Many ballets are created specifically to be a ballet or other type of musical dance show. But other times, producers turn their attention to literature to find stories to use in their productions. In fact, a number of very famous ballets are based on books from different eras.
Ballets based on William Shakespeare
Top of the list of favourite books made into ballets are the works of William Shakespeare. A Midsummer’s Night Dream and Romeo and Juliet are two of the most well-known of his works that have been transformed into ballets (among other things). A Midsummer’s Night Dream created by George Balanchine with music by Felix Mendelssohn opened in 1962 while The Dream, a one act adaptation opened in 1964.
Othello is another Shakespeare work that has been made into a ballet, opening in 1998. The Winter’s Tale is one of the more recent additions, opening in 2014 at the Royal Opera House in London and co-produced with the National Ballet of Canada.
Ballets based on Theophile Gautier
Theophile Gautier was a French poet and novelist who was born in Tarbes, France in 1811. He wrote a number of plays, novels, short stories and works of poetry. Among them, three have been made into ballets. La Pavilion d’Armide was based on his short novel Omphale and first showed in 1907 in St Petersburg. The Pharaoh’s Daughter is also based on one of his novels, Le Roman de la Momie and first showed in 1862, performed by the Imperial Ballet in St Petersburg. Le Spectre de la Rose was based on the verse of the same name about a girl who wanted to dance with the spirit of a special rose from her first ball.
Ballets based on Famous novels
Many famous novels have also been adapted into ballet as well as movies and musicals. Often the ballet has become more famous or more widely seen than the original novel. The Lewis Carroll story Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has been adapted in many ways since it was written and one of those includes a ballet. It was created by Christopher Wheeldon and had its premiere in the Royal Ballet, Covent Garden in 2011. Arabian Nights is a two-act ballet created by Fikret Amirov and based on sections of One Thousand and One Nights, a collection of stories written in Arabic. It was first shown in the Azerbaijan State Opera in 1979.
Traditional Ballets based on novels
The famous Christmas ballet, The Nutcracker is based on a novel that was an adaptation of a novel! The original was written by ETA Hoffmann and was called The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. This was adapted by Alexandre Dumas into The Nutcracker and based its debut as a ballet in St Petersburg in 1892. Since the 1960s, the ballet has become one of the most popular around the world, especially during the festive period. Another famous ballet is Carmen, created by Roland Petit in 1949 and debut at the Prince’s Theatre in London and which has since shown around the world. It was based on a novella by Prosper Merimee, written back in 1845.
Ballets based on modern literature
The premise for any good ballet is a good story, and so any good story can be made into a ballet, and many modern books are being turned into ballets for a new generation of ballet lovers. More modern books turned into ballets include the Handmaids tale by Margaret Atwood, Dracula, Of Mice & Men, and 1984!