Most recent performance
There are currently no scheduled performances of Rhapsody. It was last on stage 16–30 January 2016.
Rhapsody closely follows the movement of Rachmaninoff’s score – by turns playful, romantic, elegiac and elegant.
Rhapsody was created in 1980 and is one of Frederick Ashton’s final works – a virtuoso conclusion to his series of non-narrative ballets. It was created on acclaimed Russian dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov, who requested the Ashton commission and whose personality is at the heart of the work. The male Principal role is characterized by exceptionally fluent leaps, turns and lightness of movement. It is twinned with the strength and grace of the ballerina, a role created on the pure, fleet-footed style of former Royal Ballet Principal Lesley Collier.
The ballet is set to Sergey Rachmaninoff’s well-known Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, which moves from stormy passages to calmer interludes. The premiere of Rhapsody was given at the Royal Opera House in honour of Ashton’s close friend Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, on the occasion of her 80th birthday.
Frederick Ashton created more than one hundred works during his lifetime (1904–88). For further information, please visit www.frederickashton.org.uk.
News and features
28 January 2016
Release details will be announced in due course.
27 January 2016
What did you think of the live cinema relay of these two Frederick Ashton ballets?
26 January 2016
Backstage films from the live relay of Frederick Ashton’s Mixed Programme including rehearsal footage and exclusive interviews.
26 January 2016
Rachmaninoff’s music is adored the world over, but he was plagued with self-doubt.
18 January 2016
What did you think of The Royal Ballet's Mixed Programme of works by Frederick Ashton?
15 January 2016
Making William Chappell’s 1980 designs appeal to both contemporary audiences and dancers calls for a huge amount of research and innovation.
Rhapsody is a one act ballet by Sir Frederick Ashton, based on Sergei Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. The ballet premiered on 4 August 1980 at The Royal Ballet, and was dedicated to Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. It has been revived twice since its 1980 premiere, in 1995 and 2011. Rhapsody was created ten years after Ashton's official retirement, and has been described as a pièce d'occasion for the 80th birthday of the Queen Mother. The Queen Mother was a friend of Ashton's. The 1980 premiere was the last of Mikhail Baryshnikov's guest appearances with the Royal Ballet, and was the only role created for him at his time there. Rachmaninoff wrote no music specifically for ballet, but many of his scores have been used by choreographers, including Walter Gore, Ben Stevenson and Mats Ek. Rhapsody was choreographed with a small cast by Ashton, with six men and six women alongside the two principals.