Four world premieres highlight The Royal Ballet’s rather enticing 2016-2017 season, one that features works by fourteen choreographers. At Covent Garden, Wayne McGregor and Liam Scarlett will present a new one-act works, McGregor’s to a commissioned score by Steve Reich. Perhaps most notably, there’s also a first UK ballet commission for Canadian choreographer Crystal Pite. Meanwhile, at the Barbican, there will be a new production of the Philip Glass dance opera Les Enfants Terribles choreographed by Javier De Frutos.
The season marks a number of important milestones including Wayne McGregor’s 10th anniversary as Resident Choreographer, and the 70th anniversary of the company becoming the resident ballet company of the Royal Opera House. Both The Sleeping Beauty, which reopened the Royal Opera House in February 1946, and Symphonic Variations, created by Frederick Ashton that first season, make appearances on the programme.
It’s also the 50th anniversary of Balanchine’s Jewels, to be danced in April, while Sir Peter Wright’s 90th birthday will be marked by the return of his The Nutcracker.
Behind the scenes, there’s the welcome return of former principals Leanne Benjamin and Viviana Durante return to coach MacMillan’s Mayerling and Anastasia respectively.
The season opens in September with Ashton’s quintessentially English and much-loved masterpiece La Fille mal gardée. Roberta Marquez returns as guest artist to dance two farewell performances in one of her signature roles as the wayward daughter Lise.
Fille is followed by the very different Anastasia, Kenneth MacMillan’s exploration of identity inspired by the true story of Anna Anderson who believed she was the Grand Duchess Anastasia, the youngest daughter of Tsar Nicholas II and only surviving member of the massacred Russian Imperial family.
To mark the 10th anniversary of Wayne McGregor’s appointment as resident choreographer, there’s a first all-McGregor mixed programme in mid-November. This will feature the world premiere of a major collaboration between himself and American composer Steve Reich, with designs by Pakistani artist Rashid Rana. The new ballet will sit between his Olivier award-winning Chroma (which will feature dancers from both Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and The Royal Ballet) and Carbon Life.
There’s more McGregor in January with the return of Woolf Works, inspired by the writings of Virginia Woolf. Alessandra Ferri returns to dance the lead role for which she won the 2015 Critics’ Circle Awards for Best Female Dancer, and 2016 Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Dance.
Two young choreographers mentored by McGregor, Charlotte Edmonds and Robert Binet, will present new works in the Clore Studio Upstairs. Their works will be presented prior to McGregor’s triple bill in November.
Peter Wright celebrates his 90th birthday on November 25th, his production of The Nutcracker opening just two days earlier.
The original staging of The Sleeping Beauty returns in December, running to March. It was revived in 2006 for the Company’s 75th anniversary, and includes additional choreography by Frederick Ashton, Anthony Dowell and Christopher Wheeldon.
There’s sure to be much anticipation when the much-in-demand Crystal Pite makes her Royal Ballet debut in mid-March. Her new ballet will be a large ensemble piece to music by Henryk Górecki. Pite’s work sits in a mixed programme that also features revivals of After the Rain by Christopher Wheeldon and The Human Seasons by David Dawson, who premieres a new Swan Lake for Scottish Ballet this April.
George Balanchine’s sparkling Jewels is set for April, which also sees the return of Kenneth MacMillan’s Mayerling.
May’s mixed programme features a new one-act ballet by Liam Scarlett alongside William Forsythe’s The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude, not performed by The Royal Ballet for almost 15 years, Balanchine’s high-octane, virtuoso Tarantella (a Royal Ballet premiere) and Wheeldon’s Strapless, which explores the scandal surrounding John Singer Sargent’s portrait of Madame X.
The final mixed programme in June is an all-Ashton affair featuring The Dream, Symphonic Variations and Marguerite and Armand.
Many of the season’s programmes will be shown live in cinemas. Dates are shown in the ‘season at a glance’ listings below.
With the Linbury Studio Theatre undergoing major redevelopment as part of the Open Up project, a couple of productions will take place away from the Royal Opera House. The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, Kate Princes’ high-octane interpretation of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, for ZooNation is to be restaged for the Roundhouse in December and January, while in late-January, a new production of Philip Glass’ 1996 dance-opera Les Enfants Terribles takes to the stage at the Barbican. Directed and choreographed by Javier De Frutos it will feature principal dancers from The Royal Ballet, leading contemporary dancers, and singers.
The Royal Ballet 2016-2017 season at a glance
La Fille mal gardée (Frederick Ashton): September 27-October 22, 2016
Anastasia (Kenneth MacMillan): October 26-November 12 (ROH Live Cinema, November 2)
Wayne McGregor triple bill – Chroma, New ballet, Carbon Life: November 10-19
The Nutcracker (Peter Wright): November 23-January 7, 2017 (ROH Live Cinema, December 8)
The Sleeping Beauty (Frederick Ashton): December 21-March 4 (ROH Live Cinema, February 28)
Woolf Works (Wayne McGregor): January 21-February 11 (ROH Live Cinema, February 8)
Mixed triple bill – The Human Seasons (David Dawson), After the Rain (Christopher Wheeldon), New ballet (Crystal Pite): March 16-24
Jewels (George Balanchine): April 1-21 (ROH Live Cinema, April 11)
Mayerling (Kenneth MacMillan): April 28-May 13
Mixed quadruple bill – The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude (William Forsythe), Tarantella (George Balanchine), Strapless (Christopher Wheeldon), New ballet (Liam Scarlett): May 18-27
Frederick Ashton triple bill – The Dream, Symphonic Variations, Marguerite and Armand: June 2-10 (ROH Live Cinema, June 3)
The studio programme 2016-2017
Charlotte Edmonds and Robert Binet Clore Studio Upstairs, November 10-23
ZooNation – The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party Roundhouse, December 2016-January 2017
Les Enfants Terribles Barbican Theatre, January 27-29