Damon Albarn's Monkey headed for Royal Opera House (2008)
Story by Jack Foley
MONKEY: Journey To The West, a pop opera by musician and artist Damon Albarn, is coming to London’s prestigious Royal Opera House in July.
Adapted and directed by Chen Shi-Zheng, and featuring music from Albarn, this spectacular opera has already played to sold out audiences at Manchester’s first International Festival last year (2007).
It forms part of a special summer season based around China in July and August, which will also include performances from the National Ballet of China and the Guangdong Acrobatic Troupe.
Tony Hall, chief executive of the Royal Opera House, explained in an interview with The Times newspaper: “In June, the Royal Ballet will be in Beijing performing at the new National Centre for the Performing Arts and we wanted to have a counterpoint for the Olympics happening at the Royal Opera House at the very end of the season.”
He thought that Monkey was “a fantastic piece” when it was put on at Manchester – and critics were inclined to agree. The Times itself described it as a piece of music theatre “of the most spectacular kind”, adding that it managed “an improbable combination of The Lion King, Cirque Du Soleil and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon“.
The story is based around a 16th Century Chinese fable and boasts aerial acrobats, contortionists and martial artists.
Incredibly, Mr Hall had to counter suggestions from some quarters that the staging of a pop opera represented a “dumbing down” of the Royal Opera House’s scheduling, noting that it drew praise from all sorts of people who saw it and predicting that it could well open the Royal Opera House up as a venue to people who wouldn’t usually visit.
There are seven performances scheduled as part of the season – and all are expected to sell out.
And Monkey‘s travels won’t stop in London, as following its Royal Opera House debut in Covent Garden it is set to tour nationwide. It has also previously visited Paris.