Five reasons to look forward to... Raymonda
Photo: Marta Syrko

Five reasons to look forward to... Raymonda

7 December 2023


Nothing gets you in the holiday spirit more than classical ballet. And Raymonda is the perfect way to embrace the festive season. The title may be lesser known – at least for now – than The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, The Sleeping Beauty or Cinderella, but its emotional love story, enchanting costumes and breathtaking pas de deux as well as its cheerful ensemble dances place Raymonda squarely on the list of holiday classics. Especially so when the ballet is performed in the month of December, which will – hopefully – bring snow and when the twinkling lights along the river Amstel show you the way to the warmth of the theatre.


Raymonda is the last great masterpiece by celebrated choreographer Marius Petipa (1818-1910), who is known for such ballets as The Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker and Swan Lake. In Raymonda, Petipa was able to solidify and perfect all his skills and experience, resulting in what is arguably his best choreographic work. It is not just the showcase of classical ballet technique that is awe-inspiring, but the dazzling third-act character dances also delight the senses with their mesmerising splendour.


Raymonda may be a classic, but its subject matter definitely resonates with today’s audiences. Inspired by drama series such as Bridgerton and Game of Thrones, Rachel Beaujean, Associate Artistic Director of Dutch National Ballet, who is responsible for the production of Raymonda, decided to adapt the nineteenth-century storyline to suit modern-day sensibilities. This has led to some drastic changes to the plotline, which was originally fairly stigmatising. In Beaujean’s version, young grand duchess Raymonda makes her own choice in who she wants to marry. Rather than marrying her fiancé, vain crusader Jean de Brienne, she ties the knot with Abd Al-Rahman, a mysterious sheikh.


A nineteenth-century Russian ballet set in medieval France and Hungary with dance styles ranging from the ultimate in classical ballet to sword-fighting dances, Arabian dance and Eastern European folk dance: Raymonda is the product of an eclectic mix of influences. Costume and set designer Jérôme Kaplan has done a superb job of bringing all these styles and historical details together in dreamlike sets and no fewer than 365 costumes.


All this stylistic and choreographic magnificence has not gone unnoticed among ballet critics. At its world premiere in 2022, Rachel Beaujean’s Raymonda was met with widespread critical acclaim. Her version of the ballet not only received four- and five-star reviews, but also won various accolades as ‘best production of the year’.

  • Dutch National Ballet will be performing Raymonda from 9 December 2023 through 1 January 2024 at Dutch National Opera & Ballet.