2017/18 at The Royal Ballet, London

2017/18 at The Royal Ballet, London
The 2017/18 season at the Royal Opera House is packed with Chester and Novello works. Here are four ballets choreographed to our composers’ music:

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

by Christopher Wheeldon
music by Joby Talbot
(September 27 – October 28, 2017) | book tickets

‘It’s official: the Royal Ballet has a perennial hit on its hands… what truly sets it all spinning is the shimmering, urgent and mischievous music of the composer Joby Talbot.’
Donald Hutera, The Times, 20/03/2012

Christopher Wheeldon’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland burst onto the stage in 2011 and was the first full-length ballet score to be written for The Royal Ballet in twenty years. It has enjoyed huge success, returning to Covent Garden four times since its creation (2012, 2013, 2014 & 2017), and has been toured by the National Ballet of Canada. Joby Talbot’s score combines contemporary soundworlds with sweeping melodies that gesture to ballet scores of the 19th century. Bob Crowley’s imaginative, eye-popping designs draw on everything from puppetry to projections to make Wonderland wonderfully real.

As in Lewis Carroll’s beloved book, Alice encounters a cast of extraordinary and instantly recognizable characters, from the highly-strung Queen of Hearts – who performs a hilarious send-up of The Sleeping Beauty’s famous Rose Adage – to a playing card corps de ballet, a sinuous caterpillar and a tap-dancing Mad Hatter. But the ballet does not avoid the darker undercurrents of Lewis Carroll’s story: a nightmarish kitchen, an eerily disembodied Cheshire Cat and the unhinged tea party are all here in vivid detail. Koen Kessels and Tom Seligman conduct.

The Judas Tree

by Kenneth MacMillan
music by Brian Elias
(October 24 - November 1, 2017) | book tickets

‘Brian Elias’s score is paradoxically attractive for so harrowing a work, offering, perhaps, some hope of redemption.’
Jann Parry, The Observer, 29/03/1992

Kenneth MacMillan’s The Judas Tree was his final ballet, and still his most controversial. MacMillan commissioned a score from Brian Elias for the ballet, which had its premiere in 1992. Both MacMillan and Elias were inspired not only by Biblical stories of betrayal but also by contemporary events like the violence in Tiananmen Square and the creation of the financial district in Canary Wharf. As MacMillan admitted of the finished work, ‘There are things in me that are untapped and that have come out in this ballet that I find frightening’.

In The Judas Tree MacMillan returns to themes that had occupied him throughout his career (complicity and the cruelty of the mob, self-delusion and the rule of fear, sexual violence) in an uncompromising and discomforting final work. The score itself is part symphony, part music drama – but above all an abstract orchestral structure expressed in terms of movement and dance.

The Winter’s Tale

by Christopher Wheeldon
music by Joby Talbot
(February 13 – March 21, 2018) | book tickets

‘Joby Talbot’s specially-commissioned new score is masterful’
The Stage, 11/4/2014

Building on the success of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Christopher Wheeldon and Joby Talbot were commissioned again by The Royal Ballet and the National Ballet Canada in 2014. What resulted was The Winter’s Tale, a masterful modern narrative ballet whose score captures the elements of joyous life and dark undercurrent of revenge tragedy, typical in Shakespeare’s late comedies, with aplomb. It received ecstatic praise at its premiere, acclaimed by critics and audiences alike for its intelligent, distinctive and emotionally powerful story, told through exquisite dance. It is now widely judged to be a modern ballet classic.

The story follows the destruction of a marriage through consuming jealousy, the abandonment of a child and a seemingly hopeless love. Yet, through remorse and regret – and after a seemingly miraculous return to life – the ending is one of forgiveness and reconciliation. Returning for its third run at Covent Garden, Alondra de la Parra conducts each of the ten performances.

Obsidian Tear
by Wayne McGregor
music by Esa-Pekka Salonen
(April 14 – May 11, 2018) | book tickets

‘With its echoes of narrative and myths, its mysterious gestural language and powerful physicality, [Obsidian Tear is] forcefully resonant’
Rosalyn Sulcas, The New York Times, 30/05/2016

Wayne McGregor created Obsidian Tear in 2016, his tenth year as The Royal Ballet’s Resident Choreographer. He was inspired by the brooding symphonic poem Nyx by Esa-Pekka Salonen, paired in the ballet with Salonen’s virtuoso violin solo Lachen verlernt. McGregor choreographed the work for an all-male cast, a self-imposed restriction that yielded a strikingly different physical imagery.

The imaginative world of the ballet is both archaic and futuristic in its exploration of the tribal behaviour of its all-male group. From the ballet’s opening duet the dancing becomes darker and more turbulent as the group plays out a dynamic of conflict and challenge, loyalty and rejection. The run will last for eight shows and will be conducted by Koen Kessels.

To find out more about the 2017/18 season at the Royal Opera House, click here.

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