Tony Award-winner (An American in Paris) and former NYCB Resident Choreographer Christopher Wheeldon draws upon his recent Broadway success in his latest NYCB creation, set to Gershwin’s popular Rhapsody in Blue.
American Rhapsody was Christopher Wheeldon’s 20th work for New York City Ballet, and his first since directing and choreographing the Tony Award-winning musical An American in Paris. Both of these works were created to the music of George Gershwin, with the ballet set to the symphonic version of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. The music was originally titled American Rhapsody while the composer was writing the score in 1924; it was his brother Ira who suggested the name Rhapsody in Blue after seeing an exhibition of paintings by James McNeill Whistler, which had titles such as Nocturne in Black and Gold and Arrangement in Grey and Black (which is better known as Whistler’s Mother). The score was commissioned by the bandleader Paul Whiteman, who asked Gershwin to compose a concerto-like piece for an all-jazz concert that he was preparing. Rhapsody in Blue premiered during an afternoon concert entitled An Experiment in Modern Music on February 12, 1924 at New York City’s Aeolian Hall, and was performed by Whiteman and his band with George Gershwin at the piano.