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.
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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.