Ballet in two acts
Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew has inspired a string of stage and film adaptations. The most important ballet adaptations include Maurice Béjart’s 1954 choreography set to the music of Scarlatti, the Czech Vera Untermüllerov.’s 1961 work based on the melodies of a Czech composer, and John Cranko’s 1961 version, likewise based on the music of Scarlatti.
This series continued in 1994 with László Seregi, who choose the music of Karl Goldmark for his choreography, making the composer (a little under 80 years after his death and with the help of some judicious editing on the part of Frigyes Hidas), a co- creator with Shakespeare. The revised ballet music has the effect of a unified work, as if the long-deceased composer had written it specifically for this choreography.
The Taming of the Shrew is part of László Seregi’s Shakespeare cycle, following the highly successful Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the series. László Seregi was a key figure in the history of the Hungarian National Ballet, one who felt completely at home in the worldview of the Renaissance. This was palpable in these works, but his most important ability as a choreographer was most evident in the outstanding dramaturgical sense with which he was able to convert dramatic works to the language of dance in a manner that was both entertaining and accessible to a wide audience.
Premiere: June 11, 1994
in London's Mermaid Tavern, a solitary figure sits and writes. As he pens his words, the characters from his imagination come to life around him. The pub gradually fills up with more and more of these figures until it seems it can hold no more, and suddenly the scene shifts to the market square of Padua, where carnival is in full swing.
Appearing amidst the masked revellers and surrounded by suitors is Bianca, daughter of the wealthy Baptista and younger sister to Kate. The young student Lucentio appears; he has come to Padua to study, and immediately falls in love with Bianca. More suitors after Bianca arrive, but ancient custom dictates that Baptista will not give away his younger daughter until the elder one, Kate, is married first. To the indignation of the suitors, the door opens to reveal Kate, the terror of the city. Bursting in between the admirers and other people in the market, she drags her sister back into the house. A cash-strapped Veronese nobleman named Petruchio arrives with his servant Grumio. The Paduans entreat the courageous Petruchio to take the rich shrew as his wife, thus freeing the path for Bianca to marry. Kate again appears on the scene, this time in pursuit of Bianca, but collides into Petruchio, whom she now sees for the first time. True to his word, the man breaks down the girl's resistance, and then leads Kate into Baptista's house.
Passing himself off as a music teacher, Lucentio is at Baptista's house giving Bianca a harp lesson when Kate storms across the scene surrounded by seamstresses, resist-ing their efforts to make her try on the clothes they've made for the imminent wedding. Baptista arrives to escort his daughter to the church, but Kate locks herself in her room. After her father pleads with her, the door opens, and Kate appears in a beautiful wedding gown. Applauded by the inhabitants of the house and the crowd outside, the happy father leads his daughter to the church steps. With the entire city waiting in anticipation for the wedding vows, the groom is nowhere to be found. Hours pass before Petruchio finally arrives, drunk and not dressed for the occasion. The ceremony nearly erupts into a scandal when he takes Kate as his wife with a passionate kiss planted on her mouth. The relieved family and Bianca's suitors joyfully hail the coerced marriage. Although a wedding banquet is being laid out on the square, Petruchio forcibly carries Kate off from Padua, in the direction of his own house.
Through wintry wind and rain, Petruchio takes the shivering and drenched Kate home.
As their master arrives home, Petruchio's indolent servants spring into action, rushing to put everything in order. Petruchio bursts in and demands food for the famished Kate. Although the table is laden with mouth-watering delicacies, she is not allowed to eat any of them. instead, Petruchio beats and berates his servants and sends them packing for ruining the supper. Still unfed, Kate falls asleep on the floor. The next morning, after the difficult night, she befriends the servants and helps them clean up the upended house, and then finds new clothes for the neglected-looking staff. Emerging from the bedroom, Petruchio finds everything clean and in order. He praises Kate, for this, but declares her clothing to be unworthy of her. The court tailor arrives with beautiful gowns, but this too is just a ruse: Petruchio rips the displayed clothing to shreds, teaching Kate yet another lesson before leaving her alone. Petruchio then draws a bath and orders Kate to help him. The husband can hide his love no longer, and Kate gradually feels her heart melting. All is forgiven as Kate is given food and drink and Petruchio lays her in her bed, parting from her with a gentle kiss. He promises to take her back to Padua to celebrate the wedding properly.
Back in Padua, in the house of Baptista. The cheering throng greets three new married couples: Petruchio and Kate, Lucentio and Bianca, and Hortensio and the Widow are all now married. The three husbands make a wager: which of their wives is the most docile? First Lucentio summons Bianca, but she doesn't even hear her husband's voice. Hortensio is next, but his wife doesn't listen either. Then Petruchio orders Kate to come out, and the loving and obedient Kate appears. Their love duet proves that they truly were meant for each other. The celebrating hordes of guests swirl like a tornado that transports the audience and the stage back to the interior of the Mermaid.
Scattered on the floor around the solitary poet lie sheets of paper, filled with writing.