Saturday, August 17, 2013

Hobson's Choice (The Ballet)

Hobson’s Choice is chiefly remembered today as a very good old (1954) movie starring Charles Laughton.  But there is also a ballet based on the same turn-of the-century play, and if you like ballet – if even if you don’t – you might seek it out.  It will open your eyes and ears.

The ballet is by David Bintley, and the music was composed by Paul Reade. The only performance that was recorded, as far as I know, is by the Birmingham Royal Ballet Company in 1992, and I believe it is available. (I taped it when it was broadcast on Bravo a long time ago.)

The story: Hobson, a bootmaker, has three daughters who run the shop under their father’s iron hand. Hobson is irresponsible and an alcoholic, and the shop survives only through the hard work of the bootmaker Will Mossop, who labors unseen and unrewarded.  Hobson dominates his daughters, for whom marriage is out of the question. But the oldest daughter, Maggie, has an independent streak, as well as an eye for Will Mossop. I will reveal no more, other than to say that the story ends happily.

The principal dancers are Michael O’Hare (Will Mossop) and Karen Donovan (Maggie), and they are excellent. Hobson is played by Desmond Kelly, a veteran dancer who is also the production’s ballet master. 

The music is beautiful. Composer Reade has chosen to interpolate an old song, Lily of Laguna, which adds greatly to a pivotal scene. The orchestrations make full use of the large Royal Ballet Orchestra; in fact, the audio quality of the recording exceeds the video quality – a reflection of the state of technology in 1992.

I know next to nothing about ballet, but I know what I like, and I like David Bintley’s ballet very much.  If you’re interested, you can sample a bit of it by searching YouTube.