Denni Sayers

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One of the leading choreographers worldwide‚ Denni’s current work includes The Ring Cycle (Washington National Opera); Ring Cycle and Die Zauberflöte (Lyric Opera Chicago); Hamlet (Metropolitan Opera, Glyndebourne Festival, Sydney Opera House, Adelaide Festival and Munich)‚ Mefistofele, Francesca da Rimini and Manon Lescaut (La Scala Milan); The Cunning Little Vixen (La Monnaie), Le Coq d'Or (Komische Oper Berlin), Carmen (as Associate and Movement Director‚ San Francisco); and as Director‚ Iolanta (RPO at RAH with Petrenko) Pearl Fishers and Don Giovanni (Tulsa). Denni has long-standing collaborations with many leading directors‚ including Francesca Zambello‚ Jonathan Kent‚ Neil Armfield‚ David Pountney and the late Nikolaus Lehnhoff.

Recent engagements as Choreographer include Aspects of Love in London's West End, Masque of Might (Opera North), The Flying Dutchman (Los Angeles Opera)‚ GötterdämmerungPorgy and Bess and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Lyric Opera Chicago)‚ Don Carlos (Houston)‚ Ariadne auf Naxos (Toronto); La fanciulla del West (Bastille‚ Paris)‚ The Flying Dutchman (Royal Danish Opera)‚ Turandot (La Scala‚ Milan)‚ Hänsel und Gretel (Wiener Staatsoper)‚ Elektra (Salzburg)‚ Salome (Baden Baden)‚ The Crucible (Staatstheater Braunschweig); Manon Lescaut (Royal Opera House and Bucharest)‚ Don Giovanni (Glyndebourne)‚ ParsifalThe Flying Dutchman and Caligula (ENO); The Marriage of Figaro, Carmen, War and Peace and Madama Butterfly (Welsh National Opera); Sweeney Todd (Chichester Festival and Adelphi Theatre; winner of Olivier Award for Best Musical Revival‚ and winner of Best Musical in The Evening Standard’s Theatre Awards); Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (Leipzig), Ibsen’s Emperor and Galilean (Royal National Theatre)‚ Private Lives (Chichester)‚ Eugene Onegin (Opera Holland Park) and Les contes d’Hoffmann (Beijing).

As Director and Associate director‚ work includes Peter Grimes (Canadian Opera Company)‚ Manon Lescaut (Shanghai Grand Theatre)‚ Porgy and Bess (Chicago)‚ Hippolyte et Aricie and Don Giovanni (Glyndebourne Festival)‚ Of Mice and Men (Washington) and Ariadne auf Naxos (Boston and Welsh National Opera); new productions of Tosca (Toronto)‚ West Side Story (Tel-Aviv)‚ Rachel Portman’s The Water Diviner’s Tale and two Dr Who concerts (BBC Proms).

Further Choreography includes Medea (Opera North); Maria Stuarda (Scottish Opera); Oedipus (National Theatre)‚ Cyrano de BergeracCarmenPaul BunyanThe Bartered Bride and Henze’s Boulevard Solitude (The Royal Opera House‚ Covent Garden); The Bartered Bride (Glyndebourne); Boris Godunov (English National Opera)‚ AidaAriadne auf Naxos and Don Carlos (Welsh National Opera); Boris Godunov and War and Peace (Bastille); Die Gezeichneten (Salzburg Festival); Peter GrimesLa Fanciulla del West, Turandot, The Bassarids (Amsterdam); Of Mice and Men (Bregenz Festival); Rebecca (Vienna); Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (Zürich); Fidelio (Salzburg and Lyon); Der Vögelhändler (Berlin); Lohengrin and Eugene Onegin (Baden Baden)‚ Rigoletto (Dresden); Carmen (Oslo) and Die Frau ohne Schatten (St Petersburg); Orfeo ed Euridice (New Israeli Opera); A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Houston)‚ The Little Prince (Houston‚ Milwaukee‚ Boston and BBC TV)‚ Arshak, II Parsifal and Der fliegende Holländer (San Francisco)‚ Pirates of Penzance and Parsifal and Sweeney Todd (Chicago); Porgy and Bess (Washington and San Francisco) and Peter GrimesL’Amour des Trois Oranges and Carmen (Sydney).

Denni is a regular workshop leader for Glyndebourne Opera Education, and also coaches at The National Opera Studio.

Iolanta (semi-staged, Director) - Royal Albert Hall, RPO and Petrenko

Vassily Petrenko and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, meanwhile, have now also revisited the original pairing, albeit not in its entirety, by prefacing a semi-staging of Iolanta by Denni Sayers with a concert performance of Nutcracker’s second act.

Sayers’s semi-staging, meanwhile, was simple, effective and admirably clear.

The Guardian (November 2023)

Masque of Might - Opera North

There’s a grisly scene in which a man is executed on an electric chair — smoke shooting out of his ears — yet also some joyous choreography (Denni Sayers), undertaken not just by lithe black-clad dancers but also by the skipping, shuffling Opera North chorus, who at one point go into a full pompom-waving People’s Liberation Army routine.

The Times (October 2023)

Comedy jostles tragedy, sacred anthem abuts earthy coloratura, and dance, choreographed with verve by Denni Sayers, is woven throughout.

The Guardian (October 2023)

Halmet - The Met

The staging of the play, by movement director Denni Sayers, is potent and effective, as is the contrasty blue hue that follows the Ghost of the King at every one of his entrances.

OperaWire (May 2022)

Carmen, Welsh National Opera

...movement by Denni Sayers that slips seamlessly in and out of the dance numbers...

The Stage (September 2019)

War and Peace‚ Welsh National Opera

...the feeling of foreboding mixed with erotic yearning in the music of the ball scene as superbly captured in Denni Sayer’s choreography.

Opera Magazine (November 2018)

The ball scene‚ a late addition‚ is meticulously staged and choreographed (Denni Sayers) to some of the opera’s most exquisite music. Prokofiev‚ who never saw the complete opera produced‚ would surely have been enthralled.

The Arts Desk (September 2018)

Francesca da RImini‚ La Scala

...e apprezzabili gli interventi coreografici di Denni Sayers. /// ...and the choreographic interventions by Denni Sayers are noteworthy.

Connessi all’Opera (April 2018)

The Love for Three Oranges‚ Opera Australia

Denni Sayers kooky choreography delivers special pleasures of its own.

Limelight (June 2016)

The Marriage of Figaro‚ Welsh National Opera

The efficiency of the chaos‚ with each manoeuvre coming off as highly polished‚ must be attributed to the choreography of Denni Sayers

BachTrack (February 2016)

Hänsel und Gretel‚ Vienna State Opera

Das Orchester animiert und trägt die Singstimmen‚ treibt die Handlung voran und kommentiert sie‚ schmückt sie aus – und lässt nicht nur die Kinder am Ende des ersten Aktes träumen. Animiert singen und tanzen auch die Mitglieder der Opernschule und der Ballettakademie der Staatsoper (Choreografie: Denni Sayers) /// The orchestra animates and carries the voices ‚ driving the narrative forward and commented on them ‚ adorning it - and not only makes the children dream at the end of the first act . Animated singing and dancing ‚ the members of the opera school and the Academy of Ballet of the Staatsoper (Choreography: Denni Sayers)

Die Presse (November 2015)

...die Studierenden der Ballettakademie der Staatsoper‚ deren Choregraphie Denni Sayers besorgte‚ faszinieren durch ihre Spielfreude ///...the students of the Ballet Academy of State Opera‚ Choreographed by Denni Sayers‚ fascinate with their playfulness

OpernNetz (November 2015)

BBC 10 Pieces Prom

We were in awe of Denni Sayers whose experience and considered vision assisted us in shortening our performance - a mastery of choreography! She was just a pleasure to work with. Denni worked our children hard‚ as does our music lead‚ and was able to bring out great enthusiasm from such young performers and allowed them to develop within their own creativity (feedback from participating school)

Withycombe Raleigh C of E School (September 2015)

Turandot‚ Teatro alla Scala‚ Milan

Il coro o si agita come un sol automa‚ l’autrice della coreografia è Denni Sayers‚ o assiste immobile al rituale dei tre enigmi su un terrazzamento delle mura di Pechino /// The Chorus react as one united automaton‚ choreographed by Denni Sayers‚ to bring the rituals of the three enigmas to life‚ above the terrace of the walls of Pekin

OperaClick (May 2015)

Porgy & Bess‚ Lyric Opera of Chicago

Movement and choreography are important to “Porgy and Bess” a well. Assistant director and choreographer Denni Sayers makes the dance numbers seem to emerge naturally from the rest of the stage movement‚ making it an integral part of the characters. In both musical theatre and opera‚ dance numbers can sometimes feel like (and‚ indeed‚ are often intended to be) separate set pieces‚ divorced from the action. Not so here (December 2014)

Monday’s compelling and resplendently sung performance in most ways improved on the 2009 production

Chicago Classical Review (November 2014)

The Lyric Opera’s revival of Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess is a thing of beauty not to be missed

Chicago on the Aisle (November 2014)

Spectacular production of Gerswhin’s masterwork Porgy And Bess is once again a major artistic and musical achievement for the Lyric Opera of Chicago! It was one of those very special nights that can only in happen live‚ onstage. Over three thousand five hundred people gather to witness an ambitious and thoroughly beautiful production of Gershwin’s masterpiece‚ the American Folk Opera Porgy And Bess. For me‚ it was one of the most enjoyable nights I’ve ever spent in the theatre‚ just like the production of this wonder piece I saw in 2008. The Lyric Opera of Chicago’s second production of Porgy And Bess ranks among the finest opera I’ve seen to date! It is sheer perfection!

Chicago Opera Critic (November 2014)

...this Porgy clearly deserves its place in Lyric’s subscription season alongside any opera by Mozart or Strauss

Chicago Sun Times (November 2014)

Lyric’s vibrant revival of Porgy and Bess should give cheer to all who adore this tuneful slice of American verismo

Chicago Tribune (November 2014) the current Lyric Opera revival‚ audiences definitely can see Porgy and Bess at its best...A huge chorus sings and dances its way through the production‚ highlighted by a stirring funeral scene in the first act and a turbulent hurricane scene in the third act...the massed chorus provide some of the show’s most vivid visual images...Porgy and Bess isn’t a dancing show‚ but choreographer Denni Sayers has conceived of some spritely massed hoofing that adds energy and charm to the evening...The Lyric production is the first I’ve seen that fully captures the power of the Gershwin classic beyond a reprise of the famous songs. The singing is glorious throughout but the impact of the story cements this production as a joy

ChicagoLand Theatre Reviews (November 2014)

...the commitment to the marvelous characterizations is gut-deep‚ and wrenching

New City Stage (November 2014)

Peter Grimes‚ Canadian Opera Company

While it’s tempting to give the work a completely visualized staging that would match its evocative score‚ director Neil Armfeld (his work remounted splendidly here by Denni Sayers) has boldly staged it in a kind of giant church hall...every last person on the stage is acting and singing with the same white hot intensity...The opera also offers a wide array of supporting roles and they are all handled with individuality and distinction...When that curtain fell Saturday night‚ it rose again to an instant standing ovation‚ with the audience showing their gratitude for the mountain that had just been scaled so successfully against all odds. But when the bows were finished and the curtain came down for the last time‚ the incredible shout of joy in unison that was heard from behind it was the sound of a company of artists who had faced disaster and turned it into delight

The Star (October 2013)

Eugene Onegin‚ Opera Holland Park

Slater and his choreographer Denni Sayers make the singing-acting unusually dynamic. No one falls prey to the standard operatic (bad) habit of‚ say‚ striding downstage as directed exhibiting generalised emotions. Every shift in sung thought feels motivated and ideally placed. These performers play properly calibrated developing thoughts rather than “my character is gloomy/anguished/enraged” emoting

Arts Desk (July 2012)

There is some stunning chorus work on show here: the Larin dance‚ for example‚ is fantastically energetic and well-choreographed‚ with the peasants’ gossipy‚ sniping vocal work and tight waltzes providing a lively respite from the story’s largely pessimistic overtones. Their ensemble work is suitably buoyant and charming; choreographer Denni Sayers deserves high praise for the use of puppetry and skilfully executed period dances

The Upcoming (July 2012)

Emperor and Galilean‚ Royal National Theatre

...breathtakingly staged...

The Guardian (June 2011)

Ariadne auf Naxos‚ Canadian Opera Company

...director Armfield and his creative team (including designers Dale Ferguson and Tim Mitchell and choreographer Denni Sayers) came up with a coalition that not only worked‚ but soared

Toronto Sun (May 2011)

Ariadne auf Naxos‚ Welsh National Opera

Denni Sayers‚ who choreographed the first time round‚ also directs this revival‚ bringing an added lightness to the comedians’ Marx brothers antics

The Guardian (October 2010)

It’s funny‚ it’s rude and it’s a surefire winner.’ I said this about Neil Armfield’s Ariadne after its premiere in 2004 and I am more than happy to say it again. If anything‚ Revival Director and Choreographer Denni Sayers has cranked up the comedy even further with a fine cast of comedians led by Gillian Keith’s perky Zerbinetta and with truly excellent acting from all of the principals

Seen & Heard International (October 2010)

Peter Grimes‚ Opera Australia

Vocally‚ instrumentally and dramatically this was a triumph of finely integrated operatic art...the disciplined singing of the WA Chorus was a joy. Their deployment across the stage by director Neil Armfield and choreographer Denni Sayers was consistently meaningful‚ too

The West Australian (February 2010)

Peter Grimes is an extraordinary opera which requires extraordinary forces. That’s what Opera Australia has assembled - but that assembly is only half the story. There is far more to this Grimes than a collection of individual triumphs‚ or even the thrill of a collective one. Opera Australia’s slogan‚ "Life amplified"‚ has rarely rung as true as it does in this production. There is here a sort of alchemy: a stroke of dark and devastating magic by which all the nuts-and-bolts mechanisms of the lyric stage are rendered invisible‚ and what’s left seems to be nothing less than life itself. It might have taken them until the end of the season to do it‚ but with its new Peter Grimes‚ Opera Australia has produced what is unquestionably the finest show of the season

Opera Critic (October 2009)

Porgy and Bess‚ San Francisco Opera

The stage direction‚ sets and choreography all come together in a production that is the most satisfying thing to hit the War Memorial stage since 2007’s Der Rosenkavalier

Examiner (June 2009)

There is so much going on in any opera: It’s theater‚ it’s symphony‚ it’s song‚ it’s dance. That it all comes together‚ ever‚ is a sort of astonishment. That it can come together as brilliantly and with such overwhelming emotional force as it does in San Francisco Opera’s new "Porgy and Bess" is close to a miracle...The virtuoso dancing — choreography by Denni Sayers — is jubilant

San Jose Mercury News (June 2009)

Denni Sayers supplies the terrific choreography

Chicago Tribune (November 2008)

Lohengrin‚ Baden Baden

(the) sloping steps of Act Two are endlessly explored by Denni Sayers’ alert choreography.

musicOMH (November 2006)

The Little Prince‚ Boston Lyric Opera

...[Zambello’s] staging (realized here mostly by assistant director/choreographer Denni Sayers) combined perfectly with Portman’s music to convey the charm‚ humor and depth of the classic story by Antoine de Saint-Exupery‚ finely adapted by playwright Nicholas Wright.

Boston Herald (February 2005)

War and Peace‚ Opera National de Paris comes as no surprise to witness the excellent use...of the chorus‚ whether they are playing aristocrats‚ peasants‚ or soldiers; groupings and movement (to which choreographer Denni Sayers has contributed mightily) are always inventive...The Empire gowns are done in a myriad of different styles (shown off to the full in Denni Sayer’s elegant choreography.

The Opera Quarterly (August 2004)

The Little Prince‚ Skylight Opera Theatre‚ Milwaukee

Director Francesca Zambello‚ with a strong assist from choreographer/associate director Denni Sayers‚ puts the set to good use.

Wisconsin Journal Sentinal (March 2004)

Bartered Bride‚ Royal Opera House

...the lively choreography of Denni Sayers.

What’s On (January 1999)

...letting rip in the folk-inspired dance sequences‚ for which choreographer Denni Sayers must also take credit.

The Stage (December 1998)

Misper‚ Glyndebourne

Glyndebourne’s education team went for gold from the start...the choreographer Denni Sayers.

Times (March 1998)

Paul Bunyan‚ Royal Opera House

Movement director Denni Sayers choreographed the whole piece brilliantly.

Independent (December 1997)

20th July, 2024


Sony Music Classical

Manon Lescuat, Puccini

Royal Opera House

Hansel Und Gretel, Engelbert Humperdinck

Wiener Staatsoper

Porgy & Bess, Gershwin

San Francisco Opera

Boulevard Solitude, Hans Werner Henze


The Little Prince, Rachel Portman


War and Peace DVD, Sergei Prokofiev

2 Entertainment Video

Doctor Who: The Runaway Bride, Children In Need Concert

Euroarts Music International

Die Gezeichneten, Franz Schreker

Kultur Films Inc.

Eugene Onegin, Pyotr Iiyich Tchaikovsky


Tannhäuser DVD, Richard Wagner

Opus Arte

Lohengrin DVD, Richard Wagner

Opus Arte

Parsifal DVD, Richard Wagner