"What motivated me about the Marco Polo ballet creation for the Shanghai National Ballet is the scope of the adventure in which I was being invited to participate: To discover a new culture, a little bit like Marco Polo himself when he journeyed to the Orient a few centuries ago to become acquainted with the habits and customs of its people."
-José Carlos Martínez
Conducted by Zhang Chenjie
Accompanied by Shanghai Opera Hourse Orchestra
Choreography: José Carlos Martínez
Music: Daniel Walker
Costumes: Pierre Cardin
Set design: Pierre Cardin
Lighting design: Marc Anrochte
Staging: José Carlos Martínez
Book: Fang Fang and Sylvie Zhang adapted from The Travels of Marco Polo
A ballet that revives the last mission of Marco Polo will be a part of the 19th Shanghai International Arts Festival this year.
The ballet Marco Polo: the Last Mission, is a cooperation of Shanghai Ballet Troupe and top artists from the explorer's home country, Italy.
The Shanghai Ballet Troupe usually draws inspiration from Chinese folk tales to create its original ballets. The international cast and exotic story line of their latest creation, demonstrates a new approach for the troupe.
The mysterious and romantic journey is brought to life with choreography from Martinez. The Parisian choreographer has intertwined various dance forms including Indian and Arabian, into one program.
French couture designer Pierre Cardin designed the costumes for the show.
Reliving a legend dating back 700 years, the ballet is based on the famous travelogue of Italian merchant and explorer Marco Polo. It recounts the time when Polo was commissioned to accompany the Princess to Persia, before he returned to Venice.
Act I Summer Palace in Shangdu
(Shangdu: the capital of Yuan Dynasty, now Beijing)
In the year of 1292, when Emperor Kublai Khan reigned. The Mongolian king is ruling Persia. When his queen died, he sent three shrewd, strong barons to report the news to Emperor Kublai Khan in the hope that a princess from the dead queen's family would be selected for the new queen. Emperor Kublai Khan accepts this request and decides to give the most beautiful seventeen-year-old Princess Cogatra to him to marry. At the same time, Marco Polo is reporting to Emperor Kublai Khan about the voyage-mission to East India that he has just completed for him. Also, the emperor listens to the anecdotes that Marco Polo has acquired while he was in the foreign countries. With the plea made by the three barons, Emperor Kublai Khan decides to let Marco Polo, Marco's father and Marco's uncle escort Princess Cogatra to Persia by sea as his last mission, after which Marco Polo and his family will be free to go back home – Venice.
Act II Java
In the year of 1294, the ships used to escort Princess Cogatra set off for Persia from one port on China's southeast coast. The sailors and soldiers are seriously injured; some cannot survive the disaster; some become fragile and fatigued. The princess appears so weak that she can hardly stand up. When a messenger comes to report that land has come into view, Marco orders to pull into shore. Marco holds the faint princess and carries her onto the island Java. Tents are put up by Marco and his soldiers to defend themselves from the native man-eating tribes. Princess is in a daze, but at the sight of Marco, she is touched by his bravery and gentleness, while Marco has already been extremely attracted to this beautiful and talented princess. But both understand from their hearts that for the sake of loyalty to Emperor Kublai Khan, they have no right to pursue this impossible love. In this isolated island, dangers and diseases seem to exist everywhere, and the only way to express their feelings for each other is in their dreams... However, even pleasant dreams are turned into a nightmare by a fierce unicorn. Cruel and heavy fighting awaits them... Thousands of warriors die in the battle. The monster has finally been defeated, but Marco is barely able to walk, with the help of his dream girl, Marco leads his people while they continue their journey.
Act III Palace in Persia
Two years later. Having gone through all kinds of hardships and difficulties, Marco Polo and his men finally arrive at their destination - the palace of the Persian king. It occurs to the young Princess Cogatra that she will encounter something even more frightening than the unicorn – separation from Marco. In spite of the hardships along the way, she was happy because Marco, her lover in her dreams, accompanied her, guarded her and went everywhere with her. Now Marco is leaving, which means permanent separation for them. She feels so depressed at the thought of their parting that the idea of escaping begins to germinate in her mind again. Preparing for his wedding ceremony, the Persian king comes to the princess directly and salutes her which ends her romantic fantasy. The Persian king is holding a big banquet. The palace is filled with singing, dancing and cheering. Marco and the princess put on an air of cheerfulness. Wearing forced smiles, they bid farewell to each other, their hearts dance in the same way: a dream to live…