A ballet in Two Acts
Inspired by William Shakespeare
First performed
17 October 1992
CAPAB Ballet
in the NICO Opera House
Cape Town - South Africa

The Ballroom

Music: Peter Klatzow
Decor & Costumes: Peter Cazalet
Lighting design: John T. Baker

Musical score sponsored by Louisvale Wine Estate

Gertrude and Claudius
Gertrude and Claudius

Notes by Veronica Paeper

The first traceable evidence of Hamlet as a ballet was Francisco Clerico's production in 1792 at La Scala, Milan. Since that time the subject has appealed to many choreographers who wrote one act versions to existing music, notably Bronislava Nijinksa (1934), Robert Helpmann (1942) and John Neumeier (1976).

It is no mystery to me why Shakespeare, whose craft is words and whose work a supreme pinnacle of European poetry, should appeal to choreographers, practitioners of a speechless art.

The story of Hamlet with its intrigue and juxtaposition of characters, their moods and situations, is eminently suited to choreography. Based on a Scandinavian legend it had several theatrical airings before Shakespeare immortalised the character Hamlet.

I have been particularly fortunate in having an original score especially composed to my specifications for the shape and form of the ballet and the unfolding of the story.

The suggestion for this ballet came from my companion, Kenneth Kearns, whose clear description of the plot arid concept was an inspiration for the creation of this ballet.





Notes by Peter Cazalet

The design is a simple set consisting of two towers/battlements which twist, turn and move to transform into different shapes and permutations.

There is no particular style of period but with these decaying, gilded towers I have tried to symbolise the corruption of the kingdom under the reign of Claudius and also Hamlet's tormented mind. The towers have a hint old Piranesi's prison etchings, all menace and tortuous architecture. To these are added tall, imposing candelabra for the court scenes.

These elements all sit in a large, open, dark space. Against this setting the characters in their rich, jewel-like and rather strange costumes dance out their terrible, fatalistic story.

Notes by Peter Klatzow

From the composer's point of view, Hamlet offers many opportunities to explore the dramatic and thematic content of the play. The plot abounds in characters and situations which can be effectively illustrated by the music: ghostly visitations; a mad scene; a sword fight; various court scenes; and of course some tender moments between Hamlet and Ophelia. There is also the contribution by the visiting players, who provide Hamlet with the crucial strategy to expose the guilt of his uncle. Shakespeare gives the players a somewhat archaic, formal quality, and following suit I have used a musical language which goes back to Shakespeare's own time. I have also quoted a popular bass line (the 'Romanesca') which Shakespeare might well have known.

Ophelia and Laertes
Ophelia and Laertes

There are two important families in the play; firstly Hamlet, his mother Gertrude and his real father (the Ghost), secondly Ophelia, her brother Laertes and father Polonius. They are linked thematically, and in addition each important character is represented by a particular instrument in the orchestra - the Ghost by - the synthesiser, Gertrude by the clarinet, Ophelia by the flute, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern by a pair of bassoons, Claudius by the trombone, but Hamlet, the most complex character of all, by the whole orchestra.

Characters and theme are all introduced in the Prologue. The entire play revolves around the character of Hamlet - he is moody, devious. violent, impulsive, and sometimes irrational. Any music which tries to portray the complexity of Hamlet's mind needs to resort to an Expressionistic density of harmony and rhythm. Hamlet's own theme (a major/minor triad) sets up the tension and ambivalence from the very opening notes and these are only resolved at the end, in his death.


Notes by John T. Baker

My inspiration for the lighting design of this ballet comes from knowing Shakespeare's famous work and having lit the play three times.

Lighting the ballet requires a broad approach to accommodate the special requirements of dance which in turn are influenced by the music score. In my lighting I have tried to emphasise the essential elements of this story of power, intrigue, lust and love.

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