The best of dance, opera and classical music to book in 2022, from Raymonda to the Handmaid’s Tale
ith new ballets choreographed by Tamara Rojo and Christopher Wheeldon, an all-new opera adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale, long-awaited premieres of ‘lost’ works and music created under conditions unimaginable in labor camps, 2022s heralded as a thrilling year for opera, dance and classical music. Here are our top picks.
LSO / Rattle
A quintessentially alluring program led by Simon Rattle includes the delayed world premiere of the complete Exiles: Remembrances for Voices and Orchestra by one of Britain’s greatest composers, Julian Anderson, alongside the music of Mahler and his neglected friend but talented Hans Rott (a movement from his fascinating Mahler symphony), Webern and Dvorák (his seventh symphony, a favorite of Rattle). Anderson’s work, although inspired by artists endangered by Nazism, takes on additional resonance at a time when a large part of the population, including the creators, felt in some sort of exile.
Some of the most innovative programming in the UK music scene has taken place at Kings Place over the past few years in its ‘Unwrapped’ series. The 14th edition, ‘Voices Unwrapped’, celebrates a nation finding its voice with an assortment spanning Renaissance polyphony, jazz, close harmony and folk song to cutting edge electronics and to performance poetry. Launch Weekend features ever-popular baritone Roderick Williams in an installation by Sound Voice, the stunning ensemble VOCES8 and Gaelic singer Julie Fowlis with her band Allt.
Place Kings, January 13-15
A brand new production of a ballet rarely seen in its entirety in the UK by the English National Ballet. Tamara Rojo reinvents the classic nineteenth-century three-act tutu, transposing the action of the Crusader era to the battlefields of the Crimean War, where a love triangle plays out between the nurse à la Florence Nightingale Raymonda, the soldier John and Abdur, a leader of the Ottoman army. Although Rojo – one of the great dancers of her generation – does not appear in the production, it marks her debut in directing and choreography. A must have for lovers of classical ballet.
London Coliseum, January 18-23
Riot Ensemble: this lunar beauty
Riot Ensemble, under the direction of its artistic director, Aaron Holloway-Nahum, has carved out a niche for itself with meticulously curated performances of contemporary music that truly push the boundaries. This Lunar Beauty by Anna Clyne, which gives the program its name, is described as a melodic “creation in a sound space”. A “lost” piece by Rufus Isabel Elliot, Plowing Without Violence, is presented as a long-delayed world premiere. The evening also includes two works by longtime contemporary composers: a meditation on a Bach chorale by Sofia Gubaidulina and A L’ile de Gorée for chamber ensemble with solo harpsichord by Xenakis.
Total immersion: Music for the end of time
The latest episode of the BBC’s Total Immersion series features music from the ghettos and camps of Nazi-occupied Europe. Music written by Hans Krása, Pavel Haas and Viktor Ullmann in the Theresienstadt camp is performed by the BBC Singers and the BBC Symphony Orchestra in the afternoon, while the evening concert features Ullmann’s devastating satirical opera The Emperor of Atlantis, in which Death goes on strike, thwarting the Emperor’s plans to maintain his power through endless war. Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Times, also written in a labor camp, closes the day, finally reaching Heaven in its serene final violin solo.
Handel’s latest masterpiece Theodora, which tells a story of true love against a backdrop of religious persecution, contains some of his most heartbreaking music. Katie Mitchell’s new production for Covent Garden (for which theater it was written, albeit strictly a dramatic oratorio) promises to revisit the work from a dual perspective of modern feminism and contemporary religious terrorism . With superstars Joyce DiDonato and Jakub Józef Orliński among the cast, and Julia Bullock in the title role, this is one not to be missed.
Royal Opera, January 31
Mark Bruce Company: Ghosts
A welcome return to the stage for this small innovative company, led by one of the most interesting dance-theater creators in the country and staged in the most beautiful hall in London. Among the works on offer is Phantoms, a new play created by the team behind the popular Dracula and Macbeth troupe productions, which features “a carousel of dreamlike characters in a beautifully wild world falling into chaos” (so, just on the mark for Bruce then). The project is rounded off by Green Apples, an imposing duo choreographed to music by The White Stripes, and Folk Tales, a five-piece set created to folk songs by Martin Simpson (you guessed it).
Wilton’s Music Hall, February 24 to March 5
Elaine Mitchener can be described as an experimental singer and a movement artist, but she is essentially unclassifiable. The gasps, the stammers, the barks are all part of an astonishing oral palette deployed to express the plight of the oppressed and the slaves. To celebrate International Women’s Day, she presents WOMENS WORK, the title taken from the pioneering magazine Fluxus from the 1970s. The program features contemporary works by women and composers who identify with women.
Dance Reflections, Van Cleef & Arpels Festival
About fifteen thrilling dances, featuring the greatest contemporary choreographers, staged in places scattered around the capital, and supported by the jewelry house Van Cleef & Arpels, which has maintained links with the world of ballet for nearly ‘a century. (Bijoux de Balanchine, one of the great ballets of the 20th century, was inspired by the company’s glittering windows on Fifth Avenue in New York City.) Performed by Rambert (12-14, Tate Modern) and the influential Fase by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker (16-17, Royal Opera House).
Various locations, from March 9 to 23
This eight-person troupe may have been formed by Cassa Pancho in 2001 to provide well-deserved opportunities for black and Asian ballet dancers, but along the way, it has also built a reputation for attracting promising choreographers. and for its daring, creative programming. This latest double program is a good example of this, with acclaimed South African choreographer Gregory Maqoma creating a new piece for the entire company, featuring an original score by Michael ‘Mikey J’ Asante, co-artistic director of the hip-hop outfit. esteemed Boy Blue, alongside a work directed and choreographed by Pancho, which celebrates Ballet Black’s 20-year history and envisions its future.
Purcell Sessions’ cutting edge offering, recently initiated at the South Bank Center, continues with more pioneering programs featuring emerging multidisciplinary artists, electronic producers, an ‘ethereal-pop’ artist, projects involving transcription software. vocal, immersive staging and much more. Against this backdrop, the Arditti Quartet, which for half a century pushed the boundaries of contemporary music, looks almost outdated, but its April concert with British premieres of works by Betsy Jolas, Tansy Davies and Christian Mason, deserves to be seen.
Purcell Hall, South Bank Center, April 2
The Handmaid’s Tale
Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel about a contemporary society ruled by a ruthless fundamentalist theocracy that reduces women to the role of silent (towel) sex officials grabbed the nation in its TV adaptation. Danish composer Poul Ruders’ visceral opera, written long before Elisabeth Moss twisted our withers with her hardened Offred, returns to ENO in a new production by Annilese Miskimmon (her first since taking the artistic direction) and directed by Joana Carneiro. The cast includes Kate Lindsey as Offred, with Susan Bickley as mother, Emma Bell as Aunt Lydia, and Harewood artist John Findon as Luke.
English National Opera, Coliseum, April 4
Easter – Tenebrae & Christian Forshaw
A new dawn rises over St Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square in the New Year as the jewel of a James Gibbs church becomes a cultural hub hosting performances by premier artists and ensembles plan such as the Monteverdi Choir by John Eliot Gardiner and the English Baroque Soloists, Ex Cathedra, The Gesualdo Six, I Fagiolini, Tallis Scholars, BBC Singers, Chineke! The voices and the ENO choir. For this Easter concert, titled Drop, Slow Tears: A Meditation for Choir and Sax, Tenebrae presents sacred music from Hildegard of Bingen to Tallis and Gibbons, with thoughtful improvisation on Christian Forshaw’s saxophone.
St Martin-in-the-Fields, April 9
Like water for chocolate
He’s already faced the Shakespeare problem (The Winter’s Tale), a modern classic (Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland) and a whimsical fairy tale (Cinderella) – but Christopher Wheeldon’s latest three-act ballet for the Royal Ballet could be his project. the most ambitious to date. Co-commissioned with the American Ballet Theater, it’s based on Laura Esquivel’s magical realist novel, which weaves a passionate love affair with – here’s the challenge – lots of Mexican food. The production will be directed by conductor Alondra de la Parra, with a newly commissioned score by longtime Wheeldon collaborator Joby Talbot, and danced by a cast including Royal Ballet stars Francesca Hayward, Marcelino Sambé and Lauren Cuthbertson .
Royal Opera, from June 2 to 17
The man in the car
The Car Man by award-winning Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures is reimagined to fit the cavernous auditorium of Albert Hall as part of its 150th anniversary celebrations. Based on Bizet’s opera Carmen, with a twist of neo-noir thriller The Postman Always Rings Twice for good measure, it’s a story of love, lust and revenge set in a greasy garage restaurant in a small American town in the 1960s. Along with new creations from Tony Award-winning Olivier and Lez Brotherston, the show will also see Bourne’s choreography – as inventive and fresh as when the show first premiered there. is 20 years old – approached by an extended company of 65 dancers.
Royal Albert Hall, June 9 to 19