Royal Opera House ballet highlights 2008-2009

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There are old favourites and new blood in the Royal Opera House's 2008-2009 season, including an as-yet-untitled new work by iconoclastic lead choreographer Wayne McGregor

  • Royal Opera House ballet highlights 2008-2009

    'Seven Deadly Sins' © Johan Persson

  • See highlights of the ROH 2008-2009 opera season

    Blending tradition and experiment

    McGregor’s new and as-yet-untitled ballet (Nov 13–26) is the wild card in a mainstage season that is pinned on popular perennials such as ‘Swan Lake’ (Oct 4–April 4 2009), ‘The Nutcracker’ (Dec 15–Jan 10 2009), and ‘Giselle’ (Apr 6–May 26 2009). Other full-length ballets include the exotic fantasy, ‘La Bayadère’ (Jan 13–Feb 7 2009), and Frederick Ashton’s ‘Ondine’ (Nov 29–Dec 6). Also worth tracking is ‘Manon’ (Oct 11–Nov 27; May 27–Jun 6 2009), Kenneth MacMillan’s steamy drama about the Parisian courtesan, whose avarice leads her from deluxe decadence to despair in the Louisiana swamps. With seven different trios cast in the leading roles, many making their debuts, this production is guaranteed to be hot stuff.

    Three Short Works: Serenade/L’Invitation au Voyage/Themes and Variations

    George Balanchine is a key figure in the dance season. Dating from 1934, and set to Tchaikovsky, the lyrical masterpiece ‘Serenade’ was the first ballet the Russian- born genius created after arriving in America. He famously incorporated into his choreography whatever mishaps had occurred in daily rehearsals. ‘Theme and Variations’ is his 1947 homage to Marius Petipa, one of the founding fathers of the classical repertory, with music again by Tchaikovsky. Sandwiched between the two works is a revival of ‘L’Invitation au Voyage’, a one-act that helped make Michael Corder’s choreographic name in 1982. Set to a song cycle by Henry Duparc, it features a mezzo-soprano embedded in the dance, plus some of Yolanda Sonnabend’s best designs. Oct 28–Nov 10.

    The New McGregor/The Lesson/Voluntaries

    Featuring designs by artist Julian Opie, the new McGregor shares a bill with Flemming Flindt’s ‘The Lesson’, and Glen Tetley’s ‘Voluntaries’. One of several ballets that the Danish choreographer based on a play by Eugene Ionesco, ‘The Lesson’ concerns a female student, a homicidal ballet master and a frighteningly detached pianist. Tetley’s ‘Voluntaries’, which first premiered in 1973, is a moving tribute to fellow choreographer, John Cranko, who died earlier that year. Nov 13–Nov 26.

    Seven Deadly Sins/Carmen/DGV

    Will Tuckett’s ‘Seven Deadly Sins’, which opened in 2006, has its first revival in a triple-bill with two more recent additions to the repertoire: Mats Ek’s take on ‘Carmen’; and Christopher Wheeldon’s ‘DGV (Danse à Grande Vitesse)’, which aligns full-speed-ahead dancing to a Michael Nyman score. Jan 31–Feb 21 2009.

    Isadora/Dances at a Gathering

    The ROH is also bringing us Deborah MacMillan’s new one-act production of her husband Kenneth’s rarely performed ‘Isadora’ (Mar 11-21), based on the unconventional twentieth-century dancer, Isadora Duncan. This revision uses the recorded voice of an actress to express some of Duncan’s fiery spirit, as well as archival film footage from her heyday. It’s part of a double-bill that also features Jerome Robbins’ often tender 1969 paean to community, ‘Dances at a Gathering’, cued to eighteen Chopin piano pieces. Mar 11–Mar 21 2009.

    Dido and Aeneas/Acis and Galatea

    In a unique move, Wayne McGregor will direct two baroque operas – Purcell’s ‘Dido and Aeneas’ and Handel’s ‘Acis and Galatea’ – in productions that unite the opera and ballet companies. Mar 31–Apr 20 2009.

    The New Marriott/Les Sylphides/The Firebird

    Company member Alastair Marriott will create his second new work for the stage, in a triple-bill that marks the centenary of the first Paris season of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. The other two pieces are Mikhail Fokine’s ‘Les Sylphides’, (1909) commonly cited as the first plotless ballet, and ‘The Firebird’, made the following year. May 4–May 30 2009.

    Jewels

    There’s yet more Balanchine, via his 1967 ‘Jewels’, in which three styles of dance and music are artfully strung together. ‘Emeralds’ (Fauré) exudes the elegance of Paris, circa 1840; ‘Rubies’ (Stravinsky) is a display of jazzy, syncopated wit, while ‘Diamonds’ (Tchaikovsky) is endowed with all the sparkling grandeur of Russian Imperial classicism. This sensational production waltzed away with two Olivier Awards earlier this year. Jun 9–Jun 19 2009.
    For times and prices, visit
    www.roh.org.uk

    Royal Opera House, Bow Street, WC2E 9DD (020 7304 4000/www.roh.org.uk). Covent Garden tube.

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