Friday, 17 April 2009


After the compulsory visit to a National Trust property over the Easter weekend, I was struck by the importance of standards. So I was going to write a few paragraphs about how National Trust properties seem to maintain the same standards wherever you go – the stately home may be different, but the soup and the queue is always the same. Perhaps a little unfair as it was the only sunny day over the long weekend and the standards at National Trust properties are consistently good: including the soup.

But a visit to the Royal Opera House to see Tamara Rojo dancing Giselle put pay to any discussion about Dyrham Park. You can’t compare soup to arabesque, so I shan't even try.

Giselle is the ultimate romantic ballet: young girl dies of a broken heart after being cruelly misled by a young man who should have known better. The first act is falling in love, realising the truth about a cruel deception and inevitable heartbreak. Tamara Rojo was wonderful both in her exuberance at her first love and then her insane despair at losing it. It is the second act, however, which is so hauntingly beautiful. The corps de ballet were dramatic and determined in dancing the young male lovers to death. The mists and forest effects were convincing once you allowed yourself to be transported to a world where young jilted girls are destined to be spirits forever more. The bridal white of the Wilis was pure ballet: magical.

As a ballet fan I was enraptured. As a business analyst I am always fascinated by the mechanics of the Royal Opera House. There wasn’t a seat to be had for the performance (I know because I checked) and it’s the same every time – consistently dazzling productions, and a consistently full house. Of course, like a swan gliding on the surface of swan lake, but paddling like crazy underneath, the Opera House has not always had a reputation for good management.

I do, however, get the impression that things have changed. Stronger financial controls, better marketing (book a glass of champagne with your ticket) I am sure have made a difference. Let’s not forget of course that they have a world-class product on offer, which never fails to delight their audience. Behind the success is a great deal of hard work and exacting standards both on and off stage.

Little alters my view that the Royal Opera House is a fascinating case study in excellence. I just need a few more visits to be sure ….

1 comment:

  1. Great blog!! And you are so right about the Royal Ballet - because they are an example of total excellence, from the prima ballerina right down to the corps de ballet and the background incidental people in crowd scenes and the such. And you just have to do a backstage tour at the Opera House (I'll come with you!).