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The Royal Ballet, 2012-13 Season | reviews, news & interviews

The Royal Ballet, 2012-13 Season

The Royal Ballet, 2012-13 Season

Cuts be damned - it's all go for the new under new director Kevin O'Hare. Full listings of his first season

Wayne McGregor's Infra: one of the ballets of today setting the tone for next season© Bill Cooper/ROH

World premieres, new faces, lower ticket prices (and the first recycled opera production). The Royal Opera House announced a bullish attitude today as it enters the austerity post-Olympics period for next season with six ballet  premieres and six new opera productions. Ballet headlines are that the leading Russian choreographer of the era, Alexei Ratmansky, will create a work for the Royal Ballet - as will Christopher Wheeldon.

Radical abstractionist Wayne McGregor will create his first narrative ballet, and the rising young Liam Scarlett will create his first full-length ballet.

Both ballet and opera have new leaders, and at today's press conference in the Royal Opera House's Crush Room it showed. Kasper Holten, new opera director, spoke of the "emotional fitness centre" that opera offers, the way opera catalyses the great emotions in the human heart, and his urgent desire to show people "what they're missing" if they don't come and discover the artform.

Kevin O'Hare, incoming ballet director, said his main focus was to create "the classics of the future. I think we can enjoy performing our heritage, and we really want now with that base to move on and create new work that will be here for years to come."

Last year the ROH chief executive Lord Hall warned that the impact of public spending cuts would be delayed until after the Olympics but its frontloading meant that 2012-13 would take the brunt of economies. The impact is well-hidden in a clever new approach coming from both ballet and opera that a mix of the world's favourite ballets and operas - La Bohème, Tosca, Swan Lake - and a lot of new, risky things that only a great opera house can do will please both the mainstream entertainment audience and the novelty-seeking epicureans.

The signal is of a long-overdue refreshment of attitude, and a phasing out of the "curator" approach

For ballet the signal is of a long-overdue refreshment of attitude, and a phasing out of the "curator" approach of Monica Mason and considerably more vibrant creativity from O'Hare, in his tripartite association with new "artistic associates" Wayne McGregor and Christopher Wheeldon. February's mixed bill with the new Wheeldon and the new Ratmansky looks like the hottest ticket, but Wayne McGregor's hour-long narrative Raven Girl, in a double bill with Balanchine's Symphony in C next May, sounds most intriguing, based on a graphic novel by Audrey Niffenegger, filled with rich folktale grand guignol. It will be "twisted narrative", commented O'Hare, adding that narrative is now back in young choreographers' minds since the success of Wheeldon's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (getting its third run next year).

metamorphosis edward watsonBut there's also a dynamic new look for the use of the Linbury Studio Theatre, much more treated as a theatrical attraction in its own right, rather than as the opera house's PC conscience. The most promising of RB young choreographers Liam Scarlett will create his first full-length narrative ballet in the Linbury and outstanding independent creations with Royal Ballet artists - Arthur Pita's The Metamorphosis for Edward Watson (pictured right by Charlotte MacMillan), Wayne McGregor's Random work - will be shown again. The theatre will also host appealing companies such as Leeds' Phoenix Dance Theatre, Ballet Black and Bern:Ballett, and once again Christmas will be enhanced by Will Tuckett's delightful The Wind in the Willows, the outstanding example of how the Linbury space works as almost a little vaudeville theatre, with its high raked seats.

In terms of numbers of ballet nights, there is a marginal decline, yet it's well disguised by the impression of more energetic activity. Last year 14 main-stage ballet bills - eight full-length, six mixed, including two premieres - this year 12 main-stage ballet bills - six full-length, six mixed bills, 123 mainstage performances. These more adventurous programmes remain with very short runs, five or six performances, while the Tchaikovsky classics are scheduled with 20 shows each.

Two bills dedicated to the Royal Ballet's great choreographers Frederick Ashton and Kenneth MacMillan will combine familiar favourites such as Concerto and Marguerite and Armand with long-awaited rareties, Las Hermanas, MacMillan's taut drama based on Lorca's play The House of Bernarda Alba, and Ashton's pure abstract Monotones I and II, a creation of lunar genius.

Though the classics, Swan Lake, La Bayadère and The Nutcracker all return in their known stagings, O'Hare promised that in 2013-14 one of the major classics will have a complete new production (odds are that it's Swan Lake). That year Christopher Wheeldon will also create a new full-length ballet for the Royal Ballet (which I hope will be more adult than Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.)

Financially speaking, Tony Hall said the current season was making its targets so far, including mixed ballet bills (an increasingly hard sell to the public). Next season top ballet ticket prices for the first mixed bill will be £38, and some top opera prices are being slashed - last year's top opera price of £210 will be £175 next season. This is being achieved with the help of some other ticket price rises, and an increased skew towards private patronage and catering. The rising success of live cinema relays and the BBC tie-in, Lord Hall said, would push the Royal Opera House's excellence beyond London into the rest of the country, and around the world. The Royal Ballet, said O'Hare, will be performing in Snape and Northern Ireland, and touring to Monte Carlo and Tokyo next year.

Balletomanes will also be intrigued to see the Royal Opera performing Meyerbeer's Robert le Diable, the 1831 opera in which appeared the celebrated ballet of the nuns, starring Marie Taglioni, which launched the 19th-century romantic ballet movement. Lionel Hoche will be choreographer this time round.

Full listings on next page

Autumn 2012

7-11 Sep (Linbury Studio Theatre), Headspace Company, Work by Mats Ek, Javier de Frutos, Luca Silvestrini and Didy Veldman. A new company launches, headed by ex Northern Ballet's Charlotte Broom and Cullberg's Christopher Akrill with Clemmie Sveaas (last seen in de Frutos's The Most Incredible Thing).

8 Oct-24 Nov, Swan Lake (20 performances). Anthony Dowell's production of the Petipa/Ivanov classic designed in lavish Art Nouveau style by Yolanda Sonnabend.

23 Oct, Swan Lake Live Cinema Relay

25-27 Oct (Linbury Studio Theatre) Phoenix Dance Theatre, Work by Ana Luján Sánchez, Henri Oguike, Sharon Watson and Kwesi Johnson. First London visit for four years for the Leeds company with work from their repertoire.

3-14 Nov, Viscera (COMPANY PREMIERE)/ Infra/ Fool's Paradise (6 pfs). The first mixed bill of Kevin O'Hare's directorship joins three of today's strongest ballet voices at the Royal. Liam Scarlett's work was created earlier this year for Miami City Ballet; Wayne McGregor's first creation for the Royal Ballet as resident choreographer, and Christopher Wheeldon's Fool's Paradise, created in 2007 for his company Morphoses.

Below: the Royal Ballet's trailer for Infra on its 2010 premiere

15-24 Nov (Linbury Studio Theatre), Wayne McGregor Random Dance. McGregor's FAR (15-17 Nov) plus a triple bill of new pieces by Robert Binet, Alex Whitley and Paolo Mangiola (21-24 Nov).

17 Nov-5 Dec, MacMillan Night: Concerto/ Las Hermanas (COMPANY PREMIERE)/ Requiem (6 pfs). A celebration of Kenneth MacMillan 20 years after his death. Las Hermanas is staged for the first time, a taut drama about three sisters based on Lorca's The House of Bernarda Alba created for John Cranko's Stuttgart Ballet and later a success for Sadler's Wells Ballet. Concerto (1966) was originally made for Deutsche Oper to a Shostakovich piano concerto soon after the smash success of Romeo and Juliet in London; Requiem (1976) was MacMillan's lyrical tribute on the sudden death of his friend Cranko, using Fauré's Requiem.


Winter 2012-13


8 Dec-16 Jan, The Nutcracker (19 pfs). Peter Wright's beautiful 1984 production of the Christmas classic derives carefully from what is left of the original ballet, with opulent designs by Julia Trevelyan Oman.

Dec (date tba) The Nutcracker Live Cinema Relay

12 Dec-5 Jan (Linbury Studio Theatre), The Wind in the Willows (30 pfs). Will Tuckett's charming stagework based on the Kenneth Grahame children's classic has a delicious dressing-up box quality.

22 Dec-11 Jan, The Firebird/ In the Night/ Raymonda Act III (6 pfs). Fokine's glittering fairytale to Stravinsky's magical score marks 100 years since the work was first performed at Covent Garden. Jerome Robbins' In the Night is a romantic experience for three couples at a ball, to Chopin (performed at Covent Garden memorably last summer by the Maryinsky ballet). Rudolf Nureyev's production of the last act of Raymonda is a glittering classical showpiece.

19 Jan-8 Feb, Onegin (13 pfs). John Cranko's romantic ballet retelling of Pushkin's story of an aloof man who comes to regret breaking the heart of young Tatyana has become a favourite with ballerinas everywhere. Music adapted from Tchaikovsky - whose opera Eugene Onegin is also being performed by the Royal Opera during the season.

Monotones BRB BillCooper12-23 Feb, Ashton night: La Valse/ Thaïs/ Voices of Spring/ Monotones I & II/ Marguerite & Armand (5 pfs). La Valse comes from the Milan of 1958, an era of glamour and post-war ambivalence, reflected in a work of seething waltzing to Ravel. Thaïs and Voices of Spring are contrasting pas de deux to Massenet and Johan Strauss respectively, Monotones contrasts two ethereal trios to Satie music (Birmingham Royal Ballet pictured left by Bill Cooper), while Marguerite and Armand is a condensed balletic version of La Traviata, deeply romantic, and set to Liszt's piano sonata.

22 Feb-14 Mar, Apollo/ New Wheeldon (WORLD PREMIERE)/ New Ratmansky (WORLD PREMIERE) (5 pfs). Headline news that the two leading ballet choreographers of the world today each unveil a creation for the Royal Ballet. This will be Ratmansky's first creation for a British company, following his many successes for the Bolshoi Ballet (where he was director), New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theatre.


Spring/Summer 2013


16-23 Mar (Linbury Studio Theatre) The Metamorphosis (8 pfs). Arthur Pita's contemporary dance creation on Franz Kafka's strange story about a man who turns into a cockroach was a huge personal success for the Royal Ballet's Edward Watson in the leading role, returning for this second run.

March (Linbury Studio Theatre) Danish Dance Theatre. Led by British Tim Rushton for 11 years, the Danish company brings dances inspired by Chinese artistic culture and by John Adams' music Shaker Loops.

15 Mar-13 Apr, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (11 pfs). Easter holidays outing for Christopher Wheeldon's family ballet of 2011, with some wonderful designs by Bob Crowley and a vividly picturesque score by Joby Talbot.

28 Mar, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland Live Cinema Relay

April (Linbury Studio Theatre), Draft Works. Royal Ballet dancers show their choreographic development in a mixed programme.

May (Linbury Studio Theatre), Bern:Ballett. Swiss company directed by ex Royal Ballet Cathy Marston visits with a new full-evening work inspired by the last person executed for witchcraft, Anna Goeldi.

5 Apr-22 May, La Bayadère (12 pfs). Natalia Makarova's exotic production of one of the 19th century's most iconic classics, a torrid love triangle set in India, cuing lush mountain sets and dozens of glorious costumes, along with one of the great ballerina roles.

Mayerling Watson19 Apr-15 June, Mayerling (13 pfs). Kenneth MacMillan's narrative masterpiece, a thrilling and daring three-acter on the life and death of the Hapsburg prince Rudolf, and his search for someone to die with. The real-life event in 1889 was one of the great royal scandals, with Rudolf and his mistress found shot dead together at a hunting lodge in Mayerling. Rudolf is one of the most demanding male roles in all ballet and Liszt's music is orchestrated into a haunting score. (Watson as Rudolf, pictured right by Charlotte MacMillan)

May (Linbury Studio Theatre), New Scarlett (WORLD PREMIERE). Scarlett, the very gifted new star in Royal Ballet choreography, makes his first full-length narrative ballet.

24 May-8 June, Raven Girl (WORLD PREMIERE)/ Symphony in C (7 pfs). Wayne McGregor, king of cool abstractness, makes his first narrative ballet, with a fairytale plot about a very sinister love affair based on a graphic novel by Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveller's Wife. Balanchine's Symphony in C is one of the most life-enhancing neo-classical ballets he created, with four movements of bubbling contrasts set to Bizet's effervescent symphony.

3-14 July (Linbury Studio Theatre), The Royal Ballet School Summer Performances.


The Royal Ballet:

Director Kevin O'Hare, Resident Choreographer & Artistic Associate Wayne McGregor, Artistic Associate Christopher Wheeldon

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