Today The Royal Ballet has announced it’s plans for Monica Mason’s final season as Artistic Director. Since 1987 Mason has been involved with the direction of the company to some degree, first as Anthony Dowell’s assistant, then Assistant Director, though Acting Director and finally in December 2002 as Director. This year we have been told that there is to be no great fanfare farewell; that it’s a special year where Mason has programmed some of her favourites. Actually, that’s what she’s told us she’s been doing every year of her tenure.
2012 spans the Olympic and Paralympic Games and though there are to be “celebratory events in Covent Garden” the detail shows only the thinnest of ballet involvement. Metamorphosis : Titian 2012 (4 performances plus BP Big Screen) is a collaboration between The Royal Ballet and the National Gallery where 7 choreographers (Wheeldon/Marriott, McGregor/Brandstrup, Tuckett/Scarlett/Watkins) will create 3 new works in response to 3 paintings by Titian : Diana and Actaeon, The Death of Actaeon and Diana and Callisto. These 3 works will be shown on BP Summer Big Screens from 16th – 25th July. And that’s it for the Olympics, with Deborah Bull declaring, “The Games in our city offer a great opportunity to celebrate the inspirational talent of the artists who bring these same qualities to our stages.” Tony Hall said that upon learning that London had won The Games the ROH was “keen to start thinking about how we could become involved to showcase the very best of our culture and creativity at a time when the eyes of the world would be on our country.” And this is it ?
The 2011/12 ballet season – The Royal Ballet’s 80th season – offers 5 World Premieres, 8 full length ballets & 6 mixed programmes.
The full length works include Jewels (Balanchine), which opens the season on 20th September, The Sleeping Beauty (Mason/Newton) opening on 22nd October, Manon (MacMillian) 3rd November for 9 performances, The Nutcracker (Wright) 2nd December, Romeo & Juliet (MacMillian) 10th January 2012, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Wheeldon) 17th March, La Fille Mal Gardee (Ashton) 21st April 2012 and finally The Prince of the Pagodas (MacMillian) 2nd June 2012 for 8 performances. It’s 18 years since this was last performed and with all the other box office staples this revival should be important, though of course it will be minus Darcey Bussell (Bussell was plucked from the corps de ballet by MacMillan to star in this ballet and was promoted to Principal at the age of 20, in December 1989 after the premiere). For this revival the company must be in the pretty unusual situation of having almost no-one who has danced to it’s Eastern-influenced, tricky music, so casting will be key. Bring on the marimbas!
Limen/Marguerite & Armand/Requiem (McGregor/Ashton/MacMillian) opens on 8th October and the other mixed bills are Asphodel Meadows/Enigma Variations/Gloria (Scarlett/Ashton/MacMillian) opening on 19th November, The Dream/Song of the Earth (Ashton/MacMillian) on 1st February, New Scarlett/Polyphonia/New McGregor (Scarlett/Wheeldon/McGregor) on 5th April, Ballo Della Regina/La Sylphide (Balanchine/Kobborg) on 21st May and Birthday Offering/A Month in the Country/Les Noces (Ashton/Nijinska) on 30th June 2012.
Ballet Black return to ROH2 in a co-production.
Having no Royal Ballet events specifically organised while London hosts the Olympic and Paralympic Games (Metamprphosis is part of the London 2012 Festival) feels as though it’s short-changing the arts. With such an opportunity to showcase our Olympic and Paralympic athletes along with the elite athletes of The Royal Ballet gone to waste, we can only hope that London’s other ballet companies take up the baton for ballet.
The season itself, conceived as it largely was before the funding cuts appeared on the horizon, feels like an unaffected mix of box office certainties, the regulation new McGregor, a quick repeat of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (quick in terms of the repeat itself and for the 11 performances) and the ballets that Mason herself favours.
Watch rehearsal footage of Gary Avis coaching The Nutcracker
Visit the Royal Opera House website