The madcap world of Gerald Barry’s Alice’s Adventures Under Ground is staged for the first time at the Royal Opera House
Fun, furious, frantic and utterly fantastic! The surreal world of Lewis Carroll’s Alice, both in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, is given an extra twist in Gerald Barry’s operatic treatment. Barry’s characteristic high-speed energy and riotous sense of humour propel the action forward as Alice plunges down the rabbit hole into the depths of Wonderland. At less than an hour for the whole opera, this short, sharp shot of mayhem is ideal as a family treat. Antony McDonald (the director/designer of 2018/19’s Hansel and Gretel) directs and designs this new production – the first ever staging of this musically virtuoso opera – with more than a touch of the Victorian toy theatre. Meet a kaleidoscopic cast of colourful characters in this joyful, headlong rush into a world gone deliciously mad.
As well as Alice, all the familiar characters are present, including the White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter and The Red Queen, as well as singing bottles and cakes, the Duchess and her noisy baby, the Cheshire Cat, the Dormouse, the Knave of Hearts who stole the tarts, Humpty Dumpty and the White Knight. Audiences can enjoy a cookery session on the making of tarts, a performance on the Red Queen’s piano, croquet masterclasses delivered in German, French and English, the song Beautiful Soup, the poem Jabberwocky recited in Russian, a chess-board landscape, Alice running at high speed with the Red Queen, a train trip, a walk through the Wood of No Names, the fight between the Red and White Knights, and discussions of addition, subtraction and division among other treats.
All roles are double cast, with the opera performed twice on each performance date. Leading the cast in the role of Alice are two young sopranos, Dublin-born Claudia Boyle, who made her Royal Opera debut as Cecily in Barry’s The Importance of Being Earnest at the Barbican Centre in 2016, and British soprano Jennifer France, who made her Royal Opera debut singing several roles in George Benjamin’s Lessons in Love and Violence in 2018. Mezzo-sopranos Allison Cook and Clare Presland sing roles including the tempestuous Queen of Hearts, while mezzo-soprano Carole Wilson and contralto Hilary Summers perform roles including the Duchess. Tenors Nicky Spence and Sam Furness share the roles of the White King and Mad Hatter (among others), and tenors Robert Murray and Peter Tantsis (in his Royal Opera debut) sing March Hare and Tweedledee. Baritone Mark Stone and bass-baritone Stephen Richardson take on the roles of the White Knight, Cheshire Cat and Mock Turtle, and basses Alan Ewing and Joshua Bloom (making his Royal Opera debut) perform roles including Red Knight and Humpty Dumpty. Thomas Adès and Finnegan Downie Dear share the conducting honours.
Alice’s Adventures Under Ground opens on 4 February 2020, with subsequent performances on 6 February 2020 at 7pm and 9.15pm, Saturday 8 February 2020 at 11.30am and 1.45am and Sunday 9 February 2020 at 12noon and 2.15pm