Exclusive first look behind the scenes of Katie Mitchell’s thrilling new production of Handel’s Theodora

Acclaimed director Katie Mitchell’s gripping new production of Handel’s Theodora opens at the Royal Opera House on Monday 31st January 2022.

Not heard in Covent Garden since its 1750 premiere, and sung in the original English libretto by Thomas Morell, Theodora is a tour de force for soloists and chorus alike, with ensembles, duets and arias of profound depth and beauty.  This new interpretation, conducted by Baroque specialist Harry Bicket, will re-frame the oratorio’s narrative, and is the first Royal Opera production to benefit from the expertise of an Intimacy Coordinator, Ita O’Brien, who joins the female-led creative team, taking on a vital role in the production process.  

Rehearsals for Theodora, Royal Opera House
January 2022 (photo: Camilla Greenwell)

O’Brien and Movement Director Sarita Piotrowski have been working with the cast, creative team, and technical crew to establish boundaries, ensure safe working practices, and honour Mitchell’s vision . Alongside Fight Directors Rachel Bown-Williams and Ruth Cooper-Brown of Rc-Annie Ltd, they have ensured that violent and intimate moments of the production are approached sensitively and delivered safely, guaranteeing that artists can perform comfortably to the best of their ability.

Going forward, The Royal Opera are committed to making intimacy direction a key and integrated part of the Company’s rehearsal process for future new productions. O’Brien is well known for her wide-ranging work in film, theatre and television, including It’s a Sin (2021), Normal People (2020), I May Destroy You (2020) and The Last Duel (2021).  She recently made waves in the world of live performance, consulting on the Almeida Theatre’s acclaimed production Spring Awakening and the National Theatre’s production of Manor, but Theodora marks her first move into opera production, helping the Royal Opera House take its first steps to fully integrating this role into new productions.

Julia Bullock (photo: Camilla Greenwell)

The opera’s stellar cast includes soprano Julia Bullock as Theodora – here re-united with Katie Mitchell after the director’s 2019 production of Zauberland, to perform what will be both Bullock’s first title role and her first Main Stage part at the Royal Opera House.  She will be joined by Grammy Award-winning mezzo soprano Joyce DiDonato, performing the role of Irene; Opus Klassik award-winning countertenor Jakub Józef Orliński, making his house debut as Didymus; tenor Ed Lyon as Septimius; baritone Gyula Orendt as Valens; and Jette Parker Young Artist Thando Mjandana as the Messenger.

The production will also be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on Saturday 26th February 2022. For more information, and to book tickets, visit Theodora (roh.org.uk).

ABOVE: Julia Bullock