Most recent performance
There are currently no scheduled performances of Symphony in C. It was last on stage 24 May—8 June 2013.
The four movements of Bizet’s Symphony no.1 in C Major are accompanied by choreography that draws on the neoclassical style of Balanchine’s early years as a dancer in St Petersburg.
George Balanchine created Symphony in C in 1947 towards the end of his six-month tenure as guest maître de ballet at the Paris Opera Ballet. He brought the work with him on his return to the United States and it was on the first programme for the New York City Ballet. It has since become one of Balanchine’s most popular works and has been performed by more than forty ballet companies worldwide.
Balanchine’s choreography perfectly captures the varied textures of Georges Bizet’s symphony, created when the composer was just 17. The work opens with a sparkling Allegro vivo, as the corps de ballet travel across the stage in a virtuoso display. The following Andante forms the emotional heart of the piece. A plaintive oboe melody accompanies poetic choreography that recalls the role of Odette in Swan Lake. The final two movements build to an exhilarating finale as all 52 dancers take to the stage. The elegant set and costumes were designed by former Director of The Royal Ballet Anthony Dowell.
News and features
25 April 2013
From the damning to the indecipherable, a look at Balanchineisms.
15 February 2013
The Royal Ballet Principal answers your questions on roles, inspiration, and Brazilian cooking.
Symphony in C, originally titled Le Palais de Cristal, is a ballet made by New York City Ballet co-founder and balletmaster George Balanchine to Georges Bizet's Symphony in C (1855), which he wrote at the age of 17 while studying with Charles Gounod at the Paris Conservatory. The score was lost and only rediscovered and published in 1933; Stravinsky alerted Balanchine to the existence of the symphony. The premiere was on Monday, July 28, 1947, in the Théâtre National de l'Opéra with the Paris Opéra Ballet where Balanchine was guest ballet master. According to City Ballet docents the four movements were originally associated with and designed using the colors four gemstones, three of which Balanchine subsequently retained for the three movements of his 1967 ballet Jewels: Emeralds, Rubies and Diamonds. Even before the ballet was renamed Symphony in C, he had eliminated the color scheme and changed to the white costumes still used. The NYCB premiere took place as the final piece on the first performance, October 11, 1948, of the newly renamed City Ballet at the City Center of Music and Drama with costumes by Karinska. Jerome Robbins was in the audience at that performance and is quoted as saying that he immediately wrote to Balanchine asking to be hired in any capacity. Suzanne Farrell says that Symphony in C is the first ballet she ever saw and determined at once to become a ballerina and join City Ballet; both of which she did. When she was in rehearsal learning her role from Balanchine, he asked her whether she could touch her knee with her nose en penchée, which she could, and this addition to the choreography remains to this very day.