Thanks to Malibu’s #BestSummerEver campaign which I’m thrilled to be a part of, Jorge and I had tickets to see a double bill of Apollo and MidSummer Night’s Dream at the Royal Opera House on Saturday Night.
Neither of us had been to the Royal Opera House and it’s a long time since I’ve seen a ballet, so we had been looking forward to this tribute to the work of the celebrated Russo-American choreographer George Balanchine. Both shows were performed by the St. Petersburg-based Mariinsky Ballet, a company Balanchine performed with himself from the age of 11.
There are no words in ballet, only movement, elegance and grace accompanied by an orchestra. I’m no ballet critic by any means so I’ll leave that to the pros, but it was a beautiful evening and an immaculate display of talent.
The building itself is quite stunning with its grand classical portico looking out onto Bow Street near Covent Garden. There’s a little sculpture of a dancer across from it, but there were too many people sitting around it to take a photo.
The back has a rotating ballerina in a bubble at the moment, but I didn’t have a camera with a zoom lens with me so it was hard to get a photo.
The building was destroyed by fire a few times and not so long ago underwent some extensive renovation. We enjoyed a drink looking over the glass and iron Floral Hall that was originally meant to be a flower market and host the occasional ball. It’s full of light with incredible high ceilings and a great place for a spot of people watching.
Here’s a few photos looking out and down:
Now it’s an atrium with a champagne bar.
We had arrived early enough to enjoy a bite to eat on the balcony as well (though not lucky enough to snag a seat). The view from there overlooks Covent Garden and you can also see the top of the London Eye in the distance.
When it was time for the show to begin, we took our seats. Of course we weren’t allowed to take photos during the performance at all, but the inside of the theatre is as you would expect: lush, velvety and awe-inspiring.
We watched Apollo first, which was Balanchine’s first piece. It tells the story of the god of light, music and many other things. The dancers wore simple white costumes and used few props and scenery.
This was dramatically different from the second show which was much more lively and colourful with sparkling dresses and many more dancers. Midsummer Night’s Dream, Balanchine’s first original full-length ballet, began with a huge group of young dancers dressed as shimmering fairies with wings. My favourite part about it was the humour, and there was quite a bit of it!
I won’t go into Shakespeare’s full plot, but I found a YouTube clip if you’re interested in watching a bit of the story. It’s not the same one, nor the same venue, but it’s an idea of what it was like:
If you remember my #BestSummerEver post, my original plan for the Royal Opera House was to see Swan Lake, but it was sold out by the time we were able to book. These two made for a wonderful second choice though and I’m looking forward to working through the other four experiences on the list!