05/2018 Dreamworlds and Tough Lessons

Hello again! I'm quickly bashing this one out as I know that later I'll also be working out how to get a form out to you so that we comply with the new GDPR rules...

I just wanted to update you with what we've been up to since October last year and throw a couple of pictures into the mix as well. It feels like it's been non-stop, which is wonderful, but also creates its own set of problems - but at the same time it really makes you appreciate the moments of relative tranquility!

After Moscow I went to Warsaw to direct, with Gilles Rico, the revival of Debussy's 'Pelleas et Melisande' at the Wielki theatre. The Wielki is one of the worlds biggest opera stages - it is truly enormous - when they were rebuilding Warsaw after the war, they took advantage of the destruction to vastly expand the footprint of the opera house.

Pelleas et Melisande

It was lovely to revisit the opera; we had a new cast, which made the whole process and the piece itself feel new again. It was also lovely for me to revisit the city that my parents had lived in for 4 years in the 1980s. I hadn't been back since then. It was completely transformed - almost unrecognisable - when I left in 1989, it was still under the yoke of communism and now it is a capitalist paradise... It's also being led by a government that is increasingly autocratic which, in its own way, is just as extreme as the government was in the 80s. BUT - it was lovely to be there and to rediscover the city, to see old friends and make new ones. It was also very cold! But it wouldn't have been true to my memories of the city, such as they were, if the place hadn't at some point been covered with snow!

Warsaw under the snow

It was also lovely that my parents were able to come out for the opening of the opera - the last time we'd been there all together I was 16 years old, and now they were able to see work that I'd helped make on the biggest opera stage in Europe. My father had been Director of the British Council when he lived in Warsaw, and he knew the current Director of the Wielki, Waldemar Dąbrowski, very well - it was lovely to have them there and to take them backstage in this crazy building.

Richard Alford backstage at the Wielki

I also saw some of the most inspiring theatre that I've seen in a long time at the excellent Powszechny theatre - really vital, engaging and important - if you're passing by, do try and see something there.

Carolina and the kids were also able to come out and spend Christmas there with me, which was the icing on the cake!

After Warsaw there were various trips to give workshops in Paris and in Aix en Provence whilst Carolina worked on a brand new immersive virtual reality project called 'Somnai' - it's always challenging to work with new technology and I'll let her describe her experience elsewhere - I haven't had a go at it yet, but here's some info on what is a very intriguing project...


Whilst Carolina was working in a virtual world, I had the joy of being the UK for a little while - I was helping out on Dennis Kelly's new play 'Girls and Boys' at the Royal Court with Carey Mulligan. Lindsey Turner was directing this devastating piece that is now off to Broadway for a limited run in July - very exciting!

Girls and Boys

After that I worked on George Benjamin's new opera at the Royal Opera House, 'Lessons in Love and Violence' - it was great to work on a brand new opera; a very different experience to working on one of the 'classics'. A wonderful cast, amazing music and a brilliant team made it a very pleasurable process.  The press has been great and after London the piece has a long life at various other opera houses around the world. 

Lessons in Love and Violence

Next week I'm off to Aix en Provence to work on yet another opera - this time Strauss' 'Ariadne auf Naxos'.  It's always very lovely to work on a project in the south of France :)

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