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Ballet Essentials: Frankenstein

Our quick introduction to Liam Scarlett’s new full-length ballet, inspired by Mary Shelley’s Gothic masterpiece.

By Paul Kilbey (Content Producer (Ballet))

14 April 2016 at 12.02pm | 3 Comments

An enduring tale
Written during a famous sojourn by Lake Geneva in the company of Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley, Frankenstein has fascinated people ever since it was first published in 1818. The student Victor Frankenstein discovers the secret to creating life – but he is unable to face up to his own abominable creation. His fiancée Elizabeth, his friends and his family are all caught up in the tragedy that unfolds as Victor battles with his Creature and his conscience.

A new take on an old story
Royal Ballet Artist in Residence Liam Scarlett has created numerous works for the Company, from abstract pieces such as Asphodel Meadows to the narrative Sweet Violets and Hansel and Gretel. But his adaptation of Frankenstein is his first full-length work for the main stage. Mary Shelley’s classic Gothic novel forms the basis of a three-act ballet for the full Company that will interpret this famous story afresh.

Love and responsibility
Frankenstein has been adapted countless times, and the Creature has become a familiar presence in horror movies. But for Scarlett, Frankenstein is about more than this stock character. There is a tender love story at the story’s heart featuring Victor and Elizabeth, and the Creature is no straightforward villain but rather someone deprived of a family who is never taught how to behave. Can we feel sympathy for a monster? ‘I think when the curtain goes down you’re not going to know who to feel more sorry for’, say Scarlett.

Period settings
Designer and artist John Macfarlane has collaborated with Scarlett many times before, and his other designs at the Royal Opera House include Giselle for The Royal Ballet and Die Zauberflöte and Gianni Schicchi for The Royal Opera. With lighting designer David Finn and projection designer Finn Ross, Macfarlane’s designs create a period setting for Frankenstein, complete with a lavish manor for the Frankenstein family and a detailed re-creation of a 19th-century anatomy theatre.

A close choreographic collaboration
Scarlett has choreographed a number of works by American composer Lowell Liebermann, including his abstract ballet VisceraFrankenstein is Liebermann’s first commissioned score for Scarlett. There has been a close collaboration between composer and choreographer, with especially beautiful music reserved for the Creature. ‘I described to him that I wanted something hauntingly beautiful’, Scarlett said, ‘and I think he really has done that.’

Frankenstein runs 4–27 May 2016. Tickets are still available.

The production will be broadcast live to cinemas around the world on 18 May 2016. Find your nearest cinema.

Frankenstein is a co-production with San Francisco Ballet and is given with generous support from The Monument Trust, Sarah and Lloyd Dorfman, Simon and Virginia Robertson, Will and Beth Gardiner, Karl and Holly Peterson, The Shauna Gosling Trust and the Frankenstein Production Syndicate, with further support via the San Francisco Ballet from Bently Foundation, The Hellman Family and E. L. Wiegand Foundation.

By Paul Kilbey (Content Producer (Ballet))

14 April 2016 at 12.02pm

This article has been categorised Ballet and tagged Ballet Essentials, by Liam Scarlett, essentials, Frankenstein!!, John MacFarlane, Lowell Liebermann, Production

This article has 3 comments

  1. It would be nice if the names of the principal dancers who will be performing in this new ballet. I know that the video gives their names in a flash. But it went by too fast. Thank you. Ilania

  2. Serena responded on 6 August 2017 at 11:19pm Reply

    When is the ROH bringing Frankenstein back on stage? I missed it in 2016 and having just read the novel itself, absolutely cannot wait to see it!

    • Chris Shipman (Head of Brand Engagement and Social Media) responded on 7 August 2017 at 9:58am

      Hi Serena,

      No revival is currently scheduled for the upcoming 2017/18 programme, but of course it may return in future Seasons

      Thanks,

      Chris

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