Billy the Kid (ballet)

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Billy the Kid
Aaron Copland 1970.JPG
Copland in 1970
Choreographed by Eugene Loring
Composed by Aaron Copland
Libretto by Lincoln Kirstein
Based on Life of Billy the Kid
Date of premiere October 1938
Place of premiere Chicago, Illinois
Original ballet company Ballet Caravan
Characters Billy the Kid
Mother
Pat Garrett
Alias
Sweetheart
Designs by Jared French
Setting Old West
Genre Character ballet
Type Classical ballet

Billy the Kid is a one-act ballet. The libretto (story) is attributed to Lincoln Kirstein and is based on the life of Billy the Kid. The music was written by Aaron Copland. Eugene Loring designed the dances. Jared French designed the scenery and costumes. The ballet was first performed in Chicago in October 1938. It was performed in New York City at the Martin Beck Theater on May 24, 1939 with Loring as Billy and Marie-Jeanne in the dual role of Mother and Mexican Sweetheart. During Christmas week 1939, the ballet was presented at the St. James Theater in New York City with Michael Kidd as Billy and Alicia Alonso as Mother and Mexican Sweetheart.

Story[change | change source]

The ballet opens with pioneers heading west led by Pat Garrett in "March". In "Street Scene", cowboys, Indians, dance hall girls, and other western types throng the street of a town. Billy and his Mother enter as a brawl breaks out. Alias (as cowboy) kills Billy's Mother with a wild shot. Billy stabs Alias and runs away.

In "Billy's Soliloquy", Billy shoots Alias (as land agent) during a card game. In "Card Game on the Desert" and "Gun Battle", Garrett accuse Billy of cheating at cards and goes off. The posse approaches led by Alias (as sheriff). Billy's gang is killed, but Billy kills Alias. The posse takes him to jail. At the end of "Macabre Dance", the Mexican Sweetheart enters looking for Billy. In "Jail Scene" Billy escapes by killing Alias (as jailer).

In "Desert", Alias (as Indian Guide) leads Billy to the Mexican Sweetheart's hide-out. Billy has no thought for anyone but himself and the Sweetheart leaves. The Indian Guide returns with Garrett, and, when Billy lights a cigarette in the darkness, Garret kills him ("Billy's Death"). Mexican women mourn Billy's death in "Pietà". The ballet ends with Garret leading pioneers in "Closing March".

References[change | change source]

  • Robert, Grace (1949), The Borzoi Book of Ballets, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, pp. 53–58