Art Alert: Spartacus to open Cairo Opera Ballet's new season

Ahram Online , Thursday 22 Sep 2016

Spartacus premiered in Egypt in 2010

Ahmed Yehia as Spartacus in Spartacus ballet by the Cairo Opera Ballet Company, 2014 (Photo: Sherif Sonbol)

The Cairo Opera Ballet Company will open its new season with the Spartacus ballet to the music of Aram Khachaturian and with choreography by Valentin Yelizariev. The performances will take place on 28, 29 September and 3, 4 and 5 October at the Cairo Opera House.

The set designer of the ballet is Mahmoud Haggag and artistic director Erminia Kamel. The Cairo Opera Orchestra will be conducted by Nayer Nagui.

The ballet premiered in Egypt 2010 and then returned to the stage in 2014. 

Spartacus takes us back to the first-century BC when slaves revolted against the tyranny of the Roman Empire. Led by the Thracian slave and gladiator Spartacus, the uprising involved up to 100,000 revolutionaries at one point.

In 71 BC, Spartacus was defeated by Marcus Licinius Crassus, the powerful commander of the Roman Empire, yet his name remained in the history as an iconic revolutionary hero who revolted against injustice and oppression.

The story of Spartacus has attracted many writers, composers and filmmakers. Aram Khachaturian composed the music for the ballet Spartacus in 1954. The ballet premiered in 1956 with choreography by Leonid Yakobson. Later on, Igor Moiseev and Yuri Grigorovich gave their choreography of the work.

Another new vision of Spartacus came in the 1980s, by Valentin Yelizariev. His choreography stressed the philosophical and emotional elements of the story with human reality coming to the front. In it, we find the representation of Spartacus, slavery, humiliation and oppression in Act I of the ballet. It is powerfully contrasted with the feast of Crassus in Act II, a scene underlining the moral corruption of the Roman Empire.

The uprising in Act I and temporary victory of Spartacus in Act II then moves to Spartacus’s defeat in Act III where it is accompanied by strong percussion, followed by a powerful requiem. The Adagio of Spartacus and Phrygia -- the love theme from Spartacus -- is one of the ballet’s crucial scenes.

In April 2009, choreographer Yelizariev brought Spartacus to Egypt, as performed by the National Academic Bolshoi Ballet Theatre from Belarus and began working with the Cairo Opera Ballet Company. However, the use of the same choreography does not mean creating a replica of the Belarus production, since the Cairo Opera Ballet Company added their own artistic style and individuality.

Abdel Moneim Kamel
Late director of the Cairo Opera Ballet Company and chairman of the Cairo Opera House, Abdel Moneim Kamel, with dancers during 'Spartacus' rehearsals in April 2010. (Photo: courtesy of the Cairo Opera House)

28, 29 September and 3, 4, 5 October, 8pm
Cairo Opera House, main hall, Zamalek, Cairo

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