18 December 2002
ROYAL OPERA HOUSE ANNOUNCES APPOINTMENT OF
AS DIRECTOR OF THE ROYAL BALLET
Sir Colin Southgate, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Royal Opera House, announced today the appointment of Monica Mason as the Director of The Royal Ballet with immediate effect. Since the departure of Ross Stretton, in September 2002, she has been Acting Director for the Company.
Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, Monica Mason came to England at the age of 14, training at the Nesta Brooking School of Ballet and the Royal Ballet School. She joined The Royal Ballet in 1958 when she was only 16, the youngest member of the Company at that time. After a brief period in the corps de ballet, she was selected by Kenneth MacMillan to create the demanding role of the Chosen Maiden in The Rite of Spring, which was premiered in 1962. One year later she was appointed Soloist. She became a Principal in 1968.
Her repertory included purely classical roles including Odette/Odile in Swan Lake, Princess Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty, the title role in
Giselle, the Prelude and Mazurka in Les Sylphides and the leading role in Raymonda Act III as well as dramatic parts such as the Hostess in Les Biches and the Black Queen in Checkmate. In 1974 and 1975 Kenneth MacMillan created four roles for her: Lescaut's Mistress in Manon, Calliope Rag in Elite Syncopations, Summer in The Four Seasons and the Midwife in Rituals.
A highly praised interpreter of the leading roles in MacMillan's Song of the Earth, Nijinska's Les Noces and Nureyev's `Kingdom of the Shades scene from La Bayadère, she was in the first performances by The Royal Ballet of Hans van Manen's Adagio Hammerklavier, Jerome Robbins' Dances at a Gathering and In the Night, Balanchine's Liebeslieder Walzer and Tudor's Dark Elegies. Other major roles have included the Lilac Fairy in The Sleeping Beauty, Empress Elisabeth and Mitzi Caspar in MacMillan's Mayerling; the title role in The Firebird; Variation I in Frederick Ashton's Birthday Offering, the Fairy Godmother and Winter Fairy in Cinderella and Lady Elgar in Enigma Variations; and the Queen of Denmark in Helpmann's Hamlet. In 1980 she created a leading role in David Bintley's Adieu, and, in 1981, Nursey in Kenneth MacMillan's Isadora. After she stopped dancing ballerina roles, she continued to appear regularly in mime roles such as Carabosse in The Sleeping Beauty and Lady Capulet in MacMillan's Romeo and Juliet and she recently created the role of Mrs Grose in William Tuckett's The Turn of the Screw.
In 1980 Monica Mason was appointed Répétiteur to Kenneth MacMillan followed in 1984 by her appointment as Principal Répétiteur to The Royal Ballet. In January 1991, after a four year period of assisting Anthony Dowell, she became Assistant Director.
In July 1996, under the auspices of Roehampton Institute London, she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University of Surrey. She was created an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2002 New Year Honours List.
Commenting on the appointment, Sir Colin Southgate said, "The Board is delighted that Monica Mason has agreed to take up the reins as Director of The Royal Ballet. She has already impressed us with the swiftness with which she restored calm to the Company and the changes that she has introduced to the repertory this season. I personally look forward to her exciting plans
for the future."
Tony Hall, Executive Director of the Royal Opera House, added, "I am delighted with Monica Mason's appointment as Director of The Royal Ballet. She has made an enormous contribution to the Company as a dancer, a coach and in particular through her work as custodian of the Kenneth MacMillan repertory. With such extensive knowledge and experience of the Company, she is perfectly placed to take The Royal Ballet through the next period of its history until the summer of 2007. I am thrilled to be working with Monica"
Monica Mason said, "I am deeply honoured to be appointed Director of this great Company. Over the last three months I have been overwhelmed by the support given to me by everybody at the Royal Opera House and the dance community at large. I am very excited at the prospect of leading the Company over the next four and a half years, during which we will celebrate the Company's 75th Birthday."
The press release is also on the ROH website