The Ballet Music of Joby Talbot

The Ballet Music of Joby Talbot
Like Water For Chocolate/Royal Opera House © Camilla Greenwell

The creation of full-length narrative ballet requires a creative team that collaborates well. The dream team of Joby Talbot and Christopher Wheeldon is no exception. Since meeting in 2007 for the creation of Fool’s Paradise they have created three full length ballets for the Royal Ballet Covent Garden and its partners National Ballet of Canada and ABT in New York.

The most recent collaboration, Like Water for Chocolate, based on the book of the same title by Laura Esquivel draws once again on the expertise of designer Bob Crowley and lighting genius Natasha Katz. Mexican conductor Alondra de la Parra completes the team. Like Water for Chocolate runs from June 2 – 17 at London’s Royal Opera House. Tickets go on sale on May 10. In March 2023, American Ballet Theatre will give the North American Premiere of Like Water for Chocolate at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, CA.

Joby Talbot is the only living composer to have written the music for three full-length ballets for The Royal Ballet in Covent Garden, London. Explore Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, The Winter's Tale and Talbot's other dance works in this feature.

Like Water for Chocolate (2021)

Based on the book by Laura Esquivel, the third full length ballet from Joby Talbot and Christopher Wheeldon explores a dramatic and at times magical family story in which the young girl Tita longs for her beloved Pedro, but must remain unmarried, restricted by the family tradition, to care for her mother. Tita can only express her emotions when she cooks, affecting everyone around her in startling and dramatic ways.

Image from an Insight evening at The Royal Ballet for Like Water For Chocolate

Image from an Insight evening at The Royal Ballet for Like Water For Chocolate

Chroma (2006)

Talbot’s first major collaboration in dance was with Wayne McGregor in 2006. Chroma blistered on to the stage to the accompaniment of Talbot and Christopher Austin’s arrangements of music by Jack White III (The White Stripes) interspersed with ravishing orchestrations of his chamber works Cloudpark, Transit of Venus and Yellow Disc Rising from the Sea, finishing with the exuberant Hovercraft. Chroma went on to win the 2007 Olivier Award for Best Dance Production and the Dora Award for composition in 2011.

Talbot tracks

The White Stripes tracks

An extract from Chroma, featuring Laura Morera and Eric Underwood dancing to The Hardest Button to Button by The White Stripes.

Fool’s Paradise

In 2002 Talbot created a score for Yevgeni Bauer’s silent film The Dying Swan. On hearing the score, originally for piano trio, Christopher Wheeldon commissioned a version for stings, piano and harp for his company Morphoses. The resultant ballet is called Fool’s Paradise has been widely performed since its creation.



Image: Artists of The Royal Ballet in Christopher Wheeldon's Fool's Paradise. © Andrej Uspenski / ROH 2012

Tide Harmonic (Eau) (2009)

Talbot’s first evening length ballet was Eau, commissioned by CCN Roubaix for choreographer Carolyn Carlson. Following its premiere Talbot renamed the score Tide Harmonic which was subsequently recorded and released on the Signum Label. In 2013, Christopher Wheeldon took movements of the work to create a new piece for Pacific Northwest Ballet.

Christopher Wheeldon's Tide Harmonic excerpt

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (2010)

In this classic tale for all ages Talbot and Wheeldon have created a feast for the ears and eyes. From the dramatic stature of the Queen of Hearts, to the genius nervous twitching of the white rabbit, and the eccentricities of The Mad Hatter, this ballet delivers a sensory overload of the best kind.

It’s official: the Royal Ballet has a perennial hit on its hands… What truly sets it all spinning is the shimmering, urgent and mischievous music of the composer Joby Talbot.
– Donald Hutera, The Times

Trailer Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland from Opus Arte

The Winter’s Tale (2013)

For their second evening length ballet Talbot and Wheeldon chose the Shakespeare classic The Winter’s Tale. A romantic story in which the jealousy of King Leontes leads him to accuse his Queen Hermione of infidelity with his childhood friend Polixenes. The story unfolds after Hermione’s death and takes us to Sicily and back to Bohemia via a vibrant and beautiful score by Talbot and exquisite choreography, managing possibly one of the hardest tasks - to portray jealousy in a wordless ballet- and it works brilliantly. Principal dancer Edward Watson created the role of Leontes which leaves an indelible image of torture, pain and ultimately relief in the viewer’s mind. “Exit pursued by bear” is possibly one of the most famous stage directions in Shakespeare’s play and this is portrayed beautifully in the ballet with wonderful design by Bob Crowley and Basil Twist. 

Introduction to the ballet The Winter’s Tale.

Joby Talbot discusses his score

Edward Watson as Leontes

This new and engaging film provides a rare window into the mind and inspiration of Joby Talbot.


(May 2022)