I saw the premiere of Wheeldon's The Winter's Tale Thursday night. So much to discuss - I hope others see it. For now, just some highlights.
This is an extremely ambitious production. The sets include all sorts of high-tech projections, silk drops and lighting effects to create a sense of boats at sea in a few places. I noticed a lighting tech and panel on the balcony-right level that wasn't there for Sleeping Beauty. I was reminded of the high-tech lighting and simulations used at the opening ceremony for the Sochi Olympics, although I don't know if that was the same technology used in the Opera House.
The physical scenery is strangely simple, almost minimalist. Some very tall pillars, several classical statues on large bases, some flights of stairs, and ramps onto boats, e.g., were moved into different locations for different scenes to accomplish set changes. In several scenes, a large square painting would be lowered to center back - a very abstract way of adding a set, but the actual paintings reminded me of Thomas Kinkaide. Throughout, they seemed to want to avoid anything traditional or standard in the way of set design.
I'm not familiar with the play, but the synopsis in the print cast list was sufficient to grasp the complicated story. For such an ambitious undertaking, a big question for me (after absorbing the physical details of the production) is whether I'd want to see it again for the choreography and performance. For this one, I'd say, yes. There are several extraordinary PdD for different couples in several acts worth seeing again -- original, complex, and interesting, apparently challenging to the dancers. I also loved the festival dances for the ensemble in Act II.
The commissioned score by Joby Talbot was fine -- contemporary but not post-modern, it sometimes felt like a movie score, but it was appropriate for the movement.
I only get to see this one more time, Saturday night, with the same cast. Now that I know what to expect, it's easier to grasp the structure and better understand some repetitive movement details. E.g., why do the lead women keep bending their feet at the ankles? It seems gimmicky in isolation, but perhaps that's some kind of theme or linkage between the mother and daughter. I don't know, but want to watch for that.
It's now pretty clear why the open rehearsal for Thursday afternoon was cancelled. It's not just the very complicated sets and effects. That rehearsal was for the second cast, which was originally to perform Saturday night but has now been postponed to next week. No hint in the announcement as to why -- injury? struggles mastering the work? I have no idea.
The audience was very enthusiastic and Wheeldon seemed to be on Cloud Nine during the bows. I have not yet seen any published reviews, but ROH invited comments on Twitter and they are (predictably) enthusiastic.