László Velekei / Béla Bartók


contemporary ballet

In Brief

Ballet in one act

Performance length: , without intermissions

This production is part of the Bartók Dancetriptych triple bill which is available at the following link


“There is no date in the half-a-century history of our Opera House as important as the premier day of Béla Bartók’s first pantomime ballet The Wooden Prince on 12 May 1917. It was the first time that the Hungarian spirit, the genius of Vörösmarty, Petőfi and Ady’s nation was expressed in its true greatness and absolute authenticity in the music played in the Hungarian opera”, writes musicologist Aladár Tóth, who later became the director of the OPERA. The piece that has been part of the repertoire almost constantly in the 105 years passed since its original premier has been staged by several renowned choreographers. This mixture of a fairytale-like world of a forest and the realistically deep and human struggles of men and women, is brought to life in the 2022/23 season by László Velekei, ballet director of Győr Ballet.


Standing on two adjacent hillocks are a pair of pretty castles belonging to the Prince and Princess: these are surrounded by a lush natural setting ruled over by the Fairy Witch. One beautiful morning, the Princess steps out of her castle to play, free from care. The Prince also leaves his castle to go out wandering. To prevent the two young people from meeting, the Fairy Witch orders the Princess to return to her castle, but the Prince sees her and falls in love with her at first sight. He attempts to get closer to his quarry, but the forest moves at the Fairy Witch’s command, and trees block his path. The prince finds his way through the thicket, so the Fairy Witch causes the waters to rise. The flow of the stream tears off his royal regalia and overpowers the Prince. As a consolation, the Fairy Witch carves a wooden copy of the boy and adorns it with his cloak and crown. The strange figure appeals to the Princess, upon whose arrival the Prince emerges from his grave amidst the waves to run to his chosen one.
The Fairy Witch performs her magic again, and her powers brings the Wooden Prince to life. It immediately launches into a grotesque dance, which succeeds in drawing the attention of the Princess. She joins the strange figure in his dance, and then she takes it back into her castle. The Prince watches the triumph of the Wooden Prince in sadness.
In his sorrow, the Prince finds solace in nature. The Fairy Witch crowns him king of the forest and orders the forces of nature to submit to him. Thus, the Princess is now more attracted to him especially as the power of the Wooden Prince is waning.
This time, the real Prince turns away from the Princess, and the forest and the magic of the Fairy Witch stand in her way. Unable to penetrate the thicket of trees, the Princess throws away her royal ornaments in shame and cuts her hair. The Prince and nature are finally reconciled, and the young people find each other. In the closing image of fulfilment, their happy duo is surrounded by the now quiet, protective nature.


"The most heart-warming figure is the wooden prince (...) – his eyes fill with pure rapture when he spots the princess and tries to impress her like a preening bird. His robotic jerks gained jaunty fluidity; joy fueled his every move. I couldn’t help but sympathize with him when he lost his agility, shuffling offstage like an immobile old man."

Ilona Landgraf, Landgraf on Dance