16 March 2023
WOOLF WORKS (Royal Opera House) Ballet Review

This ballet was inspired the works of Virginia Woolf, most notably “Mrs Dalloway”, “Orlando”, and “The Waves”.  Choreographed by Wayne McGregor to the original score by Max Richter, it was created for Alessandra Ferri (who I knew was a prima ballerina assoluta, but didn’t know she was 14th out of 16 ever honoured).  I missed the original run in 2015 (doubly disappointing since Edward Watson, now retired, was in it), so was determined to see this one with a performance lead by Ferri herself.

I now, I then

The music and the story are beautiful and emotional.  Ferri is superb.  Her lines are spectacular, and, paired with William Bracewell, she looks like a graceful Plasticine model.  Of the 8-strong cast, Yasmine Naghdi and Joseph Sissens deserve a special mention.  Naghdi seamlessly transforms into a mini replica of Ferri, and Sissens is fast becoming my favourite dancer at Royal Ballet with his elongated precision movements.  Although Ferri doesn’t steal the show in a sense that it genuinely feels like an ensemble piece, the eye is unmistakable drawn to her when she is on stage.  Her lines, her facial expressions, the way she moves with the music, it’s all a rich feast for the eyes.


This was hands down my favourite piece of the evening (despite Ferri not being in it).  Between the music, the lighting, and the costume, it felt fresh, new, and unlike any ballet I’d seen before.  There are so many things happening at once, yet they flow beautifully and don’t compete for your attention.  The piece is vibrant, engaging, and, although repetitive in places, playful.

Again, excellent ensemble piece, but Fumi Kaneko certainly stood out.  A friend has been telling me to see more shows with Kaneko in the lead (which I haven’t gotten around to, as I tend to favour Nuñez when possible), but this performance certainly made me want to put some effort into it on the next production.


A beautiful piece that explores the relationship between Woof (Ferri), who had no children, and her sister (Mayara Magri), who had plenty.  It’s emotional and moving, and lets both Ferri and Magri shine.  If I’m honest, I didn’t like the head pieces (or were they technically masks?) very much because they made background dancers look a bit like Hannibal Lecter, but even that didn’t take away from the dancing.

Although I don’t mind modern dance, when I go to see a ballet, I do expect to see something that’s more of a ballet.  This production certainly didn’t disappoint.  It felt contemporary but classic at the same time, which made it ever so enjoyable.  That said, it seemed that a good chunk of the choreography relied on the dancers being super flexible.  Take that away, and it most of the beauty goes away with it.  But, though Petipa or Balanchine this isn’t, it is still a superb production that’s worth seeing.

Cheapskate enjoyment value: £15.

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