ALESSANDRA FERRI TO LEAD THE VIENNA STATE BALLET FROM SEPTEMBER 2025
The internationally acclaimed artist will succeed Martin Schläpfer in September 2025
Internationally acclaimed artist and prima ballerina assoluta Alessandra Ferri will be the new director of the Vienna State Ballet from September 1, 2025. This was announced today, October 24, 2023, by Bogdan Roščić, director general of the Vienna State Opera and Lotte de Beer, director general of the Volksoper Vienna. Alessandra Ferri succeeds Martin Schläpfer, who at his own request has not renewed his contract beyond August 31, 2025.
With Alessandra Ferri, one of the most influential personalities of the international ballet world of our time will take over the artistic direction of the ballet company, which is organized as an independent joint venture of the Vienna State Opera and the Volksoper Vienna. As director of the Vienna State Ballet, Alessandra Ferri also serves as artistic director of the Wiener Staatsoper Ballet Academy.
Born in Milan in 1963, Ferri looks back on a unique career: As a dancer, she has worked with the world’s most important choreographers who have also created numerous works especially for her. She was Principal Dancer at the Royal Ballet and at the American Ballet Theatre, is prima ballerina assoluta of La Scala in Milan and has made guest appearances at all the major houses and companies worldwide. From 2008 to 2014, she also successfully directed the dance programming of the renowned Spoleto Festival, acted as a producer of international touring productions, has devoted herself to teaching and rehearsing and has worked as a rehearsal director at the Royal Ballet or American Ballet Theatre, among others (for a detailed biography, see below).
In an application process accompanied by a group of international dance experts, Alessandra Ferri excelled with her personality, her artistic concept and her plans for the future development of the Vienna State Ballet and thus prevailed against 39 competitors. In close coordination with the directors of the Vienna State Opera and the Volksoper Vienna, Ferri, as the director designate of the company, will now start the intensive preparation period for her first season; details about the program will be announced in the context of the season presentations 2025/2026.
Bogdan Roščić, Director of the Vienna State Opera: "There are few superlatives which haven‘t been used yet to describe Alessandra Ferri’s stellar career as a dancer. Now she is about to write a new chapter in her unique story, and I couldn’t be happier that this will happen in Vienna. In all our discussions, she has shown a deep understanding of what a repertoire house like the Staatsoper needs – firmly rooted in the classical tradition as the Vienna State Opera is, but always open towards contemporary languages and the best dance creations of the present moment. Alessandra is an inspired and inspiring person, at the same time analytical in her thinking and gifted with a quiet authority with which she will pass on her knowledge and her vast experience to our dancers. I look forward to our collaboration with curiosity and much anticipation."
Lotte de Beer, Director of the Volksoper Vienna: "I am overjoyed that we could win Alessandra Ferri as the new artistic director of the Vienna State Ballet. Her extensive experience, natural leadership qualities as well as her outstanding career as one of the great prima ballerinas of our time make her the ideal personality to lead our Vienna Ballet. With her clear and at the same time empathetic, pragmatic, but also open leadership style and above all her uncompromising standard to always reach the highest artistic level, she will inspire our company in the Staatsoper and Volksoper in the best possible way. Love and passion, her open mind to ballet and dance in all forms, her enthusiastic, never dogmatic approach to art promise a fruitful artistic partnership that I am already very much looking forward to."
Alessandra Ferri, Director Designate of the Vienna State Ballet: "It is with immense joy that I embrace this assignment. It is an honor to guide this beautiful group of dancers into the future, sharing with them the vast knowledge I have gathered during my long and diverse career around the world. I had the privilege to be a muse to a number of fantastic choreographers and to have shared the stage with amazing partners; now, I am deeply committed to sharing the knowledge and wisdom I have gained with this remarkable company. I have been affiliated with quite a number of companies but oddly enough I don’t have a history with the Vienna State Ballet. This I have come to see as a plus, for it will allow me to come with openness and total freedom of mind. With a clean gaze, free to create a new, lasting bond. My wish is to be an inspiring and inspired leader: Inspiring through my own journey and inspired by the journey of these beautiful, talented dancers."
Described by the New York Times as “one of the greatest dramatic dancers of all time,” Alessandra Ferri was born in Milan in 1963. She trained first at the Scuola del Teatro alla Scala and then, at 15 years of age, moved to the Royal Ballet School in London, where she completed her last two years of training. She joined the Royal Ballet at the age of 17 and was appointed Principal Dancer of the company when still only 19 years old. The choreographer Sir Kenneth MacMillan immediately entrusted her with all his most famous ballets and created several especially for her, one of which, Valley of Shadows, led to her winning her first Sir Lawrence Olivier Award at the tender age of 21. At the Royal Ballet she also worked with Sir Frederic Ashton and Dame Ninette de Valois.
Invited in 1985 by Mikhail Baryshnikov to join the American Ballet Theatre as Principal Dancer, she would perform, often at his side, all the roles of the classical repertoire, while working with some of the greatest choreographers of the 20th century, including Jerome Robbins, Twyla Tharp, Agnes De Mille, Anthony Tudor and Jiri Kylian; it was in New York that MacMillan created Requiem for Baryshnikov and Ferri, with music by Andrew Lloyd Weber. Again alongside Baryshnikov, she also starred in the film Dancers in 1987. She remained with the American Ballet Theatre until 2007 but continued to work with the company until 2018 when Wayne McGregor created AfteRite especially for her.
In 1989, she also began a very long collaboration with Roland Petit, performing his ballets all over the world, as a guest of many international companies as well as the Ballet de Marseille. Petit created the role of »Le Diable Amoreux« especially for her and directed her in Jean Cocteau's La Voix Humaine at the Piccolo Teatro in Milan.
In 1992, she became a permanent guest at Teatro alla Scala, and it was the famous Milanese theatre that appointed her Prima Ballerina Assoluta, a title created by Marius Petipa in 1894 and given to only two Italian dancers, one of whom was Alessandra. Her collaboration with La Scala proved to be invigorating and continues to this day. There, in 1998, William Forsythe created the ballet Quartet for her. These were years of intense collaboration with Maestro Riccardo Muti, during which she performed several times in operas and ballets conducted by him.
In 2015, she also resumed her collaboration with the Royal Ballet in London, where Wayne McGregor created the role of Virginia Woolf for her in his ballet Woolf Works, for which she won her second Sir Lawrence Olivier Award.
Alessandra also works frequently with John Neumeier, interpreting his choreography at the Stuttgart Ballet, La Scala and often dancing as a guest at the Hamburg Ballet. In 2016, Neumeier created the role of Eleonora Duse for her in his ballet Duse.
Throughout her career, Alessandra Ferri has also been a guest of many prestigious companies worldwide, including, to name but a few, the Opera de Paris, the Mariinsky Theatre, the Ballet National de Cuba, the National Ballet of Canada, the Stuttgart Ballet, the Teatro Colon, the Tokyo Ballet, the English National Ballet, the New National Theater, the Béjart Ballet Lausanne.
Alessandra Ferri, in addition to her two Sir Lawrence Olivier Awards, won thirty years apart, can boast many other awards such as the Prix de Lausanne, the Benois De la Danse, the Dance Magazine Award and the Dance Critics Award; in 2006 she was appointed Cavaliere Della Repubblica Italiana by President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi.
From 2008 to 2014, she was director of the Dance section at the Spoleto Festival where she presented works by Ratmansky, McGregor, Wheeldon, Pina Bausch, Robbins, Kylian, Neumeier and in recent years has produced and performed shows that she has taken on long international tours. Two of these stand out: L'Heure Exquise by Maurice Béjart, a work created by the great French choreographer in 1998, which was lost, reconstructed, and brought back to life by Alessandra with enormous success, and Trio Concert Dance, with which in 2019 she inaugurated the Linbury Theater, the new theatre of the Royal Opera House.
In 2013, at the Signature Theatre in New York, Martha Clarke created the role of Léa for her in Chéri, a show that ran for 100 performances.
In recent years, she has also dedicated herself passionately to teaching, holding the rehearsals for the principal dancers of the Royal Ballet, La Scala, and the American Ballet Theatre. Alessandra Ferri has two daughters, Matilde and Emma.
About the Vienna State Ballet
The Vienna State Ballet is one of the most established and renowned dance institutions in the world and as a working group at home in the Vienna State Opera and Volksoper Wien. The ensemble, made up of 102 dancers, shows a rich repertoire on both stages and international guest performances – from the great romantic story ballets and masterpieces of the 20th and 21th century to several world premieres. In addition, it can be seen in the dance numbers in the opera, operetta and musical productions of its home stages as well as at the New Year’s Concert of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and the Opera Ball of the Vienna State Opera.