The personal approach is very important for me and my process. I have to find an idea that makes an already well known story different in some way
Choreographer Matthew Bourne’s love for Tchaikovsky is once again exalted in this year’s international hit Sleeping Beauty, a gothic revisiting of the all-time classic fairytale.
The ballet, which will be a key part of the line up at in this year’s 24th edition of the Ravenna Festival- a summer festival of opera and classical music (as well as dance, jazz, ethnic, electronic music, drama and film) – is a magical interpretation of the history of the last century through the eyes of Aurora, the story’s heroine. Christened during the decadent opulence of the end of the century, filled with fairies and vampires, Aurora grows up during the stiff and rigid Edwardian era and- after an endless sleep- wakes up surrounded by the wonders of a modern day world. The ballet has already broken all box office records in the UK and is now looking forward to further success in Ravenna!
You are a master in taking modern classics and reinventing them with a very personal twist. How do you approach this process?
Something that makes it uniquely mine and like no other version of that story. Swan Lake with male swans, Cinderella set during the London blitz in the Second World War, Sleeping Beauty as a gothic, time-travelling love story for example!
What is the show you most enjoyed making? Which do you think was the most successful?
I’ve never had a show that i have not enjoyed making! My most well known production is probably swan lake but our most successful tour ever is the current tour of Sleeping Beauty which has broken all box office records in the UK.
In 1995 Swan Lake won about 25 international awards but was very controversial. Do you think it would have created such scandal in 2013?
No, things have changed a lot in the last 18 years since it opened. We used to have people walking out when we first did it. The sight of two men dancing together was too much for some people. Some of the controversy has been exagerated though. It was very generously received mostly, right from the first performance.
Have you always lived in the UK? Where else do you like spending time?
I was born in London, where I still live. I tour a lot with the company all over Europe, the Usa, Japan and Russia, and i very much enjoy this. I have a seafront penthouse flat in Brighton, one of the UK’s top coastal holiday destinations, which I love. I’m a big fan of staring out to sea!
We know you are a big fan of Tchaikovsky. What else do you have on your playlists?
My favourite singer of all timeis Ella Fitzgerald, but i have a very electic mix of music on my i-pod. Classical, pop, jazz, musical theatre, film soundtracks. I’m not much of an opera fan, but i love lots of popular singers of earlier era’s…. Sinatra, Peggy Lee, Mildred Bailey, Nina Simone, Judy Garland and Fred Astaire to name just a few.
Do you have a style-idol?
Sleeping Beauty, your new ballet, is set in 1890 and travels through more than 100 years of history. Was this hard to represent?
Not hard, just a great challenge for our designer, Lez Brotherston. A lot of research was needed to represent three different periods in history and to come up with a contemporary “look” too. It was also fun to reflect the movement styles of these different era’s, and this has made the show very varied and different from one scene to another. It’s quite a spectacular journey that we take the audience on!
Have you ever worked in Ravenna before? What is it like? Are Italians a warm audience?
We have performed many times now at the Ravenna Festival and it is one of our favourite places to come as part of our tour. It is a lovely city to visit, and we particularly enjoy the late night drinking on the piazza and a day or two by the sea. The italian audiences are very warm and seem to enjoy being surprised by my company and what we might do next.
Who is your favorite fashion designer?
I was recently at Erdem’s show in London Fashion Week and that was very exciting. I also shop quite a lot at Paul Smith. I couldn’t do without Paul Smith slim-cut shirts – the clue is in the description. They are cut really well for a man of my age and are very flattering.
Do you have a lucky item you wear to the premières of your shows?
Black patent shiny shoes!
Founded in 1990 by Maria Cristina Mazzavilani, the wife of acclaimed conductor Riccardo Muti, the Ravenna Festival (which will be held May 23 to July 14, and again in Autumn from November 8 to 17) unites opera, classical music, ballet, jazz, drama and film in the city of Ravenna and its surrounding areas.
The beautiful Alighieri theater, Byzantine basilicas as well as magical cloisters have served as the ultimate backdrops to such names as Riccardo Muti, Yo-Yo Ma, Martha Argerich, Burt Bacharach e Matthew Bourne. In this 24th edition of the festival, art, theatre and music are celebrated all together with a special touch of Italian charm.