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The Prince of the Pagodas - London Coliseum

The Prince of Pagodas

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

IN 2014, as part of the Britten 100 Celebrations, Birmingham Royal Ballet will perform The Prince of the Pagodas, a spellbinding story of magic between a princess and a salamander, where the love for family triumphs over betrayal and feuds.

Ahead of a London Coliseum season (Wednesday, March 26 to Saturday, March 29), the ballet, choreographed by Birmingham Royal Ballet’s award-winning director David Bintley, will be performed at The Lowry Salford Quays (January 30 to February 1), Birmingham Hippodrome (February 25 to March 1) and Plymouth’s Theatre Royal (March 19 to March 22).

The ballet tells the story of Princess Sakura who, mourning her beloved brother and determined to disobey her evil stepmother’s bidding, refuses all her wealthy suitors and follows the fascinating yet repelling Prince Salamander on a treacherously magical journey to the Land of the Pagodas, hoping to restore peace in her father’s kingdom.

Based on a Japanese fairy tale and the ukiyo-e paintings of Kuniyoshi, with choreography inspired by the alluring gestural language of Noh theatre, this oriental Beauty and the Beast by David Bintley marries British and Japanese cultures through Benjamin Britten’s captivating score.

The Prince of the Pagodas is composer Benjamin Britten’s only full-length ballet score, and will be one of the closing highlights of the Britten 100 Celebrations, a year-long, world-wide dedication to the British composer.

Bintley created new choreography for the ballet’s world premiere by the National Ballet of Japan in 2011. Past choreographic versions include John Cranko’s for The Royal Ballet in 1957 and Kenneth MacMillan’s for the same company in 1989.

When Bintley considered the story he revisited Cranko’s 1957 version. He said: “In the original there’s a Beauty and the Beast-type premise where a Princess falls in love with a Salamander, but there really isn’t a struggle towards love; there are very few romantic moments in the action. I thought it was far better to make it a different type of love story. Not a man for a woman, but a sister for a brother, and a father for a son – a love for the family”.

Award-winning British designer Rae Smith brings The Prince of the Pagodas to vibrant life with her set and costume designs. Smith’s credits include War Horse, for which she received an Olivier Award in 2008 and an Evening Standard Best Design Award in 2007, and most recently The Light Princess for the National Theatre. Lighting is by Peter Teigen.

Accompanying Birmingham Royal Ballet will be the Company’s full-time orchestra, the Royal Ballet Sinfonia, under the Musical Directorship of Koen Kessels. The Royal Ballet Sinfonia is Britain’s busiest ballet orchestra, playing for Birmingham Royal Ballet’s wide-ranging programme in the UK and abroad.

For more information or to book tickets for the London Coliseum, call the box office on 0871 911 0200 or visit

Information about creating The Prince of the Pagodas can be found at