Ludwig van Beethoven wrote his ballet music DIE GESCHÖPFE DES PROMETHEUS (The Creatures of Prometheus) for the dancer and choreographer Salvatore Viganò (1769 – 1821), who was celebrated all over Europe and held the position of ballet master in Vienna. In late 1800, he approached Beethoven about a composition for a new ballet, which the composer created in rather a hurry. On 28 March 1801, DIE GESCHÖPFE DES PROMETHEUS was premiered at Vienna’s Hofburgtheater. The ballet was performed 29 times during the 1801/02 season – a remarkable number in those days. We know nothing about Viganó’s choreography and its libretto has unfortunately been lost: The only way to learn anything about its content is by studying contemporary newspaper reviews.
This piece is one of Beethoven’s lesser known compositions and even experts are usually only familiar with the overture. However, the Prometheus-music, created at the time when Beethoven was also working on his Second Symphony, is essential for the understanding of the composer’s work. It is a key work in multiple ways: As regards motifs, there is a direct relationship with the Third Symphony, the Eroica. Stijn Celis, director of Saarländisches Staatsballett, will make use of Beethoven’s complete Prometheus-music for a new choreography, including an exploration of the plot developed by Viganó, in as far as it can be reconstructed. The world premiere will take place in Saarbrücken on 5 October 2019. Theater Bonn and Saarländisches Staatstheater have joined forces to bring this rarely performed composition back to the theatre and to demonstrate its relevance to dance history.
Stijn Celis was born in Turnhout, Northern Belgium, in 1964. He trained as a dancer at the Stedelijk Instituut voor Ballet in Antwerp. He became a member of the Royal Ballet of Flanders in 1983 and joined Ballett Zürich under the artistic direction of Uwe Scholz three years later. He danced with the ballet of Stadttheater Bern in 1987/88, before returning to Ballett Zürich. From 1990 to 1992, he belonged to Contemporary Dance Zurich. In 1992, he joined the ballet company of the Grand Théâtre in Geneva, which was directed at that time by Gradimir Pankov, and he created his first own choreography for this company in 1993. In 1996/97, he danced with the Cullberg Ballet, before concluding his career as a dancer at the age of 33. He studied set design in Antwerp and worked as a freelance choreographer and set designer. Referring to his piece QUARTETT (2001), dance critic Horst Koegler called him the “the season’s most exciting discovery of a new choreographer”. Between 2004 and 2007, he was ballet director at Stadttheater Bern. After a period of freelance work, he joined Saarländisches Staatstheater as director of the ballet company in 2014. During the course of his artistic career, he has created pieces for companies and institutions like Grands Ballets Canadiens, Semperoper Berlin, the dance company at the Gothenburg Opera, Nederlands Dans Theater and Aalto Ballett Essen.