Adagios, arias and arabesques

Culture-loving groups will find a lot to chose from over the coming year – the 2010/11 season in classical music and dance is shaping up to be a vintage one as Chris Broughton reports.

A spectacular scene from Northern Ballet’s new production of The Nutcracker.

A spectacular scene from Northern Ballet’s new production of The Nutcracker.

There are plenty of exciting events to look forward to in the new season, with many of them set to tour provincial venues.

High notes

Based at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, London’s Royal Opera has a full programme for the coming year. Highlights of the season include the world premiere of ‘Anna Nicole’, Mark Anthony Turnage’s new opera about the life of former playboy model and octogenarian billionaire’s wife Anna Nicole Smith, which will open on 17th February, and an allstar production of ‘Tosca’ in June. Savings of up to 40% are available for groups.

The Royal Opera’s Tosca.

The Royal Opera’s Tosca.

Nearby at the Coliseum, English National Opera’s schedule includes a new production of Donizetti’s rarely-performed ‘Lucrezia Borgia’ between 31st January and 3rd March, directed by Mike Figgis, who made his name in theatre but has more recently become better known for his Hollywood career, directing films such as ‘Leaving Las Vegas’. The rest of the season includes other new openings, such as a Terry Gilliam-directed interpretation of Berlioz’s ‘The Damnation of Faust’ in May and the world premiere of an as-yet untitled opera by Bjork collaborator Nico Muhly in June.
Raymond Gubbay and the Royal Albert Hall’s acclaimed in-theround version of Puccini’s ‘Madam Butterfly’ will return to the hall for a limited run from 24th February until 12th March. With a cast that includes Mihoko Kinoshita, Jee Hyun Lim and Asako Tamura backed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the production will see the floor of the auditorium ‘flooded’ to create a stunning Japanese water garden setting. Special rates are available for groups of 10 or more on Tuesday to Friday evening performances.
Cardiff’s Welsh National Opera will be presenting productions of ‘Die Fledermaus’ and ‘Trovatore’ at its Wales Millennium Centre base in February and early March before taking them on tour until mid-April. In May, two more operas will get the WNO treatment. ‘Cosi Fan Tutti’ and ‘Turandot’ will again debut at the Millennium Centre before moving to the Birmingham Hippodrome Theatre, where they’ll play two nights apiece in June. Discounts are available at the Millennium Centre for groups of 10 or more.
Opera North’s winter season includes new productions of Lehár’s ‘The Merry Widow’, touring until February, and ‘Carmen’ between January and May. A perfect introduction to opera and an all-time favourite with seasoned opera-goers, ‘Carmen’ is regarded by many as Georges Bizet’s masterpiece and features a great deal of much-loved music. All of Opera North’s mainstage productions – which also include ‘The Turn of the Screw’ and ‘The Adventures of Pinnochio’ – open at the company’s home, the Leeds Grand Theatre, before touring to Salford, Newcastle and Nottingham. Excellent discounts and benefits are available to group bookers at each venue.

Opera North’s The Adventures of Pinnochio.

Opera North’s The Adventures of Pinnochio.

Based at Glasgow’s Theatre Royal, Scottish Opera’s carefully curated spring season will present two operas that have not been performed by the company for a quarter of a century: Handel’s passionate and character-driven ‘Orlando’, directed by Harry Fehr; and Strauss’s entertaining ‘Intermezzo’, conducted by Music Director Francesco Corti. Later in the season, Verdi’s ‘Rigoletto’ will see the return of conductor Tobias Ringborg and tenor Edgaras Montvidas, as well as the debut of English baritone Eddie Wade in the role of Rigoletto. All three productions will tour venues across Scotland.

On their toes

The Royal Ballet’s 2011 programme features a number of world premieres, including ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’, the first full-length ballet commissioned by the company for 15 years. Directed by internationally -renowned choreographer Christopher Wheeldon, it will open at the Royal Opera House in February. The company offers group rates, subject to availability, alongside special packages, which include catering. Group tours of the opera house can also be booked.
The English National Ballet will honour its annual Christmas tradition with a new production of ‘The Nutcracker’, a traditional retelling of the story helmed by Artistic Director Wayne Eagling and set in atmospheric Edwardian London. ‘The Nutcracker’ will play between 10th and 30th December at the company’s base, the London Coliseum, which offers group rates and will also host the ballet in January 2011 for 14 performances of Rudolf Nureyev’s celebrated version of Prokofiev’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’.
Following the world premiere of choreographer David Binley’s new version of the fairytale classic ‘Cinderella’ over the Christmas period, Birmingham Royal Ballet will continue its 20th anniversary celebrations with family favourite ‘La Fille Mal Gardée’ (featuring the famous ‘clog dance’), Delibes’ ‘Coppelia’, with choreography by Marius Petipa and a double bill of ‘Allegri Diversi’ and ‘Carmina Burana’ under the umbrella title ‘Passion and Ecstasy’. All the productions will take place at the company’s home theatre, the Birmingham Hippodrome, which offers special rates for groups of any number over 10.
Northern Ballet’s magical production of ‘The Nutcracker’ will tour from October to five theatres across the UK getting everyone in the festive mood with their most popular ballet. Next year, its production of ‘Cleopatra’ – a new ballet created by Claude-Michel Schönberg (Les Misérables, Miss Saigon) and Northern Ballet’s Artistic Director, David Nixon OBE – will tour the UK throughout the spring, premiering at The Grand Theatre & Opera House in Leeds.
Scottish National Ballet’s big Christmas production, meanwhile, is a vivid reworking of another Prokofiev favourite, ‘Cinderella’. Overseen by Artistic Director Ashley Page and with sumptuous design by Antony McDonald, its depiction of decadent 18th century France recalls both Vivienne Westwood and Andy Warhol. Opening at the ballet’s home, Glasgow’s Theatre Royal, ‘Cinderella’ will then go on to tour a series of Scottish venues, as well as Belfast’s Grand Opera House, where it closes on 5th February. Group organisers should contact venues for group rates, which are available in most cases.

String fellows

The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra’s programme for 2011 includes a return for the popular ‘Symphonic Rock’ event at the Royal Albert Hall on 31st March, with hits by The Moody Blues, Queen, Led Zeppelin and Elbow given the full orchestral treatment. Presented by Radio 2’s Ken Bruce, this year’s show will also debut a thrilling tribute to Michael Jackson. The Albert Hall will also host a Tchaikovsky Gala, a show based on the greatest hits of Abba, a film music gala and a matinee performance devoted to epic romantic favourites during the spring and early summer, and the RPO will also appear in a series of events at the Royal Festival Hall in 2011, including a performance of Mussorgsky’s ‘Firebird’ conducted by Charles Dutoit. Groups of 10 or more receive a 25% discount and groups of over 30 a 35% discount on tickets, along with free theatre programmes.
Also at the Royal Festival Hall, the London Philharmonic Orchestra will be marking the 150th anniversary of Gustav Mahler’s birth (and the 100th anniversay of his death) until May with a sweeping survey of the great Austrian composer’s music, including symphonies, all the song cycles, his orchestral arrangements of music by other composers, and key works by his contemporaries including Zemlinsky, Bartók and Ligeti. The Festival Hall offers an extensive package of benefits and discounts to groups of 10 or more.
At the Barbican, the London Symphony Orchestra will be presenting a range of pieces from across the classical spectrum during the spring and summer, including works by composers such as Shostakovich, Elgar, Messiaen and Stravinsky. A 20% discount is available for groups of 10 or more, alongside free tea and coffee vouchers and the opportunity to hear a pre-concert talk given by an LSO player.
Meanwhile, London’s Wigmore Hall will be celebrating its 110th anniversary in 2011 with two special galas on 31st May and 1st June, the dates of its inaugural concerts in 1901. Artists appearing in the gala concerts will include the Takács Quartet, pianist Stephen Hough, virtuoso violinist Joshua Bell and cellist Steven Isserlis. Wigmore Hall offers discounts for groups of 12 or more.

The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.

The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.

The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, based at the city’s CBSO Centre, will commemorate the 70th anniversary of the birth of John Lennon with a ‘psychedelic orchestral’ tribute to the musical legend’s work on 4th March, including songs from both the Beatles and his years as a solo artist. Other themes featured in their ‘Friday Night Classics’ season include divas through the decades (28th January), the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber (1st April) and memorable film soundtracks (27th May), all at Birmingham’s Symphony Hall. Elsewhere on the itinerary, there’s plenty to interest fans of more heavyweight fare with performances of Stravinsky’s groundbreaking ‘Rite of Spring’ (21st April) and Shostakovich’s ‘Symphony Number 10’ (12th and 14th May) taking place at the same venue, among many others. Discounts are available for groups of 11 or more.
Based in Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall, the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra will be marking the final season of Chief Conductor Gianandrea Noseda with a selection of highlights of his time with the orchestra, culminating with a concert performance of Verdi’s ‘Otello’ on 16th April. The spotlight will be shared with a roster of visiting conductors such as Günther Herbig, Pablo Heras-Casado and Juanjo Mena. Discounts are available on some performances for groups of 10 or more.
Elsewhere in the north, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra will be presenting a varied programme from the city’s Philharmonic Hall throughout 2011, including a Spanish-themed night on 24th February featuring music from Rodrigo and Falla and a presentation of Mahler’s ‘Symphony No. 6’ and ‘Four Last Songs’ by Richard Strauss on 5th March, starring soprano Sally Matthews. GTOs can book via the dedicated groups line and discounts are offered on a sliding scale.