Supporter’s Tale: Raven Girl supporter David Hancock on swapping opera for ballet
What caused a life-long opera lover to fund a new dance work?
Although the Royal Opera House is home to two art forms – opera and ballet – many audience members have a preference one way or the other. This was the case for many years with ROH Supporter David Hancock, who has generously helped fund a number of Royal Opera productions. More recently however, he has discovered a passion for ballet, reflected through his support for Raven Girl, Wayne McGregor’s new ballet.
We spoke to David to find out why he chooses to support productions, what intrigued him about this latest project and what his journey in ballet has been like so far:
How did you first become involved at the Royal Opera House?
I have been coming to the opera since the 1980s when I was a student in London. Although I have had a few breaks in between I have always tried to come whenever I can. Over the last few years I have been based permanently in the capital so became a Season Patron, which means I now come once a week (or more!).
Which other productions have you supported?
Eugene Onegin, Don Carlo, Mayerling and Raven Girl. In the past I have also supported certain roles like Dawn French as the Duchess of Crackenthorp.
What intrigued you about Raven Girl?
It’s interesting and dark – very much an adult fairy tale. After reading the story I was astonished anyone would be able to make it into a ballet and it has been fascinating to see how Wayne has gone about developing it. I am not as familiar with ballet as I am with opera so for me it has been a fantastic learning experience: not just learning about this ballet but ballet as an art form in general.
The rehearsals were a very privileged insight into how Wayne’s thoughts and ideas are made real, as well as into the incredible hard work and skill of the dancers – it was exhausting just watching!
Has anything about it surprised you?
During the rehearsals I was incredibly impressed how the dancers were able to take direction and immediately do what Wayne wanted, giving him the ability to decide what worked and what didn’t in a short space of time. The concentration level coupled with the physical exertions was truly impressive.
How have you found it different from supporting opera?
For me the narratives in opera are easier to follow so I had to work harder to understand the story before seeing the ballet in order to get some appreciation of what the dancers are doing. But supporting a new ballet is fascinating as you are seeing the production take shape from nothing – most operas are based on existing productions and so you know what you are supporting before it even starts so as a result I have felt more involved as this ballet has never been done before.
What does it feel like to have supported a production and watch its premiere?
I think as this is a brand new production it is a very different experience from supporting a well established production. It is absolutely right that the ROH takes a degree of risk with new productions and I feel strongly that it is this creative freedom and support which attracts many great artists to Covent Garden. This not only enhances the reputation as one of the premiere arts institutions in the world, but it also challenges each and everyone of us to understand and enjoy more all the art forms available.