The saucy one
The Royal Opera: Don Giovanni (8 and 13 October 2019)
It’s famous because: It’s Mozart’s finest opera, say people who know
You’ll love it because: Licentious lord Giovanni is a very bad man, but The Champagne Aria, ‘La Ci Darem’ La Mano’ and The Catalogue Aria are full of light, sparkling songs to balance out the moralising. (Mozart called it an opera buffa - ‘daft opera’.)
Life lesson: Don’t invite angry statues to dinner
Get The Royal Opera: Don Giovanni tickets and times.
Watch Mariusz Kwiecień perform the famous Champagne Aria in a 2014 ROH production:
The funny one
The Royal Opera: Don Pasquale (24 and 27 October 2019)
It’s famous because: Donizetti’s last big hit before he went to the asylum is one of the funniest ever, with a plot like an episode of Frasier and arias that flutter like bunting
You’ll love it because: Powerhouse Welsh bass-baritone Bryn Terfel was born to play the Don (which is a bit unfair, since he has the unhappiest marriage ever on stage)
Life lesson: If your doctor’s prescription is, ‘Marry my sister,’ get another doctor
The intriguing one
The Royal Ballet: Concerto/Enigma Variations/Raymonda Act III (5 November 2019)
It’s intriguing because: This is the Royal Ballet’s history in a nutshell. Elgar’s Enigma Variations is the quintessential British score, with very British choreography by the great Frederick Ashton. The scene from Raymonda was choreographed by Rudolf Nureyev, whose defection from Russia to the Royal Opera is the stuff of legend. And Kenneth MacMillan’s Concerto shows how ballet was brought up to date.
You’ll love it because: It’s a three-hour ‘best bits’ of 20th century dance
Life lesson: Good things come in threes
Get The Royal Ballet: Concerto/Enigma Variations/Raymonda Act III tickets and times.
Watch Marianela Nuñez and Vadim Muntagirov perform a section of Frederick Ashton's Symphonic Variations in this 2015 ROH video:
The Christmas one
The Royal Ballet: Coppélia (10 and 15 December 2019)
It’s famous because: While The Nutcracker gets more press, this story of a boy in love with a life-sized clockwork doll has one of the best plots in ballet. It’s family-friendly, but with a gothic edge. It’s a bit like Edward Scissorhands or Blade Runner in ballet-form.
You’ll love it because: It’s the offbeat Christmas treat you didn’t know you were looking for
Life lesson: Loving dolls is no way to go through life, son
Get The Royal Ballet: Coppélia tickets and times.
Watch a clip from this 2000 ROH production:
The classic one
The Royal Ballet: The Sleeping Beauty (16 and 19 January 2020)
It’s famous because: With choreography by Frederick Ashton, set design by Oliver Messel and glittering costumes, this production put the Royal Opera House on the map in 1946, then went into storage and was brought back to life in 2006. Just like - well, Sleeping Beauty.
You’ll love it because: This is one of those where you already know the plot and all the tunes (see below.)
Life lesson: Don’t accept spindles from bad fairies
Get The Royal Ballet: The Sleeping Beauty tickets and times.
Watch the trailer for this 2013 ROH production:
The romantic one
The Royal Opera: La Bohème (29 January and 2 February 2020)
It’s famous because: Well, it’s one of the most famous operas ever, a tale of doomed love between poverty-stricken creatives with arias that pull your heart out (see below.)
You’ll love it because: You love Paris, poets and pathos
Life lesson: If you’re in an opera and your girlfriend starts coughing, panic
Get The Royal Opera: La Bohème tickets and times.
Watch Nicole Car and Michael Fabiano sing O soave fanciulla in a 2017 ROH production:
The brand new one
The Royal Ballet: Marston & Scarlett (25 February and 1 March 2020)
It’s famous because: This is too new to be famous. It’s two world premieres from the Royal Ballet’s Artist In Residence Liam Scarlett and Cathy Marston - a former Royal Ballet choreographer, now Director of Bern Ballet.
You’ll love it because: It’s a first look at what could be modern classics. Marston’s ballet is based on the life of Jaqcueline Du Pré, the great English cellist brought down by MS.
Life lesson: Ballet is a 21st-century artform
The political one
The Royal Opera: Fidelio (17 and 22 March 2020)
It’s famous because: Beethoven’s only opera is the Les Mis of its day, a tale of love amid revolutionary terror where prison guard Fidelio is actually a woman in disguise searching for her locked-up husband. This is a new staging, conducted by the Royal Opera’s big cheese Antonio Pappano.
You’ll love it because: Noble and heroic, it’s the opera version of a Springsteen song
Life lesson: Populist tyrants never prosper
The legendary one
The Royal Ballet: Swan Lake (1 and 5 April 2020)
It’s famous because: Is there a more famous ballet than Swan Lake? This telling of the love between prince and swan (actually a cursed princess) is by 33 year-old choreographer Liam Scarlett, bringing it up to date while losing none of the romance.
You’ll love it because: You know every tune and some of the dances too - like the 32 fouettés (spins) in the ballroom scene, the most notorious step in all ballet.
Life lesson: The girl with the killer dance moves is not your friend
The Royal Ballet: Swan Lake is out April 2020 - find out more here.
Watch The Royal Ballet rehearse Liam Scarlett’s new Swan Lake:
The Italian one
The Royal Opera: Cavalleria Rusticana / Pagliacci (21 and 26 April 2020)
It’s famous because: They weren’t designed to go together, but Mascagni and Leoncavallo’s realistic operas paint such a vivid picture of South Italian village life that ‘Cav and Pag’ has been an opera house fixture for over a century.
You’ll love it because: SO many famous songs, from Pagliacci’s Vesti La Giubba to Cavalleria’s Easter Hymn (watch below.)
Life lesson: Adulterous clowns and knives do not mix
The Royal Opera: Cavalleria Rusticana / Pagliacci is out April 2020 - find out more here.
Watch The Royal Opera sing the Easter Hymn in this 2017 video:
The infernal one
The Royal Ballet: The Dante Project (28 and 31 May 2020)
It’s famous because: Too new to be famous, this world premiere will see the Royal Ballet’s trailblazing modern choreographer Wayne McGregor bring Dante’s Divine Comedy to life in ways the 13th-century writer never dreamed of
You’ll love it because: Who doesn’t love the nine circles of hell?
Life lesson: We’ll have to wait and see
The Royal Ballet: The Dante Project is out in May 2020 - find out more here.
The bloody one
The Royal Opera: Elektra (18 and 21 June 2020)
It’s famous because: This Greek tragedy scored by Richard Strauss is shockingly dramatic, both in the action and the music. Notorious when new in the 1900s, it still packs a punch today, especially with world’s-best soprano Nina Stemme in the title role.
You’ll love it because: It’s the Game of Thrones of German opera, with a royal family torn apart by infidelity and everyone killing everyone else.
Life lesson: Do not make an ancient Greek woman angry
The Royal Opera: Elektra is out in June 2020 - find out more here.
Watch conductor and musician Andris Nelsons talk about Strauss's Elektra in this 2013 ROH video:
The family one
The Royal Ballet: The Nutcracker (17 December 2019)
It’s famous because: The whole world loves the Christmas story about the little girl and the enchanted toy, and the Royal Ballet’s production is the best there is. This one was recorded in 2016 with the best-ever cast of Francesca Hayward, Alexander Campbell, Lauren Cuthbertson and Federico Bonelli.
You’ll love it because: It makes you tingle all over with Christmassy vibes, from the joyful overture to the Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy.
Life lesson: Bet on the little girl to save the day every time
Get The Royal Ballet: The Nutcracker tickets and times.
Watch the trailer for the Royal Ballet’s classic production: