You probably know that the world of literature provides a rich source of material for movies and television. But did you know that many of the world’s most-loved ballets come from the pages of novels, fairytales, poems and plays?

World Ballet Day is celebrated on October 4. Seems like a good time to look at some of the most-loved ballets to find out where they came from.

Here are five of my favorites:


1. Swan Lake

Swan Lake, arguably the world’s most well-known ballet, is based on The Stolen Veil by Johann Karl August Musäus. At least that’s what it says in the libretto. It’s been hinted that composer Tchaikovsky was also influenced by the tragic love story of King Ludwig II of Bavaria.

The first performance took place in 1877 at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow.

Source: Amazon
Source: Amazon

2. Don Quixote

A novel, one of the greatest of all time, Don Quixote de la Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes, is the source for my second choice. Ludwig Minkus wrote the music and Marius Petipa was the choreographer.

The first performance of Don Quixote took place at the Bolshoi Theater, in 1879.

Source: Amazon
Source: Amazon

3. The Nutcracker

Choreographer Marius Petipa commissioned Tchaikovsky to compose the music for The Nutcracker. It is based on two stories: Nutcracker and Mouse King by E.T.A. Hoffmann, and it’s adaption, The Tale of the Nutcracker by Alexander Dumas.

The ballet was first performed in 1892 at The Mariinsky Theater in St Petersburg, Russia.

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Source: Amazon

4. Romeo and Juliet

Shakespeare’s play could hardly have been set to more dramatic music than that of Sergei Prokofiev. This ballet had a rocky start: the first performance was meant to take place at the Kirov Ballet (now the Mariinsky) in Stalingrad (now St Petersburg). It was moved to the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow, but didn’t go ahead because the Bolshoi’s dancers insisted that the music was impossible to dance to.

The first performance took place in Brno, Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic) in 1938.

Source: Amazon
Source: Amazon

5. Mother Goose

Tales of My Mother Goose by Charles Perrault is the source material for Maurice Ravel’s music which was written in the first decades of the 20th century as a piano duet for children.

Fifty-plus years later, Jerome Robbins created his Mother Goose ballet to Ravel’s music. The first performance took place at the Lincoln Centre, New York in 1975.

Source: Amazon
Source: Amazon

What about your favorite ballets — do you know where the stories originated?

YouTube Channel: Lourdinha Campos


Featured image via Wikimedia Commons


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