15 August 1927|
Rustenburg, South Africa
|Died||26 June 1973
On board transatlantic flight
|Occupation||Ballet dancer and choreographer|
|Parents||Herbert and Grace Cranko|
Cranko was born in Rustenburg in the former province of Transvaal, South Africa. As a child, he would put on puppet shows as a creative outlet. Cranko received his early ballet training in Cape Town under the leading South African ballet teacher and director, Dulcie Howes, of the University of Cape Town Ballet School. He then moved to London.
Following the expiration of the copyright on Arthur Sullivan's music in 1950, John Cranko choreographed the comic ballet Pineapple Poll, in collaboration with Charles Mackerras, for a British Festival. Pineapple Poll was based on W. S. Gilbert's Bab Ballad The Bumboat Woman's Story, with music exclusively by Sir Arthur Sullivan including music from various Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. His father, Herbert, a balletomane, spent a great deal of time with him in London. Another collaboration with Mackerras followed with The Lady and the Fool.
John Cranko wrote and developed a musical revue Cranks, which opened in London in December 1955, moved to a West End theatre the following March, and ran for over 220 performances. With music by John Addison, its cast of four featured singers Anthony Newley, Annie Ross, Hugh Bryant and dancer Gilbert Vernon then transferred to New York. An original cast CD has recently been released. Cranko followed the format of Cranks with a new revue New Cranks opening at the Lyric Theatre Hammersmith on 26 April 1960 with music by David Lee and a stellar cast including Gillian Lynne, Carole Shelley and Bernard Cribbins, but it failed to have the same impact.
1960, Cranko directed the first performance of Benjamin Britten's opera A Midsummer Night's Dream.
1961, Cranko was appointed to the Stuttgart Ballett where he assembled a group of talented performers such as Marcia Haydée, Egon Madsen, Richard Cragun, Birgit Keil and Suzanne Hanke. Among his following choreogrophies were Romeo und Juliet by William Shakespeare in 1962, set to music by Prokofiev, Onegin in 1965, an adaptation of the verse novel Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin, set to music by Tchaikovsky, (mainly The Seasons), orchestrated by Kurt-Heinz Stolze, The Taming of the Shrew by Shakespeare in 1969, Brouillards in 1970, Carmen in 1971 (Music by Wolfgang Fortner and Wilfried Steinbrenner) and Spuren (Traces) in 1973. His work was a major contribution to the international success of German ballet beginning with a guest performance at the New York Metropolitan Opera in 1969. 1971, Cranko founded the Stuttgart Ballet School.
Cranko choked to death after suffering an allergic reaction to a sleeping pill he took during a transatlantic flight to Dublin returning from a successful tour in the United States. His mother, Grace, who was divorced from Herbert and lived in what was then Rhodesia, heard about his death from a radio broadcast. Cranko was burried at a small cemetary near Castle Solitude in Stuttgart.
2007, the Stuttgart Ballet celebrated Cranko's 80. birthday with the Cranko Festival. The ballet Voluntaries by Glen Tetley was created in his memory. The John Cranko Society in Stuttgart, founded in 1975, promotes knowledge of ballet and Cranko's work, supports performances and talented dancers and every year presents the John Cranko Award.
- "Choreographer John Cranko of Stuttgart Ballet dies". The Montreal Gazette. UPI. 27 June 1973.