16 December 2013 at 5.44pm | Comment on this article
On Saturday 14 December the Royal Opera House threw its doors open for the Paul Hamlyn Christmas Treat performance of The Nutcracker.
Those who have never been to a performance at the Royal Opera House before were able to see The Royal Ballet perform from as little as £1 with a top price of £19.50.
Before the performance there were fun activities for all ages throughout the building including a stage make-up masterclass, chances to try out musical instruments, seeing how pointe shoes and tiaras are made, dressing up and even the chance to swing an axe used on stage (with all the proper precautions, of course!).
Thanks to the generosity of the Helen Hamlyn Trust, now supporting this event in its sixth year, thousands of opera and ballet newcomers have been able to come to the Royal Opera House, with many returning again and again. Lady Helen Hamlyn, dedicating this day to the memory of her late husband Paul Hamlyn, described the excitement of all the families attending as, '.....exactly what Paul enjoyed most at the Royal Opera House, he loved seeing new audiences enjoy themselves which is one reason why my trust has continued to fund these performances. The arts provide an important dimension in people’s lives: to reflect, to dream, to have fun and discover creativity in themselves and that’s what is happening all around me today.'
During the frenzied creativity of the decoration-making workshops in the Crush Room, we stopped children just long enough to ask them what they thought of the day so far. Cries of ‘Brilliant!’, ‘Amazing!’ and ‘Awesome!’ seemed to capture the mood. Three-year-old Scarlett even had a chance to conduct the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House (watch out Antonio Pappano!) after coming all the way from Barnsley and setting off at 6am that morning. Waving the baton was a thrilling highlight to a day that, for Scarlett, also included holding a stage gun and waving around a dagger under the supervision of our Armoury department.
It's not just the audience who enjoy the Paul Hamlyn Christmas Treat. The dancers of The Royal Ballet see them as special performances too, with First Soloist Bennet Gartside (Herr Drosselmeyer) saying before the performance how fantastic it is for the artists to know that audiences are getting their first taste of the art form that has become the dancers’ lives.
There was also a rare glimpse of an open set-change, with the curtain drawn back to reveal what happens backstage during a scene change. Commentary was provided by Royal Ballet Education Administrator and Teacher David Pickering, so that the audience knew exactly what was going on.
With the curtain coming down a huge cheer went up from everyone watching and after several bows from the Royal Ballet over 2,000 new audience members went smiling and chatting excitedly into the late Covent Garden afternoon. We hope to see you all again soon.
The Paul Hamlyn Christmas Treat is generously supported by the Helen Hamlyn Trust, in memory of the late Paul Hamlyn.