The Royal Opera House cinema’s 2014 year ended with a bang last night with an enchanting performance of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The three-act ballet, which premiered on the Covent Garden stage in 2011, glimmered on more than 3,000 screens across 24 countries and provided a wonderfully festive evening for every audience member watching. This production seems perfectly tailored for the screen; it’s digital success owed something to the newness of the production, as it combined classical dance, digital projections and mixed media puppets in an original, film-friendly portrayal of the wacky Lewis Carroll story that everyone knows and loves. Another feature of the production that was strikingly right for the screen was the stunning film-like score composed by Joby Talbot. In the exclusive-to-screen introduction to the ballet by Darcey Bussell cinemagoers were transported backstage and were privy to interviews with many of the cast and crew; here we heard from Talbot about the process of creating the score and the interwoven themes that represented each individual character. These insights into the production greatly enhanced the immersion into the ballet that the screening already provides.
The production started in a 19th Century Oxford garden party where the audience are introduced to the characters that are soon to feature as figments of Alice’s zany dream. The attention to detail throughout the entire production was truly astonishing and also lent itself even more to that of a film. The many dreamy backdrops, designed by Bob Crowley were all stunningly executed. He captured the essence of the off-kilter story and made it a piece of ever-changing visual art. The second act was a magical medley of episodes based around the different beloved characters of the classic story. From the tap-dancing Mad Hatter to the exotic and sultry caterpillar, the Royal Ballet left their distinguished stamp on this production. The Mad Hatter’s tea party was a delight to watch and you can also see a Zoo Nation version of it streamed live tomorrow (18th of December) and if not, on stage over the next few days. If you figure out the difference between a raven and a writing desk there, do let me know, as I am still none the wiser, even after Steven McRae’s astonishing tap dance showcase. Eric Underwood’s portrayal of the Caterpillar was captivating and the blue bedazzled ballet shoes of the long caterpillar body were a spectacle in themselves.
The three stars of the production would have to be Zenaida Yanowsky as The Queen of Hearts, most especially for her hilarious yet overwhelmingly skillful ‘tart adage’ at the beginning of the third act. Federico Bonelli, the pin up of the ballet world, played a Knave of Hearts who would melt any wicked Queen’s heart. Finally, Sarah Lamb, the belle of the ballet, played such a beautiful Alice that you would be forgiven for thinking you were watching a 1950s screen siren. Her expressive face and lyrical movements brought the sense of innocence needed for a childhood classic like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
Please give yourself the Christmas present of catching the relay screening this Sunday (21st) in a cinema near you and keep an eye on the Royal Opera House website for more treats to come. I for one am becoming ‘curioser and curioser’ to see what they have in store for us in 2015.
More information here.
Written by Thoroughly Modern Missy, Angelica Bomford.