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RNZB appoints new Artistic Director and announces 2015 programme

The Royal New Zealand Ballet is delighted to announce the appointment of 36 year old Italian Francesco Ventriglia as the company’s new artistic director.

Photograph of Francesco Ventriglia by Elena Datrino.

Francesco Ventriglia was appointed after an extensive international recruitment process. “The calibre of applicants was extremely high,” says RNZB Chair Candis Craven.  “Francesco greatly impressed the board with the breadth of his artistic vision, his intellect, his knowledge of repertoire, and his great energy. He has a strong track record of nurturing talented young dancers and choreographers, and we believe he is the perfect fit to lead New Zealand’s national ballet company.”

Francesco Ventriglia trained at the Ballet School of La Scala, Milan, joining the world-renowned ballet company of La Scala in 1997.  During his dancing career he performed solo and principal roles in a wide range of repertoire including the Bronze Idol in Natalia Makarova’s La Bayadère, and Hilarion to Sylvie Guillem’s Giselle at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York and at Covent Garden. As a choreographer, he has created works for leading dancers including Roberto Bolle, Ulyana Lopatkina and Svetlana Zakharova, and for prestigious venues including the Arena di Verona, the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow, the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg and the Venice Biennale, among others. 

After retiring from the stage, at the age of 31, Francesco Ventriglia was appointed Director of MaggioDanza (Opera Dance Theatre) in Florence, Italy, in 2010.  He guided the company to new success on the international stage, substantially increasing the number of performances at home and abroad, investing in education programmes, commissioning new works from Italian and international choreographers, and received acclaim from audiences and critics alike.

“Being nominated as the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s new Artistic Director is a honour that I take on with a deep emotion and great sense of responsibility, commitment and humility. I am very excited.” says Francesco Ventriglia.

“I want to say a big thank you to the Board of the Royal New Zealand Ballet for their trust, and to Ethan Stiefel for his amazing work, which I would like to continue to reach more and more important results for the company and its artists.”

Francesco Ventriglia will take up his appointment as the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s 11th Artistic Director in November 2014, joining the company during The Vodafone Season of A Christmas Carol which opens in Wellington on 30 October and closes in Auckland on 14 December.

Francesco Ventriglia will oversee the RNZB’s 2015 programme, a ‘year of great stories’ which will encompass two major full-length works inspired by great literature, together with a mixed programme of contemporary works motivated by stories of New Zealand at war. The year begins with a national tour of Don Quixote in the popular staging by Gary Harris first seen in 2008.  The company will commemorate the centenary of the Gallipoli landings in Salute, a major collaboration with the New Zealand Army Band including new works from Neil Ieremia, taking his cue from the Battle of Passchendaele and a score composed by Warrant Officer Dwayne Bloomfield; and Andrew Simmons, working with a specially commissioned score by Gareth Farr. The RNZB’s domestic season will conclude with an artistic coup: The Vodafone Season of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a world premiere from exciting young British choreographer Liam Scarlett in his first major full length commission for a company outside the United Kingdom. The RNZB’s year will end with a return to the UK, performing classical and contemporary works, including Ethan Stiefel and Johan Kobborg’s acclaimed Giselle, at leading venues in England and Scotland.

The Royal New Zealand Ballet is pleased to acknowledge substantial funding from central government through the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, Te Manatū Taonga, together with an exceptional partnership with National Sponsor Vodafone. The RNZB gratefully acknowledges the significant contributions made by many other organisations and individuals, especially Pub Charity, the ASB Community Trust, TV3, Mediaworks Radio and the New Zealand Lottery Grants Board, for support of Salute through the Lottery World War One Commemorations Fund. The work of RNZB Education throughout New Zealand is supported by the Lion Foundation and through the generosity of the Les and Sonia Andrews Cultural Foundation.


Coming soon:

The Vodafone Season of A Christmas Carol

30 October – 14 December

Touring to Wellington (with Orchestra Wellington), Dunedin (with the Southern Sinfonia), Christchurch (with the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra), Palmerston North, Napier, Auckland City (with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra) and Takapuna.

Director:  Christopher Gable, Choreography: Massimo Moricone, Music: Carl Davis, Design: Lez Brotherston, Conductor: Nigel Gaynor. 


On sale dates for 2015 shows: Renewing Subscribers - 8 October; New Subscribers - 16 October;

Public - 5 November 2014. For booking info see

Don Quixote

4 March – 1 April 2015

Touring to Wellington (with Orchestra Wellington), Christchurch (with the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra), Invercargill, Dunedin (with Southern Sinfonia), Auckland City (with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra) and Palmerston North.

Choreography: after Marius Petipa, Additional choreography: Adrian Burnett, Music: Ludwig Minkus, Staging and design: Gary Harris, Original lighting design: Jon Buswell, Conductor: Nigel Gaynor


22 May – 25 June 2015

Touring to Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin, Hamilton, Takapuna, Auckland City and Napier. All performances will feature the New Zealand Army Band.


Choreography: Johan Kobborg, Music: Hans Christian Lumbye, Design: Natalia Stewart

New work (world premiere)

Choreography: Andrew Simmons, Music: Gareth Farr: Design: Tracy Grant Lord

Passchendaele (world premiere)

Choreography: Neil Ieremia, Music: Dwayne Bloomfield, Design: Neil Ieremia

Lighting design: for all works tbc

Conductors:       Nigel Gaynor, Captain Graham Hickman

Additional works tbc

The Vodafone Season of A Midsummer Night’s Dream

20 August – 20 September 2015

Touring to Wellington (with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra), Christchurch (with the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra), Auckland City (with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra), Rotorua, Palmerston North and Napier.

Choreography: Liam Scarlett, Music: Felix Mendelssohn, Design: Tracy Grant Lord, Lighting design: Kendall Smith, Conductor: Nigel Gaynor. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a co-production with Queensland Ballet

The Royal New Zealand Ballet

The Royal New Zealand Ballet (RNZB) was founded in 1953 by Danish dancer Poul Gnatt, as a touring professional ballet company for all New Zealanders. Now based at Wellington’s St James Theatre, the Royal New Zealand Ballet is an intrinsic part of New Zealand’s national heritage, and has the largest following of all New Zealand performing arts companies. The Royal New Zealand Ballet continues to invest in live music, performing with Orchestra Wellington, the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, the Southern Sinfonia and the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra.  The RNZB enjoys a reputation for strong and unique interpretations of full-length dramatic works. To this base the RNZB have been added many masterworks and major ballets of the 20th century, such as Balanchine's works and the Stravinsky ballets. The company has an enviable track record in commissioning new works from New Zealand and international choreographers. The RNZB regularly represents New Zealand on the international stage, with recent tours to the UK, Australia, China and the USA.

Updated on 23rd July 2015