John Cranko’s The Taming of the Shrew is one of the greatest ballet comedies of the 20th century. Inspired by William Shakespeare’s world-famous play, Cranko brings to vivid life the story of the shrewish Katherina whom no one wants to marry and the dashing and clever Petruchio who makes her his wife and “tames” her. The Taming of the Shrew was created by John Cranko for the Stuttgart Ballet with the famous dancers Marcia Haydée and Richard Cragun starring in the leading roles. Cranko, a master at creating characters whose inner motivations are believable and instantly understandable by the audience, has provided many subsequent generations of dancers with two spectacular roles in which both acting and dancing ability can be sublimely combined. Katherina’s character undergoes a profound change during the course of the ballet as she lets her defenses down and realizes that Petruchio loves her for herself. The utterly lovable Petrucchio is given two bravura solos which leave the audience breathless and cheering. Using three ingenious pas de deux which are in turns hilarious, touching and utterly human, Cranko ensures that the audience has fallen in love with his two main characters by the time the final curtain falls.
As in many ballets by Cranko – and indeed plays by Shakespeare – there are numerous additional characters to delight audiences and provide a foil to the two main characters: Katharina’s pretty but vapid sister Bianca and her three suitors: the fop Gremio, the vain Hortensio and the young student Lucentio who ultimately wins Bianca’s hand, only to realise that looks are not everything. Katherina’s and Bianca’s long-suffering father and the village priest add to the wonderful humour of the ballet. Set to cheerful and boisterous music by Domenico Scarlatti, orchestrated by Kurt-Heinz Stolze, and with colourful costumes and a charming set by Elisabeth Dalton, The Taming of the Shrew evokes the sunlit streets and gardens of Italy and is the perfect ballet for the whole family.