Enigma Variations (ballet)
Enigma Variations (My Friends Pictured Within) is a one-act ballet by Frederick Ashton, to the music of the Variations on an Original Theme for orchestra ("Enigma"), Op. 36 by Edward Elgar. The work was first given by the Royal Ballet at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London on 25 October 1968. It has been revived in every subsequent decade.
Elgar's variations portray, in his words, "My friends pictured within", celebrating, and in some cases caricaturing, members of his circle. He commented to one of them, Troyte Griffith, years after the premiere that if the variations had been written by a Russian rather than an Englishman they would long ago have been turned into a ballet. It was not until six years after the composer's death that an attempt was made to do so, by the choreographer Frank Staff for Ballet Rambert in 1940. Staff's ballet focused on the mood of the variations rather than on the personalities who inspired it.
The idea for Ashton's ballet originated in the early 1950s, when the designer Julia Trevelyan Oman, then still a student, submitted designs for a ballet to be based on Elgar's music. At the time the idea was not taken up, but in the 1960s Ashton had come round to it, and invited Trevelyan Oman, by then a rising star of theatre design, to collaborate.