Billy the Kid (ballet)

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Billy the Kid
Copland in 1970
Choreographed byEugene Loring
Composed byAaron Copland
Libretto byLincoln Kirstein
Based onLife of Billy the Kid
Date of premiereOctober 1938
Place of premiereChicago, Illinois
Original ballet companyBallet Caravan
CharactersBilly the Kid
Pat Garrett
Designs byJared French
SettingOld West
GenreCharacter ballet
TypeClassical 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