• John McCabe
  • The Teachings Of Don Juan (1973)

  • Novello & Co Ltd (World)

Commissioned by the Northern Dance Theatre

  • 1010/1100/2perc/vn.vc
  • baritone
  • 36 min
  • Monica Smith, from the book by Carlos Castenada
  • English

Programme Note

The Teachings of Don Juan was commissioned by the Northern Dance Theatre, and is unusual among ballets (though not unique) in using a baritone soloist as well as the instrumental forces. To forestall accusations of having misled the audience, it should be pointed out that the Don Juan of the title is not the traditional Don Giovanni figure. In a series of books by the American anthropologist Carlos Castaneda (the first of which, with the above title, is the basis for this ballet), Don Juan is a Yaqui Indian, a sorcerer deeply versed in methods of using hallucinogenic drugs to become "a man of knowledge" (i.e. a sorcerer able to leap into the Other World). The pupil (Castaneda himself in the books) takes lessons from Don Juan in an attempt to become a "man of knowledge" himself.

The first book deals with his first struggles towards this end, and his ultimate failure. In the ballet, we have concentrated on certain of the "visions" of the Other World as experienced by the pupil under Don Juan's guidance, and on the teacher's interpretation of their significance - Don Juan, played by the baritone, acts not only as guide and interpreter but also as a link between the one kind of "real" world of the audience and the other "real" world of the visions. The pupil's lessons become a journey of self-exploration, his attempt to become a Man of Knowledge an attempt to realise to the full his own personality.

© 1991 by John McCabe