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Royal Opera House London the Year Ahead
February 16, 2022
A rich history
Since opening in 1858, the opera house has lived many different lives, including as a dance hall during World War II. Today it’s the year-round home of the opera and ballet companies now known as ‘The Royal Opera’ and ‘The Royal Ballet’. From the 1980s The Royal Opera’s reputation grew, showing the British premieres of Berio’s Un re in Ascolto, Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen and Prokofiev’s The Fiery Angel. Other leading lights to have graced its stage over the years include the late Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti, Greek-American soprano Maria Callas, and Welsh bass-baritone Bryn Terfel.
The 2022 season opened with a new production of Verdi’s 1851 Rigoletto, directed by Oliver Mears. The father-daughter relationship of this famous opera is portrayed by Spanish baritone Carlos Álvarez in the titular role and Cuban-American soprano Lisette Oropesa as ‘Gilda’. Based on Victor Hugo’s play Le Roi S’Amuse, Rigoletto follows the life of a court jester who’s outraged after a duke seduces his daughter. Mears’ production is inspired by the reasons why Verdi wrote the piece, namely tragically losing his wife and children a couple of years earlier, combined with the failure of Europe’s 1848 revolution.
Creating a community
As the former deputy director of Tate Modern, Alex Beard joined the Royal Opera House in 2013, leading the redevelopment of the theatre’s public areas when construction began in 2015. “It’s my dream job,” he says. “The theatre combines music, dance, art and theatre to explore the universal themes of life and our deepest emotions.” His greatest challenge? “Above all, sustaining the organisation, our staff and artists through the pandemic – our biggest financial crisis – while doing what we could to reach audiences and stay close to our supporters.”
The Royal Ballet is set to present two world premieres in 2022. The first, from late March, is a new work by rising American choreographer Kyle Abraham titled New Kyle Abraham, which will be performed together with pieces by choreographers Crystal Pite and Christopher Wheeldon. This will be followed by Christopher Wheeldon’s Like Water for Chocolate from early June, based on Laura Esquivel’s captivating novel. This show will see Mexican conductor Alondra de la Parra acting as musical consultant for composer Joby Talbot’s newly commissioned score.
A sparkling future
Spring will see the first Vivaldi opera staged at the Royal Opera House, with director Adele Thomas bringing a new production of Bajazet to London in February. Puccini’s Tosca later in February will take us on a journey of passion, jealousy and political intrigue, while Liam Scarlett’s 19th century choreograph of Swan Lake in March “is one of the great classics of the repertoire,” says Beard. “It addresses universal human themes of duty, love and loss with extraordinary power and beauty and the score is just wonderful.”
Header image courtesy of Bill Cooper
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