La Sonnambula

Choreography by: George Balanchine, staged by John Taras

Music by: Vittorio Rieti

Deceit, desire, and death shadow La Sonnambula's masked ball, haunting with the image of a beautiful sleepwalker and the misfortune in her wake.

Balanchine choreographed this work (then called Night Shadow) in 1946, for Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, featuring Alexandra Danilova, Nicholas Magallanes, and Maria Tallchief. He used music by Vittorio Rieti based on themes from several of Vincenzo Bellini’s operas. The ballet was first performed by New York City Ballet in 1960, with Allegra Kent, Erik Bruhn, and Jillana in the lead roles. Set at a masked ball, the one-act La Sonnambula tells the story of a Coquette, a Poet, and a beautiful Sleepwalker. The story remains mysterious, inviting different interpretations of the characters’ actions and relationships; it is the moods and emotions evoked by Balanchine’s choreography that give the ballet its resonance. Its atmosphere of sinister menace brings to mind 19th-century Romantic ballets like Giselle and La Sylphide, with their haunting stories of doomed love.


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Based on themes from operas by Vincenzo Bellini, including La Sonnambula, Il Puritani, Norma and I Capuleti e i Montecchi (1830-1835)
February 27, 1946, Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, City Center of Music and Drama, New York
NYC Ballet Premiere
January 6, 1960, City Center of Music and Drama
Original Cast
Alexandra Danilova, Nicholas Magallanes, Maria Tallchief, Michel Katcharoff

NYC Ballet Original Cast
Allegra Kent, Erik Bruhn, Jillana
31 Min.
Costumes by
André Levasseur (Alain Vaes, 1987)
Set by
Esteban Francés (Alain Vaes, 1987)
Lighting by
Esteban Francés (Mark Stanley, 1987)