A trio of balletic treats
Two works by Ashton and one by Nijinska comprise latest Royal Ballet mixed bill.
In a jubilee year, it’s perhaps appropriate that Frederick Ashton’s Birthday Offering returns to the stage of the Royal Opera House. The ballet was first created in 1956 to celebrate the Silver Jubilee of The Royal Ballet (then Sadler’s Wells Ballet) as well as a tribute to the company’s founder Ninette de Valois. The ballet will be performed alongside another work by Ashton – A Month in the Country – as well as Bronislava Nijinska’s Les Noces.
With demanding choreography, Birthday Offering sees seven ballerinas take solo roles, including Tamara Rojo in some of her final performances with The Royal Ballet before taking up the position of Director at English National Ballet.
Rather than following a narrative, the ballet offers a showcase of the dancers’ technical skill with a series of solos, duets and ensemble pieces. In the 1968 revival, Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev danced roles in the ballet.
View archive photography of 1956 performances of Birthday Offering on the ROH Collections website.
A Month in the Country is an adaptation of the Turgenev play of the same name, a poignant tale of infatuation. A Covent Garden favourite, over the years it has starred the likes of Sylvie Guillem, Mikhail Baryshnikov and Darcey Bussell. The work was dedicated in part to Bronislava Nijinska, the choreographer of Les Noces, the work that rounds off this mixed bill.
Distinctly Russian in flavour, Nijinska’s Les Noces was originally premiered by Serge Diaghilev’s legendary Ballets Russes. It features a modernist score by Igor Stravinsky and is another example of the composer’s fascination with ritual, which was evident in The Rite of Spring. With Les Noces however, human sacrifice is swapped for wedding rituals – from the consecration of the bride and groom to the celebratory feast.
The Royal Ballet mixed bill runs from 30 June – 7 July.