Birmingham Royal Ballet Stages Three Sir Peter Wright Classics

Birmingham Royal Ballet Stages Three Sir Peter Wright Classics


Posted 2022-10-18 by dpmfollow

Wed 26 Oct 2022 - Sat 25 Feb 2023

Birmingham Royal Ballet are celebrating the company's move to the city 32 years ago with a bumper season including three hit productions created by former director Sir Peter Wright. BRB will perform Sir Peter's Coppélia in October, will unveil a newly refurbished Nutcracker in November and will tour Swan Lake in spring 2023.

As director of Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet from 1977, Sir Peter spearheaded the company's move to Birmingham Hippodrome and its relaunch as Birmingham Royal Ballet in 1990. As part of the anniversary, Sir Peter, who retired as director in 1995 but continued to support the company in the role of director laureate, has been given the new title of founding director laureate in honour of the huge contribution he made to the development of BRB.

Now 95, Sir Peter is looking forward to seeing three of his works back on stage and helping the company mark more than 30 years since its move. But he admits to having had some initial doubts over the decision to relocate. "My first reaction, when the company heard about the move, I wasn't at all keen. I thought 'how dare these people come to take us away from Sadler's Wells?' We used to go to Birmingham a lot on tours but to move there? I was not at all sure."

But Sir Peter was convinced by the support in Birmingham. "Once I had been and talked to people at the Hippodrome, then I saw the advantages of having this big theatre and a home of our own. I knew this would be the answer to so many of our problems and from then on I believed in it. We didn't have our own city, there were lots of dance companies in London, and in Birmingham we would become Birmingham Royal Ballet. And we did feel very welcome. Birmingham is a friendly place, I still love going there. Once we were geared into it, we all got very excited about it, especially as we would have three large, purpose-built studios made for us."

As a thank you to the city, Sir Peter created a new production of Tchaikovsky's festive ballet The Nutcracker which was premiered at Birmingham Hippodrome at Christmas in 1990. The show was a phenomenal success and has gone on to become one of the most popular BRB works, having been performed more than 500 times to audiences topping a million people.

Staging a new production did though have its challenges. "There are people who say the BRB Nutcracker is the best Nutcracker – and I certainly think it is. But I didn't think at the time it was going to be," Sir Peter says. "Although I was on a high because the move had gone so well, it's different when you are in the rehearsal room and you're concentrating on the steps and if the magic will work."

And he recalls: "There were a lot of things that were touch and go but it was only when we had the lighting rehearsals that I sort of began to think it might all really work. Then there was a terrible snowstorm. A lot of the dancers couldn't get to the theatre and the children couldn't come either, so a lot of time was lost. We had to have an all-nighter to catch up a bit. It was probably quite a good thing in the end because everyone was on their toes to make it perfect. It must have worked as it's lasted all this time."

After 30 years of being staged nearly every Christmas, The Nutcracker was showing the signs of its age and has undergone a major £1 million refurbishment led by the original designer John Macfarlane. And thanks to the extraordinary support of hundreds of individuals, numerous trusts and foundations and BRB investment, The Nutcracker can entertain audiences for the next 30 years.

The new BRB season opens with Sir Peter's Coppélia, which he created in 1995 for the company. "When you're on stage, you're an actor as much as a dancer and I'd have loved to play Dr Coppélius," he says. "It's a remarkable role which needs strong characterisation – he's such an old doddery thing but he can be played in different ways. Frederick Ashton was old and sinister while John Auld was humorous. I think a dancer should do it the way they feel, you have to give them leeway to develop a character, but personally I do think the character is comical rather than sinister."

And in the New Year BRB present Sir Peter's Swan Lake, which he created with former prima ballerina Galina Samsova for Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet in 1981. "I don't have a favourite ballet but I always wanted to be in Swan Lake," he says. "I love the music, Tchaikovsky is absolutely fantastic, and it's so dramatic. It's such a strong story and it can be told in so many different ways. People really respond to Swan Lake."

Parental opposition to his training to be a dancer led to Sir Peter running away from boarding school at the age of 15. He gained a job as an apprentice with the Ballet Jooss and other dance companies and West End musicals. Then he became a TV director with the BBC before taking over Sadler's Wells Theatre Ballet which he then led to Birmingham in 1990 now famously known as Birmingham Royal Ballet. At the same time, with the help of Denis Bonner and Benesh Dance Notation, he produced many of his productions worldwide, the latest being Swan Lake in Tokyo earlier this year.

Sir Peter retired after contracting the neuromuscular disease myasthenia gravis but he has always remained heavily involved whenever the company is performing any of his works. "I've had such a varied, such a marvellous career. I've done so many different things with all the touring I've done and all the work I've put in as a television director, and the musicals I did and the different companies I worked with, but everything finally came together in Birmingham.

And he adds: "I feel I have made quite a contribution through Birmingham Royal Ballet to the world of dance. Birmingham certainly made us feel wanted and I hope, I feel, that Birmingham still feels that way."

Coppélia comes to Birmingham Hippodrome 26-26 October, The Nutcracker is staged 19 November to 10 December and Swan Lake 15-25 February. Tickets for all shows can be booked online at

!date 26/10/2022 -- 25/02/2023
70781 - 2023-01-26 01:49:20


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