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The Age of Anxiety

Liam Scarlett sets Leonard Bernstein’s Symphony no.2, ‘The Age of Anxiety’, inspired by W.H. Auden’s epic poem.

Most recent performance

There are currently no scheduled performances of The Age of Anxiety. It was last on stage 15 March—9 April 2018 as part of the Winter 2017/18 season.


In a New York bar in wartime four lonely strangers attempt to find spiritual meaning in an industrialized world.


The Royal Ballet’s Artist in Residence Liam Scarlett created The Age of Anxiety on the Company in 2014. After his dark, probing narrative works Sweet Violets and Hansel and Gretel he turned to Leonard Bernstein’s Second Symphony and the epic poem by W.H. Auden that inspired it. As the Evening Standard wrote at the ballet’s premiere, ‘Scarlett’s bitter-sweet take on American modernism… brilliantly conveys the sadness beneath the skin’.

Bernstein had an intense emotional response to Auden’s poem, which explores the atmosphere of disillusionment and uncertainty that followed World War II; he later wrote that ‘When I first read the book I was breathless’. In the symphony this deep personal resonance is married with Bernstein’s instinctive sense of rhythm, which has made his music so ideal for dance. John Macfarlane, who has collaborated with Scarlett on all his main-stage works for The Royal Ballet, provides designs ‘superb in detail and atmosphere’ (The Guardian).

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