Most recent performance
There are currently no scheduled performances of Rhapsody. It was last on stage 7–15 February 2014 as part of the Winter 2013/14 season.
Rhapsody closely follows the movement of Rachmaninoff’s score – by turns playful, romantic, elegiac and elegant.
Rhapsody was created in 1980 and was 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, whose personality is at the heart of the work. The male Principal role is characterized by exceptionally fluent turns and lightness of movement. It is twinned with the strength and grace of the ballerina, a role created on the pure, clean style of 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. Rhapsody was presented at the Royal Opera House in honour of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother on her 80th birthday.
News and features
8 February 2014
What did you think of the Ashton / McGregor / MacMillan mixed programme?
7 February 2014
A look at the development of the male dancer.
3 February 2014
A guide to The Royal Ballet's mixed programme featuring a new work from Wayne McGregor and two masterpieces by Ashton and MacMillan.
1 September 2013
As a The Royal Ballet releases an all-Ashton programme on DVD, we publish an Insights event about the choreographer’s early career.
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 piece 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.