The Taming
of the Shrew

Kurt-Heinz Stolze, Domenico Scarlatti / John Cranko

  • Act I

    60 min.

  • Intermission

    20 min.

  • Act II

    55 min.

Duration: ca. 2 h 15 min.

Ballet in two acts 
Libretto: John Cranko after William Shakespeare
Music by Kurt-Heinz Stolze after Domenico Scarlatti
World premiere: 16 March 1969, Wuerttemberg Opera House, Stuttgart
Premiere in the Teatr Wielki - Polish National Opera: 27 November 2015

In Franco Zeffirelli’s The Taming of the Shrew (1967) the roles of Kate and Petruchio were taken on by Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. In Krzysztof Warlikowski’s memorable production (1998) Danuta Stenka played Kate. John Cranko’s choreography, which we can see at Teatr Wielki – Polish National Opera, was created in 1969 and, as Krzysztof Pastor, the director of the Polish National Ballet, says, it is surprisingly modern. ‘Cranko knows exactly how to tell a story in a very clear way, each person on stage is characterised well – and at  the same time depicted naturally, without excessive ballet pantomime.’ John Cranko is an important figure in the history of dance, one of the most outstanding ballet artists of the twentieth century. Born in 1927 in South Africa, he worked for the London and New York ballet companies. From 1961 he ran the Stuttgart Ballet. His muse and inspiration in the Stuttgart ensemble was a Brazilian dancer called Marcia Haydée. She was the one to perform the role of Kate. ‘Marcia Haydée is the absolute embodiment of the shrew,’ wrote an enthusiastic reviewer for The Times after The Taming of the Shrew premiere. The show, filled with wit and humour, forms part of the history of ballet, remains an inspiration for dancers and choreographers, and, even more importantly, is an excellent way to spend an evening at the theatre.



Polish National Ballet
Orchestra of the Teatr Wielki  Polish National Opera


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    Act I

    Outside Baptista’s House
    Hortensio, a fop, Lucentio a student, and Gremio, an elderly roué, serenade the beautiful Bianca. Their love songs are brusquely interrupted by Katherina, Bianca’s older sister. Their father Baptista explains to the suitors that Katherina, as the elder of his two daughters, must marry first. Neighbours, awakened by the noise, chase the thwarted lovers away.

    A Tavern
    Petruchio, a gentleman of more generosity than means is stripped of his last penny by two ladies of dubious origins. Bianca’s three suitors suggest that he might be interested in the charms and the fortune of Katherina. He agrees.

    Inside Baptista’s House
    Bianca muses about her preferences among the three suitors; she is interrupted by a jealous outburst from Katherina who calls her a scheming flirt. This dispute is cut short by the arrival of Petruchio accompanied by Gremio, Lucentio and Hortensio, disguised as teachers of singing, dancing and music. Petruchio is none too favourably received by Katherina. Alone with Bianca the suitors doff their disguises and continue their wooing in the form of lessons. Bianca soon recognizes Lucentio as the most desirable. Katherina reacts violently against Petruchio’s protestations of passion, thinking that they are a false mockery, but something in his manner convinces her enough to agree to the marriage.

    A Street
    The neighbours, on their way to Katherina’s nuptials, treat the matter as a huge joke. The three suitors join them, now in high hopes that Bianca will soon be won.

    Baptista’s House
    The guests have arrived. Katherina is in her bridal array, but the bridegroom appears to have forgotten the day. When he does appear, in fantastic garb, Petruchio misbehaves, ill-treats the guests and Katherina’s father, and carries-off the bride before the wedding festivities have begun.

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    Act II

    The journey to Petruchio’s house
    Petruchio proceeds with his taming of Katherina by extinguishing the fire and finding fault with the food. Katherina spends a hard, cold, hungry night.

    The Carnival
    A masked and cloaked stranger appears to Hortensio and Gremio during the carnival. Believing her to be Bianca, both of them are only too eager to take their marriage vows. Too late they discover that they have been tricked and have married the two ladies of dubious origins, suitably briefed, bribed, and disguised by Lucentio.

    Petruchio’s house
    Katherina is hungry and freezing. Although Petruchio continues to tease Katherina, her weary resistance finally crumbles and she capitulates to her master; only to find that Petruchio is a kinder, wittier husband than she has imagined.

    The journey to Bianca’s wedding
    Petruchio indulges in a few more whims and fancies, but Katherina has learned her lesson, and joins in the fun.

    Bianca’s wedding
    Gremio and Hortensio have found out that the joys of marriage are a mixed blessing, and even Lucentio has reason to fear that Bianca is not the angel that she appeared to be. Katherina, on the other hand, and to everybody’s astonishment, turns out to be the truest, most obedient, most loving of wives. Which only goes to show that women are not always what they appear.


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