1982 – The Tempest

Ballet in one act from Shakespeare – Music : Piotr Ilyitch Tchaïkovski – Choreography : Ruldof Nureyev – Set and costumes : Nicholas Georgiadis

Nureyev’s Tempest

“Take a Russian and a Shakespeare play. Add Tchaikovsky’s music and dance. The end result is bound to be interesting. Particularly when that Russian is Nureyev. Russians have always hade a fascination with the magic and a russian production of Shakespeare is always worth seeing.


In Romeo and Juliet, Nureyev kept faithfully to the text, almost too much. In The Tempest, he has been much more selective. The total effect of Nureyev’s ballet is its great power an dynamism: it has a relentless energy and internal rhythm.

I didn’t see Anthony Dowell as Prospero at the gala opening, but I did see Nureyev on the second night and very weel does the part suit him.

The music Nureyev and John Lanchbery have chosen is all Tchaikovsky. The fantasy ouverture The Tempest for the island scenes, the interpolation of the irst two movvements of suite N°1 – and introduction and fugue, and a divertimento: and for the prologue showing the court of Milan, the polonaise from the theme and variations of Suite N°3. It is a compilation which in mood and drama admirably suits the story and choreography.” Richard Davies – 1982

The Tempest – choreographied by Rudolf Nureyev for the Royal Ballet in 1982 – is the second ballet from a Shakespeare’s play mounted by Nureyev. His first was Romeo and Juliet in 1977 for London Festival Ballet.

The score for Nureyev’s The Tempest consists of the following orchestral music by Tchaikovsky in this order: Polonaise from Theme and Variations (the last movement of Suite No. 3); Introduction and Fugue, and Divertimento (the first two movements of Suite No. 1); The Tempest (Fantasy Overture).

It might be asked why Rudolf Nureyev has chosen to use additional Tchaikovsky music as well as The Tempest. The Tempest is only 23 minutes long, and, while serving as a fine score for telling most of the action of the play, is not sufficient for the purpose of establishing the characters in choreographic depth, nor for outlining the pre-history, the prologue of the events that lead up to the play proper. Thus the Polonaise with its clear A-B-A form serves to show the dupficity of the court which we hear about in the play, with A the court showing its ‘loyalty’ to Prospero (then Duke of Milan), B the plotting of his brothers against him, and the reprise of A the court showing its new-found loyalty to the usurper, his brother Antonio. The Introduction to the Fugue is used to show the interplay between the banished Prospero and the somewhat rebellious Caliban and Ariel, the Fugue itself becomes a danced counterpoint of an ever-increasing band of Spirits, and the Divertimento introduces Miranda and the strange relationship between lier, her father and Caliban.