Entertainment & Arts

Royal Opera House: Virginia Woolf ballet leads new season

Virginia Woolf Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The ballet will be a "collage" of Woolf's own story and three of her novels

A ballet inspired by Virginia Woolf will be the centrepiece of the 2014/15 season at the Royal Opera House.

Woolf Works - based both on her life and the novels Orlando, The Waves and Mrs Dalloway - will premiere in summer 2015, choreographed by Wayne McGregor.

McGregor told the BBC the piece would "break the rules" of narrative ballet.

The season will also include new works by Hofesh Shechter and Philip Glass, whose chamber opera The Trial is based on the Kafka novel of the same name.

The Czech author's original story tells of Josef K, who is arrested and tried for a crime without ever being told what the charges against him are.

Glass, who has worked with Music Theatre Wales on the piece, said: "I think of my pocket operas as neutron bombs - small, but packing a terrific punch".

Image caption The ROH's 2014/15 season mixes new work, classics and family favourites
Image copyright Royal Opera House
Image caption The spectacular production of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland will return
Image copyright Royal Opera House
Image caption Woolf Works is the first full evening work by Wayne McGregor (left) for the Royal Ballet

McGregor, who is the Royal Ballet's resident choreographer, said he had been inspired to apply Virginia Woolf's narrative style to full-length ballet.

"Her writing lends itself to the breaking of rules, in terms of how words are organised, or thoughts are organised. I thought that was a perfect filter to create something new."

"We're going to be able to find a way of mashing up, splicing and going back-and-forward through periods of time in a way that will hopefully be really evocative, and a different way of experiencing ballet".

Israeli choreographer Shechter is described by the ROH as "one of the UK's most exciting contemporary artists". However, The Guardian's dance critic, Judith Mackrell, has suggested his choreography is "the physical and aesthetic opposite of the Royal's classical style".

The first collaboration between the two will be unveiled as part of a triple bill in March 2015.

Image copyright Royal Opera House
Image caption Scenes de Ballet is "beautiful" but "very hard for the dancers" says ROH chief Kevin O'Hare

Other highlights include an evening of works by Frederick Ashton, founder choreographer of The Royal Ballet.

The programme will feature Scenes de ballet, Ashton's own personal favourite amongst his works; Five Brahms Waltzes in the Manner of Isadora Duncan; A Month in the Country and Symphonic Variations, which he created for his muse Margot Fonteyn.

Carlos Acosta's Don Quixote will be revived, while the Christmas production will be Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, which will also be screened live in cinemas on 16 December.

Manon, one of the company's signature ballets, will open the season, marking the 40th anniversary of Kenneth MacMillan's original production.

"Manon is a firm favourite with audiences and, I have to say, the dancers," said Royal Opera House director Kevin O'Hare.

"Every ballerina would love to be Manon, so we have a huge range of dancers portraying that role."

Female choreographers' works are appearing at the venue's second, smaller venue, The Linbury, where Kate Prince, Kristen McNally and Shobana Jeyasingh will all premiere new works.

Image copyright Royal Opera House
Image caption Manon is a firm favourite with audiences

The opera programme includes Placido Domingo in Verdi's I due Foscari, as well as Stephen Gould and Nina Stemme taking the title roles in Wagner's Tristan und Isolde.

At a press launch for the new season, one reporter challenged the institution over the programme, noting that almost half of the performances stemmed from three composers - Verdi, Puccini and Rossini.

"It's true," said Kasper Holten, the Director of Opera at ROH. "But we have to acknowledge the fact that there is a big demand out there for certain composers."

"We offer works by all kinds of composers [but] in order to make our business model work, with the cuts you all know have happened... we have to think of the market."

"For me, as long as we get the mix of titles right, then having to be savvy about the number of performances we do of each title, that is, for me, a fair way to do it."

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