The Tempest

Purcell, Tallis, Johnson, Locke, van der Aa / Krzysztof Pastor

  • Act 1

    ca. 1h5 min.

  • Intermission

    20 min.

  • Act 2

    ca. 45 min.

Duration: 2h10 min.

Ballet in two acts after William Shakespeare 
Music: Henry Purcell, Thomas Tallis, Robert Johnson, Matthew Locke, Michel van der Aa and traditional Iranian music
World premiere: 18 June 2014, Het Nationale Ballet, Amsterdam
Polish premiere: 9.04.2016, Polish National Ballet, Warsaw
Co-produced by: Het Nationale Ballet

This co-production of the Polish National Ballet and Dutch National Ballet was originally devised by Krzysztof Pastor in the year of the Bard’s 450th birthday. Two years later, acing on his desire to reinterpret the work, the choreographer used the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death as an opportunity to put on a new adaptation of The Tempest, this time round at the Polish National Opera and with the dancers of the Polish National Ballet. The revised production gives full justice to his original vision. Pastor achieved the feat by introducing an additional character to the show: the word.

Regardless of the passage of time, Shakespeare’s The Tempest remains a relevant play that requires engagement from the audience. A challenging work to interpret, it provokes many to change their worldview. By laying bare the mechanisms that divide people into better and worse ones based on colonial politics – with which the playwright was well familiar – it provides commentary on the issues encountered by Europe today in the face of the worsening immigration crisis.   

Exploring the social contexts is a characteristic feature of Pastor’s work. This time, he enlisted the help of Dutch dramaturge Willem Bruls and a duo of internationally renowned Iranian visual artists, Shirin Neshat and Shoja Azari.

The creative team, which also included French-born stage and lighting designer Jean Kalman and British costume designer Tatyana van Walsum, drew on their diverse backgrounds to produce a singular show that brings together very different perspectives on the well-known masterpiece. Despite their sundry viewpoints, the end-product is a fantastically coherent ballet. One might even say that the creation process somewhat reflected the occurrences on stage.  

The two-act work is set on a scarcely populated island which becomes the new home of Prospero, the rightful yet dethroned duke of Milan, and his daughter Miranda. The unfolding events trigger a clash of passions that have been tormenting the human kind since the beginning of history: good and evil, wisdom and ignorance, rational thinking and natural instincts, love and violence, desire for revenge and forgiveness. Regardless of how different the characters are, the titular tempest will prove them all equal, no matter their class or place of birth. The accompanying score is a soul-searching compilation of music by Henry Purcell, Thomas Tallis, Robert Johnson, Matthew Locke, contemporary Dutch composer Michel van der Aa, and Iranian traditional music.

This beautiful and perhaps the most magical production by our choreographer to date does not have a straightforward ending, which makes it an intellectual challenge. The staging moves with its minimalist use of signs and symbols. A tree visible on the stage – connecting the earthy with the metaphysical – changes position from vertical to horizontal in the course of the performance to finally disappear from the audience’s view, vanish into the void, just like the play’s protagonist and everything that surrounded him. A show to remember, no doubt.

Polish National Ballet

Music from recording of the Orchestra of Teatr Wielki – Polish National Opera, conductor: Matthew Rowe, countertenor: Kacper Szelążęk




  • ,

    Act I


    Old Prospero sits on his island, reflecting on the things that happened in the past. He once was the Duke of Milan, but he was expelled by his brutal rivals, together with his daughter Miranda. The island was not uninhabited when he arrived. Sycorax, her son Caliban, and their people had already lived there for a long time. Although Sycorax died some time ago, the indigenous Caliban and his people still consider the island theirs.

    Scene 1 

    By conjuring up a storm with the help of the magical air spirit Ariel, old Prospero’s memories are awakened. He remembers he arrived in a similar storm on the island after a shipwreck. Carried by the waves, the young Prospero was thrown on the shore with Miranda and they were saved by Ariel and Caliban. After his arrival on the island, the young Prospero immediately takes possession of it, with the aid of Ariel. Caliban and Miranda get to know each other, but Prospero takes care of his daughter and protects her vehemently. Nevertheless, Caliban and Miranda seem to be attracted to each other, which angers Prospero even more. Miranda is torn between the two men. Caliban feels rejected and upset about losing not only the power over the island.

    Scene 2 

    With the help of Ariel, old Prospero conjures up a storm to revive his memories again. After some years another shipwreck brought his two rivals to the island, Stephano and Trinculo, together with Ferdinand, a young prince from Naples. Ferdinand is rescued from the waves by Ariel. Ferdinand is sad that he lost everything in the storm, but Ariel tries to console him. When young Prospero and Miranda find Ferdinand on the shore, Miranda is touched by the tragic fate of the prince. Unknowingly she is now entangled between her father, who is indecisive to let her go or not, and Ferdinand, who would anyhow be a more suitable partner for her, as far as Prospero is concerned. The closer Ferdinand and Miranda get together, the more upset Prospero becomes, and even Ariel cannot calm him down. For old Prospero the memories become very lively now.

  • ,

    Act II

    Scene 3 

    With the help of Ariel, old Prospero conjures up a storm to revive his memories again. He remembers that the same shipwreck that brought Ferdinand to the island, also brought his brutal rivals Stephano and Trinculo. Caliban discovers them on the shore. In the beginning the two men are afraid of Caliban, which they consider as primitive, but gradually they overcome their fear and they even try to beat him up. The people of Caliban arrive to set him free. After a failed attempt to civilize Caliban and his followers, Caliban suddenly realizes that he could use these men for his plot against Prospero. Directed by Caliban, Stephano and Trinculo attack their old enemy Prospero with the help of Caliban’s men. But with his magic Ariel freezes everyone on the spot in order to save Prospero and then he sends dangerous dogs in to chase the attackers. Although Prospero wants to punish and even kill Caliban now, Ariel convinces him not to indulge in revenge.

    Scene 4 

    In a final attempt to revive his memory, old Prospero conjures up another storm. He envisages Miranda and Ferdinand in their attempt to lift a big tree, an obstacle he has once put there to keep them apart. But in their act of love, they manage to lift the tree and to push aside Prospero’s power over them.


    Now old Prospero can fully confront his past and meet his young counterpart. In a final reconciliation they all come together: Prospero, Stephano, Trinculo, Miranda, and Ferdinand. But by fully realizing what has happened during his lifetime, Prospero now understands that he lost his most precious possessions: daughter, youth, faith in humanity. And he realizes how unfair Caliban was treated by him. He ends up giving up everything.


  • Patrons of the Teatr Wielki – Polish National Opera

  • Partners of the Opera Academy

  • Partners of Teatr Wielki – Polish National Opera

  • Partner of the Polish National Ballet

  • Technological partner

  • Media patrons