Artists of The Royal Ballet in Symphonic Variations. © ROH 2017. Photographed by Tristram Kenton

Symphonic Variations (2017)

2 April1 May 2021
Online only
Ballet and dance

Symphonic Variations was Frederick Ashton’s first choreographic work after returning from serving in the RAF during World War II. It was one of the Company’s first works for the Main Stage of the Royal Opera House, and Ashton and his designer Sophie Fedorovitch agonized over ways to make sure the ballet would be experienced, even at 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. This stream celebrates the 75th anniversary of the ballet's premiere at the Royal Opera House.

The ballet was created for just six dancers, who never leave the stage. The dancers combine in a series of quartets, duets, sextets and solos, perfectly reflecting César Franck’s brooding Variations symphoniques for piano and orchestra. The flow of dancing quickens and slows but retains 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.

The 2020/21 Ballet Season is generously supported by Aud Jebsen.

Streaming generously supported by The Foyle Foundation.



Conductor: Emmanuel Plasson

Dancers: Marianela Nuñez, Vadim Muntagirov, Yasmine Naghdi, James Hay, Yuhui Choe, Tristan Dyer

Piano: Paul Stobart

Concert Master: Vasko Vassilev

Orchestra: Orchestra of the Royal Opera House


ChoreographyFrederick Ashton

MusicCésar Franck

DesignerSophie Fedorovitch

Lighting designerJohn B. Read


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