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Introduction

Rhapsody closely follows the movement of Rachmaninoff’s score – by turns playful, romantic, elegiac and elegant.

Background

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.

News and features

  1. Winter Season 2015/16

    15 April 2015

    Highlights this Season include a new Royal Opera production of Chabrier’s delightful comedy L’Etoile, Will Tuckett's Elizabeth and a Royal Ballet mixed programme devoted entirely to work by Christopher Wheeldon.

On Wikipedia

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.

Abstract taken from the Wikipedia article Rhapsody (Ashton), available under a Creative Commons license.