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.
Thursday the 16th of October marked the launch of the Royal Opera House live cinema season 2014/15. The production on the big screen that night was The Royal Ballet’s Manon with Marianela Nuñez playing the title role and Federico Bonelli as Des Grieux, Manon’s love. Of course, nothing can better the spectacle of such high quality ballet live on stage, but experiencing it in high definition detail on the big screen offers thrilling insights that are simply not accessible from a normal auditorium view. The audience could hear the pointe shoes delicately hitting the floor with every movement of Kenneth Macmillan’s stunning choreography, they could see the sweat glistening on the dancer’s bodies as they contorted and arranged themselves into beautiful shapes, and they could feel the atmosphere of the stage in the comfort of their cinema seats. Though it is difficult to replicate the exact ambience of sitting in the Royal Opera House auditorium, one of the most exciting features of this project is that the audience members, in over 1,000 cinemas across the UK and the world, are also experiencing live action. There is still the drama of unedited performance and the adrenaline rush that comes with it. For those who are unable to make it to the live performances, the Royal Opera House have now introduced ‘encore’ screenings of the productions, which occur on the Sunday following the initial live showing.
The 2014/15 season will run 11 productions in total; 7 operas and 4 ballets. The program is varied, ranging from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (live showing on the 16th December) to La Boheme (10th June 2015) and everything in between. There is something for everyone and it would be difficult to find a reason not to go! Watching these productions on screen offers unparalleled views and close ups of every feature of the performance, from the individual orchestra members down in the pit to the facial expressions of every dancer on stage. The cinema audiences also benefit from beautifully framed shots which bring an extra aesthetic mediation to the productions; the cameras in the auditorium perfectly framed the stunning, heartbreaking final pas de deux between Manon and Les Grieux and also captured the witty and humorous ‘drunk Lescaut’ (expertly performed by Ricardo Cervera) dancing at the beginning of the second act. Watching a ballet in these surroundings is like watching the most eloquent, luxurious silent film with full musical score.
This season the next production to grace the silver screen is Verdi’s opera, ‘I Due Foscari’ on the 27th of October at 7.15pm. I urge anyone reading this to attend at least one of the live screenings from the iconic ROH. Last year, the ROH live cinema season showed Giselle which had a huge audience of 57,000 people (which happened to outdo Spiderman’s box office ratings for that day!) This year, Manon was the highest box office result for that night. Clearly, there is a reason why these productions are proving so successful: These screenings are a perfect evening out, seeing world class talent, for a fraction of the price (tickets for the screenings are just over £10) and unparalleled views. Check the ROH website for the next screening near you and spend a night at the opera, with a box of popcorn.
More information on the ROH live cinema season here.
Written by Thoroughly Modern Missy, Angelica Bomford.
At Christmas many charming productions reinstate themselves after their summer hibernation. One such show is the Royal Opera House‘s ‘The Wind in the Willows‘ which is currently enjoying a run at its new home, The Duchess Theatre. This short show was first performed in the Linbury Theatre in 2002, and after four sold-out runs has now transferred to London’s glittering West End.
Kenneth Grahame’s popular tale is loved by both young and old. Originally written for his son (known affectionately as ‘Mouse’), it was the author’s only lasting literary success. Often realised on stage, this production, directed and choreographed by Will Tuckett, combines dance, music, puppetry and theatre.
The famed national treasure Tony Robinson acts as Kenneth Grahame and is a wise and animated storyteller from start to finish. He follows Ratty, Badger, Mole, and Toad on their adventures on the riverbank. Cris Penfold is wonderfully manic as Toad of Toad Hall and Clemmie Sveaas is particularly endearing as the timid but thoughtful Mole.
The light and lyrical music is written by Martin Ward in the style of George Butterworth, with folky melodies that perfectly evoke the atmosphere of the tranquil river bank, and faster passages for the more frantic scenes.
This production of The Wind in the Willows is an enjoyable show for all the family – escape the cold streets of London and take a trip down the river with Ratty and friends.
The Wind in the Willows continues until February 1st 2014, more information and book here.