21 July 2014 at 1.05pm | Comment on this article
I’m approaching the end of my first Season at the Royal Opera House and what a brilliant journey it’s been. It’s impossible to mention everything so here are just some of my personal highlights from a year in this remarkable organization.
It was a year of firsts for me: shadowing the dedicated Box Office, Front of House and Stage Management teams; chairing the board of High House Production Park; and getting a side-stage view of Nutcracker for my mum’s 75th birthday. By two months in, I was just about finding my way around the building – catching glimpses of the backstage team and hearing the wonderful, deafening cheers of school children at Schools’ Matinees.
It was an incredible Season to take the helm. The Royal Opera under Kasper’s leadership has enjoyed brilliant revivals, including Elektra, Tosca, Wozzeck and Le nozze di Figaro; on top of an epic autumn with Tony Pappano’s conducting of Parsifal and Les Vêpres siciliennes. Across a strong field, my personal highlights from a year of remarkable music making were Manon Lescaut, Ariadne auf Naxos and Maria Stuarda. In what was probably the most inspiring moment of the year, we saw the Community Ensemble perform so brilliantly alongside Simon Rattle and a wonderful cast in Robert Carsen’s Dialogues des Carmélites.
Kevin’s Royal Ballet has also been at the top of its game: welcoming back Lauren Cuthbertson after injury and Natalia Osipova joining as a Principal; bringing remarkable world premieres to the stage in Wayne McGregor’s Tetractys – The Art of Fugue, Alastair Marriott’s Connectome and Christopher Wheeldon’s wonderful The Winter’s Tale; and a staging of a new Don Quixote choreographed by Carlos Acosta. It’s an incredible team.
The Season was bookended by two hugely successful international trips: to New York in September 2013 to see the first revival of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Anna Nicole and Arthur Pita’s The Metamorphosis; and a couple of weeks ago to Taipei to see The Royal Ballet fresh from their triumphant appearance on the Bolshoi Stage, ahead of their equally successful visit to Shanghai. The Companies have enjoyed great success at the box office too, with The Royal Ballet reaching 99% occupancy and 91% financial capacity and The Royal Opera 95% and 87%. A brilliant result.
We marked some significant milestones on stage, with celebrations for Kiri Te Kanawa (70), Bernard Haitink (85) and Sir John Tooley’s (90) birthdays. Among this year’s anniversaries, I hugely enjoyed Turandot, 30 years after seeing the production in its opening year; Ashton’s The Dream in its 40th year; and – perhaps above all – the 40th anniversary performance of John Copley’s La bohème with John and Anya Sainsbury who have so generously supported the ROH over the years.
Beyond Covent Garden, I sat in on an inspiring Chance to Dance workshop in Stockwell ahead of their brilliant performance in the Linbury, was part of a sell-out crowd at a performance of Verdi’s Requiem by the ROH’s Thurrock Community Chorus, loved Kasper’s L’Ormindo at the Globe’s new Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, and joined a knowledgeable and enthusiastic audience for a concert performance of Ariadne auf Naxos at Symphony Hall in Birmingham.
I also dashed around town to experience Act 1 of La traviata here in Covent Garden, Act 2 on a BP Big Screen in Trafalgar Square and Act 3 on my laptop at home as we screened it live online across the world for the first time – an exciting feat in a year when the ROH Live cinema audience more than doubled.
In my life beyond the Royal Opera House, I made it to 50, celebrated our daughter’s 18th and still managed to get a couple of cricket games in. On which note, I’m very much looking forward to the ROH vs Glyndebourne game next season.
Of all the highlights of the Season, the greatest has been getting to know the staff and artists of the Royal Opera House. From the Silver Medal ceremony (to celebrate those who have worked here for 25 years) to the Prize Giving for departing apprentices, I am constantly reminded that the Royal Opera House lives and flourishes through its remarkable staff. My deep thanks go to them and to you, our audiences and friends. I look forward to seeing all you next Season.