No stranger to opera, Balanchine not only created ballets to the music from such works as La Sonnambula and Don Sebastian, he also choreographed the ballet portions of many opera productions.
“From Verdi’s way of dealing with the chorus,” Balanchine told biographer Bernard Taper, “I have learned how to handle the corps de ballet, the ensemble, the soloists, how to make the soloists stand out against the corps, and when to give them a rest.”
Ballo Della Regina is a virtuoso set of variations, comparable to the bel canto style of opera. It is set to ballet music that was cut from the original production of Verdi’s Don Carlos. Lincoln Kirstein wrote that the ballet seems to take place in a grotto, with reference through lighting and costumes to the original tale of a fisherman’s search for the perfect pearl.
Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901) did not have a formal music education (studying privately, for the most part, with local musicians). He completely changed the course of Italian opera with such masterpieces as Rigoletto, La Traviata, Aida, Otello, and Falstaff, popularizing the art form like no other composer before or since. Verdi was also a fervent supporter of the movement for Italian independence, which led to his being nominated for a seat in the Italian Parliament.