Mr. Worldly Wise


Mr. Worldly Wise was commissioned by Sir Anthony Dowell, artistic director of London’s Royal Ballet. The work featured company stars Irek Mukhamedov, Tetsuya Kumakawa and Darcey Bussell in the principal roles. The soloists and ensemble completed a world-class cast. Sets and costumes designed and executed by David Roger, create a surreal environment for Tharp’s first three-act ballet.

The plot combines biographical details from the life of Italian composer Gioachino Rossini and the allegory "Pilgrim’s Progress." The ballet’s title character, danced by Mukhamedov, is ill-tempered, burdened by pride and the heavy expectations that come with success. He lugs a bag behind him - a representation of his spiritual burden. When the bag is opened, Kumakawa emerges from it, Mukhamedov’s protégé.

Bussell enters and leads the two men into a dream, filled with a host of fanciful characters. When Mukhamedov emerges from the vision, he is transformed – humbled, gentrified and at peace.


  • Mukhamedov in Act I. ©Leslie E. Spatt
  • Ensemble dancers in Act I. ©Bill Cooper
  • Members of the Royal Ballet in Act I. ©Bill Cooper
  • Bussell performs in Act II. © Bill Cooper
  • Bull and Benjamin in Act II. © Bill Cooper
  • Members of the Royal Ballet in Act III. © Bill Cooper
  • Wildor and Abegglen perform in Act III. © Bill Cooper


Royal Ballet dancers in dress rehearsal.
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Music Program:


Kyrie, Petite Messe solennelle (1863)        
Overture, Bianca e Faliero, ossia Il consiglio dei tre (1819)
Overture, Eduardo e Cristina (1819)          
Duetto buffo di due gatti (wrongly attributed to Rossini)
La Foi, Trois choeurs religieux (1844)          
Overture (part), Guillaume Tell (1829)


Prelude fugasse, Album de chaumiere          
Prelude semipastorale, Album de chateau
Tanrantelle pur sang (avec Traversee de la procession) , Album de chateau
Sicilienne, Quelques Riens pour album          
Les Raisins, Quatre Mendiants
Specimen de mon temps, Album de chateau


La passeggiata, Album italiano          
Moderato, Menuetto from Sonata no.3, Sonate a quattro (c1804)
Prelude inoffensif, Album de chaumiere         
L’ultimo ricordo, Album italiano
Overture, Ermione (1819)


Kyrie, Petite Messe solennelle (1863)


Performance History

Covent Garden, London, United Kingdom
December 9, 1995

Additional performances on December 15, 18 & 20, 1995

Covent Garden, London, United Kingdom
January 3, 1996

Additional performance on January 4, 1996

Covent Garden, London, United Kingdom
July 30, 1996

Additional performances on August 1 & 2, 1996

Sadler's Wells, London, United Kingdom
October 23, 1998
Covent Garden, London, United Kingdom
December 1, 1999

Additional performance on December 4, 1999