Cleopatra holds an unusual place among ballets in that it was first created for an opera. Back in the days before film and television, operas would be four-hour spectacles with interpolated dance sequences. While the singers rested backstage, the audience would be occupied by ballet interludes accompanied by the orchestra. These interludes are rarely excerpted by ballet companies today, but Texas Ballet Theater is doing just that with this ballet about the Egyptian queen. Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov dropped the piece into his opera Mlada, a fantasy about Slavs during Eastern Europe’s pagan era, which somehow struck him as an appropriate setting for the ghost of Cleopatra to make an appearance and do a seductive faux-Arab dance.
TBT hasn’t done Ben Stevenson’s production of this opera in this decade; it places huge demands of technique and stamina on the prima ballerina, who is on stage for almost the entire time, only coming off for costume changes. This technical showpiece is no respite from singing but the main attraction, a full 90 minutes documenting the rise to and fall from power of a remarkable queen.
Cleopatra runs Fri-Sun at Bass Performance Hall, 555 Commerce St, FW. Tickets are $20-115. Call 817-828-9200.