Most recent performance
There are currently no scheduled performances of Symphonic Variations. It was last on stage 2–10 June 2017 as part of the Winter 2016/17 season.
Ashton was inspired to create a ballet on the four seasons – but as he began to choreograph he refined and purified until the ballet shook off its original meaning, emerging as an abstract celebration of movement and physicality.
Symphonic Variations was Frederick Ashton’s first work after returning from his RAF posting during World War II. It was one of the Company’s first works for the huge main stage of the Royal Opera House, and Ashton and his designer Sophie Fedorovitch agonized over ways to make sure the ballet would register to the back of the enormous auditorium. The result, first performed on 24 April 1946, became a cornerstone of The Royal Ballet’s repertory and is acclaimed as one of Ashton’s very finest works.
The ballet is for just six dancers, who never leave the stage. In perfect response to César Franck’s brooding Variations symphoniques for piano and orchestra, the dancers coalesce in a series of quartets, duets, sextets and solos. The flow of dancing quickens and slows but retains throughout a sense of serenity and spaciousness – a hint at the mysticism and spirituality Ashton had studied during World War II, and which had a clear impact on his choreography.
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
8 June 2017
The Royal Ballet perform three ballets by Frederick Ashton: The Dream / Symphonic Variations and Zenaida Yanowsky's final performance in Marguerite and Armand.
6 June 2017
Audience reactions to The Dream / Symphonic Variations / Marguerite and Armand.
1 June 2017
Join the Company around the world as they celebrate 70 years at the Royal Opera House.
30 May 2017
Everything you need to know about this mixed programme of great works by The Royal Ballet’s Founder Choreographer, Frederick Ashton.
2 May 2017
Join the Company as they prepare to perform three of Founder Choreographer Frederick Ashton's best-loved works.
Cast confirmation: Alessandra Ferri, Roberto Bolle and Sergei Polunin return to dance in Marguerite and Armand in June 201711 April 2017
Former dancers and guest artists of The Royal Ballet return to Covent Garden as part of a mixed programme of works by Frederick Ashton.
Symphonic Variations is a one-act ballet by Frederick Ashton set to the eponymous music (M. 46) of César Franck. The premiere, performed by the Sadler's Wells Ballet, took place at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, on 24 April 1946 in a triple bill; the other works were Ashton's Les Patineurs and Robert Helpmann's Adam Zero. The ballet was conducted by Constant Lambert and the set designed by Sophie Fedorovitch.