcracker Prince dance a grand pas de deux. As the celebration draws to a close, Clara becomes sleepy. She awakens back in her bed, as the nutcracker salutes his little princess Clara.
About Houston Ballet
On February 17, 1969 a troupe of 15 young dancers made its stage debut at Sam Houston State Teacher's College in Huntsville, Texas. Since that time, Houston Ballet has evolved into a company of 53 dancers with a budget of $18.4 million, a state-of-the-art performance space built especially for the company, Wortham Theater Center, and an endowment of just over $47 million (as of June 2010), making it the United States' fourth largest ballet company by number of dancers. Under the administrative leadership of managing director C.C. Conner since 1995, the company has maintained a strong financial position.
Houston Ballet has toured extensively both nationally and internationally. Over the last decade, the company has appeared in London at Sadler's Wells, at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow, in six cities in Spain, in Montréal, at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., in New York at City Center, and in cities large and small across the United States.
Houston Ballet has emerged as a leader in the expensive, labor-intensive task of nurturing the creation and development of new full-length narrative ballets. The company has also commissioned new one-act ballets from some of the world's most respected choreographers, including Julia Adam, Christopher Bruce, James Kudelka, Trey McIntyre, Paul Taylor, Glen Tetley, Natalie Weir and Lila York.
Writing in The Financial Times on March 6, 2006, dance critic Hilary Ostlere praised Houston Ballet as "a strong, reinvigorated company whose male contingent is particularly impressive, a well-drilled corps and an enviable selection of soloists and principals." Dance Europe editor Emma Manning observed of the company in November 2004, “One of the first things that hits you about this company is the technical strengths not just of the principals, but throughout the ranks. Watching artistic director Stanton Welch take class on a Sunday morning before a matinee, one could not help but marvel at the multiple turns tossed off by the young women in the corps....The three new works shown in this program will be followed by no fewer than four more Houston premieres. Can any other major ballet company in the world match that?"
In a move designed to propel Houston Ballet to the next phase of its development, the company broke ground on July 15, 2009 on the Center for Dance, a new 115,000 square-foot facility located in downtown Houston. The building, which will cost $53 million, is set for completion in the spring of 2011. The six-story building will boast nine dance studios, a dance laboratory for presentations as well as rehearsals, and artistic, administrative and support facilities for Houston Ballet and its Academy. The new facility will more than double the space that Houston Ballet has at its current home, and become the largest facility for dance in America.
Houston Ballet Academy has reached over 19,000 Houston area students (as of the 2009-2010 season) and has had four academy students win prizes at the prestigious international ballet competition the Prix de Lausanne, with one student winning the overall competition in 2010.
HOUSTON BALLET'S THE NUTCRACKER FACT SHEET
WHAT: THE NUTCRACKER (1987)
Music by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)
Choreography by Ben Stevenson, O.B.E.
Scenic and Costume Designs by Desmond Heeley
Original Lighting Design by Duane Schuler
Recreated Lighting Design by Christina R. Giannelli
Houston Ballet Orchestra conducted by music director Ermanno Florio and assistant conductors Ned Battista and Michael Moricz.
Generously underwritten by:
Shell Oil Company,
The Methodist Hospital System.
ABOUT THE PROGRAM:
A little girl named Clara receives a magical nutcracker on Christmas Eve, and sets out on a wondrous journey to the Land of Snow and the Kingdom of Sweets. Featuring breathtaking scenery and costumes by Tony Award-winning designer Desmond Heeley, The Nutcracker is the perfect yuletide gift: the ideal means of introducing children to the power and beauty of classical dance, and a delightful way for the entire family to ring in the holiday season.
WHEN: November 26 – December 26, 2010
At 7:30 p.m. November 26*, 27*, 28*,
and December 4, 5*, 10*, 11, 12*, 14*, 16*, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 26, 2010
At 2:00 p.m. on November 27*, 28*,
and December 4, 5, 11, 12, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 26, 2010
* Indicates discounted performance.
WHERE: Brown Theater, Wortham Theater Center
501 Texas Avenue in downtown Houston
TICKETS: $19 - $105. For tickets call (713) 227 2787 or 1 800 828 ARTS.
Tickets are also available at www.houstonballet.org, Houston Ballet Box Office at Wortham Theater Center and all Ticketmaster outlets at Fiesta and select H-E-B stores.