THE UK PREMIERE OF UNSUK CHIN’S ALICE IN WONDERLAND AT THE BARBICAN MARKS THE 150TH ANNIVERSARY OF LEWIS CARROLL’S NOVELS
Sunday 8 March 2015/ 19:30, Barbican Hall/ Tickets £10 – 30
In the 150th anniversary year of the publication of Lewis Carroll’s timeless novels, the Barbican and the BBC Symphony Orchestra present the UK premiere of Unsuk Chin’s first opera Alice in Wonderland in a new multimedia production by British director, designer and filmmaker Netia Jones.
In a modern take on the Victorian classic, Netia Jones creates a dynamic visual world including live projections and animated characters inhabiting the scene alongside the performers. The staging provides a visual counterpart for Chin’s score, mixing dark and riotous drawings by British gonzo-artist Ralph Steadman with bright and colourful elements inspired by sources as eclectic as the score itself. Jones’ fully-choreographed production also features a black and white chessboard floor and the whole orchestra on stage, becoming part of the set. The staging is a collaborative venture with theLos Angeles Philharmonic, receiving its world premiere at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in February 2015 . Alice in Wonderland marks Jones’ return to the Barbican after her critically-acclaimed productions of Knussen’s double-billWhere the Wild Things Are and Higglety Pigglety Pop! (2012) and Britten’s Curlew River (2013).
An adaptation of Carroll’s much-loved Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and the sequel Through the Looking-Glass,Unsuk Chin’s work was premiered at the Bavarian State Opera as part of the 2007 Munich Opera Festival and has since received stage productions in Geneva, Bielefeld and Saint Louis. The composer also penned the libretto, co-writing it with Asian-American playwright David Henry Hwang, best-known for his critically acclaimed Puccini-inspired Broadway play M. Butterfly.
Baldur Brönnimann will conduct a cast of international stars of the operatic world, including American coloratura soprano Rachele Gilmore in the title role, American mezzo soprano Jane Henschel as the Queen of Hearts, German baritone Dietrich Henschel as the Mad Hatter, and British countertenor Andrew Watts singing the roles of White Rabbit, Badger and March Hare.
Composer Unsuk Chin said: “I am looking forward with excitement to the UK premiere of my opera Alice in Wonderland. It will be a very special moment in my career – after all, the story is such a vital part of British culture! The Barbican production will be the UK premiere for Netia Jones’ multimedia staging. It will be great to have this extra dimension, since Alice in Wonderland is all about alternative realities and imaginary worlds full of mirages and mazes. Nothing is quite as it seems; everyday reality and physical laws are transcended by means of absurdities, paradoxes and dream-like leaps of logic. What could be more natural, then, than to juxtapose live performance with multimedia and interactive elements?”
Director Netia Jones said: “In Alice In Wonderland Unsuk Chin and David Henry Hwang have created an exhilaratingly brilliant opera which is at once wildly original and completely authentic. Their take on this beloved story is a riot of ideas and imagination – clever, dark, hilarious and profound, which meets its match perfectly in the sharp genius of Ralph Steadman’s illustrations. Here crazed anarchy and mathematical precision co-exist in a madcap landscape with its own glorious internal logic. In this production live performance and projection are intertwined, an explosion of colour, character and animation, with the orchestra and the musical pyrotechnics that create Unsuk Chin’s breathtaking sound world a central character in the staging.”