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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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