There has been a concert hall at the site of the Royal Opera House in London’s Covent Garden since 1732, when it was originally called the Theatre Royal.
Many of Handel’s operas and oratorios were specifically written for and premiered in the building and its history is inextricably entwined with that of opera and ballet in Britain. After damage from fires in the 1800s – portions remain dating from 1858 – the bulk was extensively refurbished in the 1990s and it stands as one of the foremost institutions in the classical world, being the home of the Royal Opera, Royal Ballet and the venue’s resident orchestra.
It’s a wonderful destination for all music lovers and cultural adventurers, and there are a number of exciting productions lined up in the coming months that will be well worth seeing. I’ve summed up a few choice performances here but make sure to check out their full list of upcoming shows at Ticketmaster.co.uk. I guarantee there’ll be something there for everyone.
Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny – 10 March – 4 April
This controversial, topical and provocative anti-opera was born from the infamously creative collaboration between composer Kurt Weill and playwright Bertold Brecht in the 1920s and ’30s (they also gave us the Threepenny Opera and Mack the Knife) and was banned by the Nazis after a riotous premier. Incorporating popular song, neoclassicism, romanticism and a whole host of other musical influences, as well as critiquing and satirising consumer culture, city life and economic instability, it remains as relevant, engaging and entertaining as ever. This is its Covent Garden debut, with a new production by John Fulljames and English translation by Jeremy Sams. Not to be missed.
Madama Butterfly – 20 March – 11 April
One of Puccini’s most moving works, this immensely popular opera by one of the form’s greatest composers is full of passionate music, exotic designs and a dramatic story of love and betrayal. Even if you have never been to an opera before, you are sure to recognise the heroine’s beautiful Un bel dì and the wordless Humming Chorus, some of the most beautiful of all opera arias.
The Four Temperaments / New Hofesh Shechter / Song of the Earth – 27 March – 14 April
This mixed programme devoted to innovative choreography is headlined by the world premiere of contemporary choreographer Hofesh Shechter’s first piece for The Royal Ballet. Described by The Daily Telegraph as ‘eye-poppingly packed with wit, energy and ambition’, Shechter’s dark and visceral style is certain to leave an impression.
Completing the programme is George Balanchine’s 20th-century classic Four Temperaments and Kenneth MacMillan’s Song of the Earth, which explores the fragility of human life through choreography of flowing and poignantly angular beauty, set to Mahler’s epic and moving Das Lied von der Erde.
Il Turco in Italia – 11 – 27 April
Described by directors Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier as an ‘ode to sex’, Rossini’s hilarious tale of marital deception returns for an evening of shameless fun with a cast packed full of ROH’s favourite performers. Complex, funny, sun-drenched, sexy, farcical and full of slapstick, energy and show-stopping tunes, it looks to be an indulgent treat.
La Fille mal gardée – 16 April – 5 May
Join Widow Simone and her daughter Lise for their family harvest celebrations. The widow thinks she has Lise’s future all worked out with an arranged marriage in prospect, but in Frederick Ashton’s comic masterpiece, you can rely on love to save the day. Along the way, there’s a glorious mix of classical ballet, clog dancing, maypole dancing, and even dancing chickens to surprise and delight. A witty, whirling, wonderful evening out.
Król Roger – 1 -19 May
A strange shepherd’s hedonistic teachings force King Roger to make a decision between his morals and desires, man and beast, democracy and fascism in Kasper Holten’s new staging of Polish composer Karol Szymanowski’s psychologically probing, dramatic and sumptuous final opera. A journey of discovery over three short, musically distinct acts, Polish baritone Mariusz Kwiecień sings the title role in his native language, for which he has received much critical acclaim.
La Traviata – 18 May – 4 July
Perennially popular and one of the greatest operas by one of the form’s greatest composers, La Traviata is one of the cornerstones of the opera world. Set in the indulgent social whirl of 19th century Paris and brimming with complex, enduring characters, glamorous and dangerous drama and a passionate, ecstatic score with some of Verdi’s loveliest songs, it simply must be experienced. The Royal Opera House is, naturally, the perfect stage and Richard Eyre’s classic production promises to bring it fully to life.
So there you have it, a real variety from all corners of the dramatic classical music world and surely something for everyone. If you’ve never been to the Royal Opera House, or even the opera or ballet before, don’t be intimidated by the lofty history and architecture, the Royal Opera House and the art it creates is open and welcome to everyone. Treat yourself to a special night out unlike any other, and don’t forget to let me know how you get on.