The Winter’s Tale at the Royal Opera House Online
The Royal Opera House has launched #OurHousetoYourHouse, a programme that gives opera and ballet fans the chance to enjoy full-length performances online. A different show is streamed each week and is available to watch for a limited time only. Broadcasts are free to access but viewers can make a donation to help support the industry, which is suffering considerably from the enforced closures of all arts and entertainment venues.
This week’s premiere is the Royal Ballet’s rendition of The Winter’s Tale. Christopher Wheeldon’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s play was first performed at London’s Royal Opera House in 2014. Staging a ballet version of a work that is so reliant on the power of language is undoubtedly challenging. While this interpretation does lose something from a dramatic perspective when dialogues are removed, it does gain special charm through movement. Leading duo Edward Watson and Lauren Cuthbertson are especially captivating and graceful as Leontes and Hermione, and Zenaida Yanowsky also adds gravitas to the supporting role of Paulina.
The story of jealousy and paranoia sees King Leontes consumed by his suspicion that his pregnant wife Hermione may be romantically involved with his friend, King Polixenes. His anxiety quickly escalates to fury and he sends orders for the newborn baby to be abandoned. While the extreme distress proves fatal for Hermione, her baby daughter Perdita is rescued by a shepherd and grows up in the faraway land of Bohemia until destiny reconnects her with her past.
The choreography, costumes and sets make this a captivating production aesthetically. Though the leading performers are excellent at guiding the audience through the intense emotional journeys of the characters, the narrative inevitably loses a great deal as all nuances are lost and only the main structure survives. The second act is particularly weak in terms of plot development but it makes up for this with some beautiful ensemble sequences. The production’s main strength is the impressive work of its principal dancers, and overall, it passes the difficult test of honouring Shakespeare’s storytelling without using his words.
Photo: Johan Persson