• John McCabe
  • Mary, Queen of Scots: Ballet Suite No. 1 (1976)

  • Novello & Co Ltd (World)

See also under 'Dramatic Works'

  • 11112210[timp]2perchp.celstr
  • 2222/423[=2]1/[timp]2perc/hp.cel/str
  • 19 min

Programme Note

Introduction and Tennis Match
Courtly Dance for Mary
Mary and Bothwell (Pas de deux)
Dance of the Four Maries
Mourning Dance
Mary and the Conspirators


The two-act ballet Mary, Queen of Scots was commissioned by Scottish Ballet and first performed in Glasgow in March 1976. The scenario was by Noel Goodwin and the choreography by Peter Darrell. The six movements of this Suite are, with one exception, taken from Act I and are as follows:

1. Introduction and Tennis Match: this forms the opening of Act I. After the introductory
wind chords, which are an important thematic element in the ballet as a whole, a brief
section for strings leads to the first scene, set in the gardens at Fontainebleau. A tennis
match is in progress between some French courtiers, and gradually other characters
enter, including the four Maries, Mary's closest friends, Catherine de Medici, and Mary
herself. In this Suite, this movement leads into

2. Courtly Dance for Mary: from Act I, Scene 2. The scene has changed to the Palace of
Holyrood, after Mary's arrival in Scotland. During this formal, but not sombre, dance,
Mary dances in turn with some French courtiers, Scots courtiers, and, briefly, Darnley.

3. Mary and Bothwell: from Act II, Scene 2, this Pas de deux is one of several such episodes
involving Mary during the course of the ballet. Here, it is a romantic dance placed shortly after she and Bothwell have married.

4. Dance of the Four Maries: from Act I, Scene 2. During this light-textured dance for Mary's childhood companions, and intimate friends, David Riccio enters (a perky Bassoon theme) and joins in the dance.

5. Mourning Dance (Act I, Scene 1): expressing Mary's genuine grief at the death of her first
husband, François.

6. Mary and the Conspirators (Act I, Scene 3): the concluding music from Act I, based on the enmity between four Conspirators, and Mary and Darnley. The attempt by the Conspirators to seize Mary's infant son James is foiled, and she escapes to England, the
curtain falling as Bothwell and his supporters drive back the Conspirators.

© Copyright 1999 by John McCabe