John Cranko and the Stuttgart Ballet have always enjoyed a close relationship with the British choreographer Kenneth MacMillan (1929-1992), who would have celebrated his 80th birthday in December 2009. Indeed, two of MacMillan's most important works, The Song of the Earth (1965) and Requiem (1976), premiered in Stuttgart.
MacMillan began his career, like Cranko, as a dancer with the Sadler's Wells Ballet Theatre (now the Royal Ballet) but found his true vocation and gave up being a dancer in favour of choreography. In 1965 he was appointed Resident Choreographer of the Royal Ballet. MacMillan was Ballet Director at the Deutsche Oper in Berlin from 1966 to 1969 and Director of the Royal Ballet from 1970 to 1977, after which he retired from being a full-time choreographer. From 1984 to 1989 he acted as Co-Director of the American Ballet Theatre. His works include short abstract ballets as well as full-length ballets like Romeo and Juliet (1965), Manon (1974) and Mayerling (1987), all of which being performed worldwide by many ballet companies.
Three years after Cranko's unexpected death in 1973, MacMillan choreographed Requiem to Gabriel Fauré's setting of the mass for the dead. He noted at the time: "This danced requiem is dedicated to the memory of my friend and colleague John Cranko, the founder and former director of the Stuttgart Ballet." The world premiere was performed by Márcia Haydée, Birgit Keil, Egon Madsen, Richard Cragun and Reid Anderson.
Requiem was an enormous success both on the Stuttgart stage and, a little later, during the Stuttgart Ballet's tour through the United States. American and British ballet critics agreed that this ballet was one of MacMillan's best works ever.