Taking inspiration from the ground-breaking spirit of Florence Nightingale and the women who supported the war effort in Crimea, Tamara Rojo, Artistic Director of English National Ballet, creates a new version of the classic story ballet, Raymonda.
England, 1854. Raymonda runs away from her comfortable life to become a nurse in the Crimean War. There, she becomes engaged to a soldier, John, but soon develops feelings for his friend Abdur, a leader of the Ottoman army. As turmoil grows around and inside her, who will she give her heart to?
Starring a huge cast of dancers and a full orchestra, this lavish adaptation keeps the best of the 19th-century original – its glorious and sensuous score by Alexander Glazunov and the classical choreography of ballet genius Marius Petipa – and updates it with a dramatic new story.
Introducing a heroine in command of her own destiny, and celebrating the courage of nurses and women who fought for emancipation, this beautiful production is guaranteed to thrill, move and inspire.
The original Raymonda is very rarely performed in the UK, where no dance company performs it in its entirety. This acclaimed version marks Tamara Rojo’s debut in directing and choreographing, building on her illustrious career as dancer and artistic director.
A modern classic★★★★ The Daily Telegraph
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A co-production between English National Ballet and Finnish National Opera and Ballet.
Production Partner: Mayflower Theatre, Southampton
Production Sponsor: Cunard
Main image: Dancer: Erina Takahashi. Photo © Jason Bell. Design: feastcreative.com
England, 1854. Raymonda’s home
Britain is at war in Crimea. From the comfort of her grand family home, Raymonda reads daily newspaper reports from the frontline and longs to do something to help relieve the suffering described. Her mother, sister
and aunt are doing their bit: they are sewing warm clothes for the soldiers, but Raymonda wants to make a bigger difference – something her family doesn’t understand.
John de Bryan, the son of another important local family and a childhood friend, arrives with his mother to say goodbye: he has enlisted in the army and is leaving for the front. His mother gives him an embroidered scarf as a memento. After he leaves, Raymonda decides that she too will leave to serve her country: she grabs her coat and runs away, beginning the long journey to Crimea.
A camp outside Sevastopol
As the sun rises, life begins to fill the camp. Soldiers wake up to have breakfast and write letters to their loved ones. Field Marshall Belasyse enters with a woman on his arm: he seems inebriated. A call for battle sounds. Soldiers from the Light Brigade, including John and his friends Bernard and Beranger, arrive, excited to be finally going into battle. They are followed by Raymonda and her fellow nurses, who take care of the injured soldiers at the camp.
Raymonda has two close friends: the free-spirited Henriette, and Sister Clemence, a nurse who belongs to an order of nuns and has a strong sense of duty. As the soldiers prepare to leave for battle, John asks Raymonda to marry him on his return. She appears reluctant, but, moved by compassion, does not want to refuse him. John gifts her the scarf made by his mother as a symbol of their engagement.
Suddenly there is disruption: leaders of the armies allied with the English (the Ottoman Empire, France and Sardinia) have arrived. Among them is Abdur Rahman, a Prince and Agha from the Ottoman army, and a friend of John’s. A small fight erupts between soldiers, showing the strain between the tired allied forces. Raymonda, John and Abdur hurry to stop it. John introduces Raymonda to Abdur as his fiancée and asks him to take care of her in his absence. Raymonda appears unhappy with the possessive way in which John speaks of her, while also making an instant connection with Abdur.
Raymonda’s tent in the nurses quarters
It is night. Henriette and Sister Clemence join Raymonda to reminisce about the day, tease her and reflect on her
engagement. Raymonda falls asleep. In her dream, she sees nurses and fallen soldiers dance together. John and Abdur appear in her dream too. Raymonda dances with both, caught between the two men.
Henriette wakes Raymonda from her dream: Abdur is hosting a party to raise soldiers’ morale, and they have received
an invitation. Encouraged by her friend, Raymonda agrees to go. Her excitement grows, until she notices John’s scarf. She holds both the scarf and invitation with delight and worry.
The party in Abdur Rahman’s tent
An excited crowd of guests arrives, including Raymonda, Henriette and Sister Clemence. They enjoy watching dances
performed by representatives of different nations within the Ottoman army. Henriette is invited to join in, followed by Sister Clemence, who has noticed an attraction between Raymonda and Abdur. Raymonda decides to enjoy the evening too, and dances with enthusiasm. Abdur joins her. As they move together, Sister Clemence tries to interrupt them: she feels Raymonda is breaking her promise to John. Upset with her friend, Clemence leaves. Raymonda dances on.
Suddenly, the party is interrupted as the troops return from battle with a great loss of men: John falls at Raymonda’s feet.
England. The garden of Raymonda’s home
It is the wedding day of Raymonda and John. Farmhands who have come from Hungary with their families to work on the harvest are dressed in their Sunday best, excited about the upcoming marriage and fete.
Raymonda and John arrive, accompanied by Bernard, Beranger, Sister Clemence and Henriette. Raymonda’s bridesmaids join in the dancing paired with soldiers from John’s regiment. Abdur has also come to witness the wedding, which clearly unsettles Raymonda. Everyone dances in celebration of the bride and groom, who join in, but sometimes appear at odds with each other.
Raymonda’s joy seems muted – and she cannot hide her melancholy during one of her dances. Amongst the guests, Abdur looks on.
As all the guests toast the newlyweds, Raymonda comes to an understanding of her own destiny, and faces a decision that will determine her future.
MEET THE PRINCIPAL CAST
Please note that casting is subject to change
“A resounding triumph”
“A serene experience... bold in its rewrite”