This Thursday saw the launch of the Royal Opera House Cinema Season at 12 simultaneous press events held at cinemas across the country. I attended the Bristol event and although we may not have had special guests like other venues (the London event was graced by Principals Lauren Cuthbertson and Edward Watson!) there was still plenty of excitement generated about the upcoming performances.
The 2012/13 Cinema Season comprises of 3 ballets and 6 operas, 7 of which will be relayed live. The full list of performances is:
- Swan Lake – Tuesday 23rd October 2012, featuring Zenaida Yanowsky and Nehemiah Kish;
- Les Troyens (pre-recorded) – November 2012, featuring Westbroek, Hymel and Antonacci;
- The Nutcracker – Thursday 13th December 2012, featuring Roberta Marquez and Steven McRae;
- La Boheme – Tuesday 15th January 2013, featuring Villazon and Kovalevska;
- Eugene Onegin – Wednesday 20th February 2013, featuring Keenlyside, Stoyanova and Breslik (note, this is the opera, not the ballet!);
- Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – Thursday 28th March 2013, casting to be announced;
- Nabucco (pre-recorded) – Monday 29th April 2013, featuring Domingo and Monastryska;
- La Donne Del Lago – Monday 27th May 2013, featuring Florez and DiDonato;
- Gloriana – Monday 24th June 2013, featuring Bullock, Spence and Royal.
These will be shown in over 900 cinemas in across 32 countries. The Royal Opera House will be hoping to capitalize on the success of last year when La Fille mal Gardée was the third most watched film in UK cinemas on the day of the live screening and Romeo and Juliet became their most successful live relay to date with 16,000 people watching it in 150 cinemas in the UK alone.
As part of the press launch we were shown a preview film of the season featuring clips of each production and interviews with various dancers, singers, conductors and directors involved. Once again the Royal Opera House proved what a polished organisation they are and the resulting film is exciting, insightful and informative. Here’s a short clip of members of the Royal Opera House explaining why cinema relays are so exciting.
Reflecting on their live-screened performance of Romeo and Juliet last season, Lauren Cuthbertson and Federico Bonelli were obviously excited about the live relays. As Bonelli pointed out, the relay means you are “sitting in the Gods and the stalls at the same time… Maybe it’s the best seat in the house?”. Cuthbertson agreed adding that it was “much more personal” due to the extreme close ups.
The Royal Opera House contains 2,200 seats but, as Principal Steven McRae points out, the relays allow for a much bigger audience. This was emphasised again by Cuthbertson who recalls that during Romeo and Juliet the Royal Ballet had trended on Twitter – a modern day validation that the cinema relays allow the performances to reach people on a totally different scale.
So what about this year’s productions? Obviously I am very excited to see the three ballets but, after seeing the launch film, I’m also planning on seeing most of the operas too!
Opening the season is Anthony Dowell’s production of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. I completely agree with the Royal Ballet Musical Director Barry Wordsworth, who mentioned how great the score for the ballet is, in particulars its “extraordinary thematic unity and grandeur.” Indeed, it contains one of my favourite musical moments from any ballet: the finale to Act IV. As the strings crescendo and the brass enter with a reprise of the main theme I never fail to get shivers – sheer perfection. I’ve been told by many balletomanes that Zenaida Yanowsky is the Royal Ballet’s greatest Odette/Odile, so I can’t wait to see her interpretation.
Next up is Berlioz’s epic Les Troyens. Following the Trojan warrior Énée after the fall of Troy this is a five and a half beast of an opera, and the Royal Opera House production lives up in every way possible. It even features a giant fire-breathing horse! Seriously!
If you want to get that magical Christmas feeling then the relay of Peter Wright’s production of The Nutcracker is guaranteed to get you in the mood. Steven McRae talked of how wonderful it is to dance the Act II Pas de Deux (which is set to the most fantastic music) and it certainly ranks highly in my favourite Pas de Deuxs to watch. Having never had much opportunity to see Roberta Marquez, I’m also really excited to see her as the Sugar Plum Fairy.
After the happy and joyous Nutcracker, January features the rather less-cheerful La Boheme. Set in Bohemian Paris, this masterpiece by Puccini is truly timeless. As Pappano points out “after so many performances [La Boheme] is still one of the most touching operas in the repertoire”. I’ve never seen the full opera but just the clip of Rodolfo singing “Mimi!” at the end of the opera made my hairs stand on end. Can’t wait!
On a much happier note is the broadcast of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, just before Easter in 2013. Created in 2011 by Christopher Wheeldon this was the Royal Ballet’s first new full-length ballets for over a decade and has received critical and public success. Featuring a host of characters it is lead by the eponymous role (created by Lauren Cuthbertson) as she finds her way through this strange and magical land. A definite highlight is the Queen of Hearts Tart Adagio which Yanowsky says is “a dream come true” to perform. Not to be missed, by children and adults alike!
The rest of the season are brand new opera productions. First up is the directorial debut of the Royal Opera House’s Director of Opera, Kasper Holten with Eugene Onegin, featuring Simon Keenleyside (it’ll be interesting to compare with the ballet Onegin which the Royal Ballet is performing this season). This is followed by Verdi’s Nabucco with opera superstar Placido Domingo (listen out for the gorgeous Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves). May brings Rossini’s Donna del Lago which features Joyce DiDonato and a “tenor battle” between Juan Diego Flórez and Colin Lee. Rounding off the relays is Britten’s lesser-performed opera Gloriana, about Elizabeth I. Originally choreographed by none other than John Cranko, this new production will be headed by Susan Bullock and Toby Spence.
In case you couldn’t tell, I’m really excited about the upcoming Cinema Season! The Royal Opera House have put together a nice mix of pieces and all offer an affordable slice of magic. Last year, the Romeo and Juliet relay was one of my highlights of all the ballet I saw, offering a depth to the performance that is not possible when sat in the Upper Amphitheatre… Hopefully a few of this season’s screenings will have the same effect! To get you in the mood, here is the trailer for the first live relay of the season – Swan Lake:
Let me know in the comments which screenings you’re looking forward to, and what your favourite screening from last season was!
Until next time, keep dancing!