Monday, March 18, 2013

My Night at the Opera - a Very Animated Ballet

The Royal Opera House. Photo: Peter Suranyi
On Friday night I went to see Alice in Wonderland at the Royal Opera House in London. I haven't been to the ROH since I left England for Los Angeles in 1996 - and goodness me how it has changed.

Upgraded by a late 1990's makeover (a rare moment in modern British history when our usually-bankrupt economy could afford to lavish public cash on the arts), this formerly shabby temple of culture has been transformed into an unabashedly magnificent display of talent and artistic excellence.
And this is just the bar.
Baroque paintings and classical columns line the corridors and even the bar feels like a fin-de-siecle Parisian painting. Of course it's virtually impossible to get tickets - but after two hours of working the phones we managed to score some tickets to the ballet Alice in Wonderland, a modern production first performed here two years ago.

Alice was incredibly good. I know virtually nothing about classical music or ballet, and have never enjoyed either much before. But this was different. It was - dare I say it - animated. Good character animation is all about telling a story without words, using mime and pantomime to convey the emotions of the characters. And so it is with ballet - the dance tells the story. Of course it helps if you know the story of Alice before you go in - but who doesn't know the story?

Friday night was the last night of Tony Hall, who was the artistic director of the ROH for 12 years. So there were lots of tributes and speeches on stage after the show.

Congratulations to him and his extraordinary team.



  1. In my days as a CalArts student, I recall some of the old timers of Walt's era referring to ballet as a means of studying motion and pantomime.

  2. Totally! Art Babbitt used to talk about how an animator ought to study ballet. I remember thinking "how pretentious"! ---Alex