World Premiere by Helen Pickett

Emma Bovary
Canadian Premiere

November 11 – 18, 2023

World Premiere by Helen Pickett

Emma Bovary
Canadian Premiere

November 11 – 18, 2023

World Premiere by Helen Pickett
Emma Bovary

View Digital House Programme >

Please Note: Strobe lights and theatrical haze are used in Emma Bovary.


The world premiere of Emma Bovary marks an exciting first partnership between The National Ballet of Canada and award-winning choreographer, director and dancer, Helen Pickett. Pickett combines a striking physical vocabulary with sensitivity to the human condition, and she is breaking new ground in narrative ballet. Emma Bovary is a psychological exploration of the lead character from Gustave Flaubert’s 19th-century novel, Madame Bovary, his influential depiction of a young woman disillusioned by life.

Emma Bovary Trailer

Things to Know
  1. 1This world premiere follows the success of Pickett’s full-length work for Scottish Ballet The Crucible, based on Arthur Miller’s play. The Crucible won a Critics’ Circle Theatre Award and the Herald Angel Award for Choreography in the UK in 2019. For Emma Bovary, Pickett partners with award-winning opera and theatre director James Bonas, as co-director and co-treatment writer. They first worked together on The Crucible and this marks their third collaboration.
  2. 2Emma Bovary does not tell the story of Flaubert’s novel. Rather, it dives into the complex psychology of the title character, a young woman whose attachment to romantic ideals disconnects her from reality, leading to her demise.
  3. 3Pickett has commissioned an original score from Peter Salem, whose work includes award-winning music for the British television series, Call the Midwife. Salem also composed the music for Pickett’s ballet The Crucible.
  4. 4The creative team includes Canadians Bonnie Beecher for lighting design and Michael Gianfrancesco for sets and costumes. They are joined by production designer Anouar Brissel and animator GrĂ©goire Pont, who studied Norman McLaren’s techniques of animation dynamics.
  5. 5This commission is an extension of Hope Muir’s creative relationship with Pickett, having worked on no less than five productions together in Scotland and the US.
Watch and Explore

Exploring Emma: Helen Pickett and James Bonas on Creating Emma Bovary

Building the World of Emma Bovary

Emma Bovary Production View Gallery

Read Feature With Helen Pickett and James Bonas on Creating Emma Bovary

Who's Who

Emma is a young idealistic woman of ambition and dreams, who yearns for something more than her life and marriage offers her.

Charles, Emma’s husband, is a country doctor who adores his wife but bores her, never truly seeing or challenging Emma.

Madame Bovary, Emma’s mother-in-law, is protective of her son and determined to keep the family together.

Lheureux, a skillful salesman of fancy goods who entices Emma into spending far beyond her means.

Rodolphe, Emma’s lover, is a wealthy local man who is a charming and charismatic serial seducer.

The Creator

Born in California, Helen Pickett spent over a decade at Frankfurt Ballet under the direction of William Forsythe and is trained in method acting, somatic techniques and film. Pickett has worked as an actress with the Wooster Group in New York City and created more than 60 works internationally, including her award-winning ballets The Crucible, Camino Real and The Exiled. Pickett was Resident Choreographer of Atlanta Ballet from 2012 to 2017, received her MFA from Hollins University and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from University of North Carolina School of the Arts. Her recent commissions internationally include American Ballet Theatre, Het Nationale Ballet and Boston Ballet.

The Composer

Peter Salem is in high demand as a composer for contemporary ballet, film and television. He has collaborated previously with choreographer Helen Pickett on The Crucible and Camino Real and he has worked with such companies as Hong Kong National Ballet and English National Ballet. Salem composed the award-winning music for the popular BBC television programs Call the Midwife, Cider with Rosie and Five Daughters.


“Pickett is a genius when it comes to articulating emotion through gesture… Opening night’s Emma was the revelatory and daring Hannah Galway…” – The Globe and Mail

Emma Bovary concludes powerfully, leaving a lasting impression and bringing this classic literary character to life. Every detail contributes to the meticulous and thoughtful storytelling. The gorgeous dancing from the company brought together with a haunting score and exquisite design elements, is not to be missed.” – The Dance Debrief

“Every creative choice, from choreography and costuming to lighting and music has purpose and feels intentional in the hands of this gifted creative team. The result is a feast for the senses… Emma Bovary is a masterpiece.” – My Entertainment World

Acclaim for Helen Pickett:

“Pickett is a contemporary ballet choreographer of substance, with deep convictions, an effervescent sense of humour and a wide-ranging intellect.” – Dance International

“Helen Pickett seals her reputation as a masterful creator of narrative ballet” – The Review Hub

Canadian Premiere


After 25 years with The National Ballet of Canada, Piotr Stanczyk will retire from his role as Principal Dancer. In honour of his illustrious career, Artistic Director Hope Muir has acquired Passion by James Kudelka, a formative figure from Stanczyk’s career, for his farewell performance. Stanczyk will dance in select performances and will be celebrated at the final show on November 18.

Created for Houston Ballet in 2013, Passion is a love story whose meticulous structure mirrors the music, the first movement of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Concerto for Piano in D, Op. 61a. Two couples – one classical, the other contemporary – weave within the Corps de Ballet like musical themes, evoking complex relationships of passion.

Things to Know
  1. 1Kudelka describes Passion as having three parts: two couples and the Corps de Ballet. He developed each part in a different studio to be a complete idea, saying: “It was very important, almost necessary, that each group not know what each other group was doing, so that everyone felt they owned the floor.”
  2. 2The ballet’s three parts are stylistically unique and align with the structure and mood of Beethoven’s music. One couple is contemporary and the other is classical, with the former exhibiting raw desire and the other more reserved.
  3. 3The contemporary couple closely follows the piano and their choreography is full of tension and passion. At times they appear to stalk one another around the stage.
  4. 4Principal Dancer Piotr Stanczyk will dance the contemporary male role, which will showcase his charisma, technique and impeccable partnering as one of the company’s finest dramatic artists.
  5. 5Kudelka has described the Corps de Ballet as the “body” of Passion, saying “they are present as the orchestra is omnipresent.” Their romantic tutus and classical choreography add a luscious, dream-like quality to the ballet.
Watch and Explore

A Passionate Journey: Piotr Stanczyk on a Life in Dance

Passion View Gallery

Read Feature With Piotr Stanczyk About His Journey in Dance

The Choreographer

James Kudelka served as Resident Choreographer of The National Ballet of Canada following his nine years as Artistic Director. He creates works of incredible musicality and vision for companies internationally, from original full-length ballets to short contemporary works and remounted classics. Kudelka was Resident Choreographer of Coleman Lemieux & Compagnie from 2008 to 2020.

The Composer

German composer and pianist Ludwig van Beethoven is one of the most influential figures in the history of music, bridging the Classical and Romantic eras with his unforgettable works. He is renowned for his piano sonatas, string quartets and symphonies, with his ground-breaking Eroica Symphony considered a defining work.


Passion is a study in contrast – classic versus modern, romantic fantasy versus lusty reality.” – Houston Press 

Running Time

  • Passion 30m
  • Intermission 25m
  • Emma Bovary 1h
  • Total (approx) 2h


Emma Bovary

Emma Bovary
Hannah Galway (November 11, 17 at 7:30 pm/ November 12, 18 at 2:00 pm)
Jenna Savella (November 15, 16 at 7:30 pm)
Heather Ogden (November 16 at 2:00 pm/ November 18 at 7:30 pm)

Charles Bovary, Emma’s Husband
Donald Thom (November 11, 17 at 7:30 pm/ November 12, 18 at 2:00 pm)
Jack Bertinshaw (November 15, 16 at 7:30 pm)
Josh Hall (November 16 at 2:00 pm/ November 18 at 7:30 pm)

Madame Bovary, Emma’s Mother-in-Law
Jordana Daumec (November 11, 17 at 7:30 pm/ November 12, 18 at 2:00 pm)
Alexandra MacDonald (November 15, 16 at 7:30 pm)
Chelsy Meiss (November 16 at 2:00 pm/ November 18 at 7:30 pm)

Rodolphe Boulanger, Emma’s Lover
Siphesihle November (November 11, 17 at 7:30 pm/ November 12, 18 at 2:00 pm)
Harrison James (November 15, 16 at 7:30 pm)
Christopher Gerty (November 16 at 2:00 pm/ November 18 at 7:30 pm)

Monsieur Lheureux, Fancy Goods Salesman
Spencer Hack (November 11, 17 at 7:30 pm/ November 12, 18 at 2:00 pm)
Kota Sato (November 15, 16 at 7:30 pm)
Ben Rudisin (November 16 at 2:00 pm/ November 18 at 7:30 pm)


Piotr Stanczyk and Svetlana Lunkina (November 11, 15, 16, 18 at 7:30 pm)
Christopher Gerty and Heather Ogden (November 12 at 2:00 pm/ November 17 at 7:30 pm)
Jack Bertinshaw and Jenna Savella (November 16, 18 at 2:00 pm)

Harrison James and Calley Skalnik (November 11, 15, 16, 18 at 7:30 pm)
Larkin Miller and Genevieve Penn Nabity (November 12 at 2:00 pm/ November 17 at 7:30 pm)
Keaton Leier and Tina Pereira (November 16, 18 at 2:00 pm)

See Full Casting >


Emma Bovary

Helen Pickett

James Bonas & Helen Pickett

Treatment by:
Helen Pickett & James Bonas

Music and Sound:
Peter Salem

Set and Costume Design:
Michael Gianfrancesco

Lighting Design:
Bonnie Beecher

Grégoire Pont

Projection Design:
Anouar Brissel

World Premiere: The National Ballet of Canada, Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, Toronto, November 11, 2023

Produced and Commissioned by The National Ballet of Canada.

Lead philanthropic support for Emma Bovary is provided by The Anna McCowan-Johnson New Creations Fund and The Producers’ Circle and with generous underwriting by the Sabourin Family Foundation.

The Producers’ Circle (2023): Gail & Mark Appel, John & Claudine Bailey, Laura Dinner & Richard Rooney, Gail Drummond & Bob Dorrance, Ira Gluskin & Maxine Granovsky Gluskin, The William & Nona Heaslip Foundation, Anna McCowan-Johnson & Donald K. Johnson, O.C., Judy Korthals & Peter Irwin, Mona & Harvey Levenstein, Jerry Lozinski, O.C. & Joan Lozinski, O.C., The Honourable Margaret Norrie McCain, C.C., Julie Medland, Sandra Pitblado, C.M. & Jim Pitblado, C.M., The Harry & Lillian Seymour Family Foundation, The Jack Weinbaum Family Foundation and Alexander Younger & Sarah Richardson.


James Kudelka

Staged by:
Ian Casady and Amy Fote

Ludwig van Beethoven, Concerto for Piano in D, Op. 61A, First Movement

Piano Soloist:
Andrei Streliaev

Costume Design:
Denis Lavoie

Lighting Design:
Michael Mazzola

World Premiere: Houston Ballet, Houston, Texas, September 5, 2013

The National Ballet of Canada Premiere: Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, Toronto, November 10, 2023

Passion was commissioned by Stanton Welch, Artistic Director of Houston Ballet and received its world premiere  at the Wortham Centre Brown Theatre, in Houston Texas, on September 5, 2013. 

The opening night couples featured Simon Ball and Karina Gonzales, and Joseph Walsh and Lauren Stronger. 

Passion is generously supported by The Gail Hutchison Fund.

The National Ballet also acknowledges support provided by Anne-Marie Canning. 

Running Time

  • Passion 30m
  • Intermission 25m
  • Emma Bovary 1h
  • Total (approx) 2h

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