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Mata Hari Ted Brandsen

World famous icon

Duration 2:00

Breaks 1

The turbulent life of the Dutch spy and dancer Mata Hari is the theme of this large-scale production. Choreographed by artistic director Ted Brandsen, it was premiered in the spring of 2016 to resounding success.

In short

On 15 October 2017, it is exactly a hundred years ago that Margaretha Geertruida Zelle (Mata Hari’s real name) was executed as a spy. The story of the Dutch spy and dancer, which is known all over the world, now appeals to the imagination more than ever. The young girl from Friesland became an internationally celebrated dancer; a star who wound every man around her little finger and a strong, self-willed woman, who was later accused of treason.

The most intriguing thing about her life story is not the biographical facts, but rather her ability to keep transforming herself. At every change in her eventful life, she succeeded in reinventing herself: as dancer, diva, spy and mystery. She never gave up. 

  • Ted Brandsen

    Director of Dutch National Ballet, Resident Choreographer

    Ted Brandsen danced with Dutch National Ballet from 1981 to 1991. In 1991, he retired from dancing in favour of concentrating on choreography. In 1998, Brandsen was appointed artistic director of West Australian Ballet in Perth. At the beginning of 2002, Brandsen returned to Dutch National Ballet, initially in the position of assistant artistic director and resident choreographer and since 2003 as artistic director of the company. Ted Brandsen has been the director of Dutch National Ballet since August 2012.


    The  music for Brandsen’s Mata Hari is by Tarik O’Regan, one of today’s leading British composers. The renowned designers’ duo Clement & Sanou were invited to design the sets and François-Noël Cherpin designed the costumes. Ted Brandsen worked with librettist and dramaturge Janine Brogt on a scenario that portrays Mata Hari’s life in cinematic scenes.



    As Mata Hari, Geertruida Zelle is one of the most iconic women in Dutch history. During her life, she was known mainly as the beautiful exotic dancer from Paris. She managed to keep in the press spotlight through the most amazing stories of her origins, childhood and experiences. But it is her famous end as a spy that has kept her name alive after her death.

    Mata Hari has become symbolic of the irresistible courtesan spy. Several films about her life (including one with Greta Garbo from 1932 and one with Jeanne Moreau from 1965) have contributed to this image. The extent to which she was actually guilty of espionage is still unclear. In 2017, several sources will be made accessible to the public and the role actually played by Mata Hari will become clearer.


    Mata Hari

    Tarik O’Regan


    Musical accompaniment

    Dutch Ballet Orchestra conducted by Matthew Rowe


    Dutch Ballet Orchestra

    Since its inception in 1965, the orchestra has been proud to accompany its partners, Dutch National Ballet and Nederlands Dans Theater. The working method is unique in the Netherlands. Dutch Ballet Orchestra, with Matthew Rowe as principal conductor, consists of a regular core of 45 musicians, supported where necessary by highly qualified guest performers. This gives the orchestra its unique character: flexible, dynamic and high-quality.

    Dutch Ballet Orchestra combines music and dance into a magical experience: from classical ballet to modern dance, and from music education to talent development. The orchestra’s mission is to create an optimal synthesis between music and dance, in order to reach dance-lovers and ballet music enthusiasts, as well as children and youngsters.

    The orchestra has received several international awards for its educational projects, including the Young Audiences Music Award in 2016 for Creatures, a collaborative project with dance company ISH.

    Matthew Rowe

    Matthew Rowe was appointed musical director of Dutch National Ballet and principal conductor of Dutch Ballet Orchestra in January 2013. He is the first conductor to hold these two positions simultaneously. Some of the notable productions he has conducted for Dutch National Opera & Ballet are Christopher Wheeldon’s Cinderella, the European premiere of Alexei Ratmansky’s Firebird, the world premiere of Shen Wei’s Sacre du Printemps and many ballets by Hans van Manen.

    Rowe is also a regular guest conductor with other leading dance companies, including The Royal Ballet, Birmingham Royal Ballet, Stuttgarter Ballett and the Polish National Ballet, in Warsaw.

    Rowe is a welcome guest with the BBC orchestras. He also provides live commentary for the BBC Proms Concerts, has developed a conducting course for the BBC’s interactive iWonder Guide and has appeared in the BBC series Maestro.

    He is known for his versatility and his wide repertoire in opera, ballet, contemporary music and accompaniment of silent films, such as Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights and Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin.

    His recent projects include a Frank Zappa retrospective with the Doelen Ensemble, the 100th anniversary of John Cage’s birth in San Diego and a performance of Bernstein’s West Side Story for the 125th anniversary of the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam.



      Mon 06 Feb Dancing Times, Maggie Foyer

      ‘The scope is breathtaking. The ballet finds its heart in the woman herself. (…) Anna Tsygankova brings her talent and charisma to the role, creating a woman of leonine courage and one we genuinely care about (...) magnificent pas de deux.’