Choreography by Christopher Wheeldon
Staged by Jane Burn
Music by Benjamin Britten Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge, Op. 10
Set and Costume Design by Jean-Marc Puissant
Lighting by Natasha Katz

TIMING: 35:00

VIII was given its World Premiere by the Hamburg Ballet at the Opera House, Hamburg on July 1, 2001, with Heather Jurgensen, Carsten Jung, Silvia Azzoni and Alexandre Riabko in the leading roles.

VIII received its United States and American Ballet Theatre Company Premiere at City Center, New York on October 22, 2004, with Angel Corella, Alessandra Ferri and Julie Kent in the leading roles.

Henry VIII married Katherine of Aragon in 1512. She was to be the first of six wives. By 1519, with no son to carry the Tudor line, Henry became increasingly convinced that his union with Katherine had attracted some kind of Divine disfavor. He began to turn his attentions to young Anne Boleyn, who served among Katherine’s maids of honor. At 19, Anne was already ripening and self aware, and to Henry a woman of great allure.

Henry’s developing love for Anne Boleyn became linked in a unique way to his need for a son. Anne came to embody not merely a distraction from the besetting dilemma of succession, but an answer to it. She would become his wife. In his mind, the new marriage would provide strong vigorous sons to carry on the Tudor line. Katherine’s worst fear—that her beloved husband would discard her—was indeed happening.

Katherine refused to renounce her title of queen, despite her forced removal to a house in the North of England.

After giving birth to a daughter and miscarrying a son, Anne soon lost the interest of the King.

In early 1536, Katherine died in solitude, still proclaiming her love for her husband, Henry. In May of the same year, Anne mounted the scaffold to die for not much more than her failure to provide a son and heir to the throne of England.

VIII had its world premiere in 2001 with the Hamburg Ballet. This new version for ABT has some moments of new choreography, including a solo for Katherine and reconfigured patterns for the ensemble. By reducing the scenic element, reducing the number of dancers and redesigning the costumes, we have developed a production of sharper focus and intimacy.

— Christopher Wheeldon

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