Welcome to the new decade and to another top-notch cultural year in London. As we swing into the roaring 20s here is my guide for what’s on in London in 2020 with some of the best theatre, opera, classical music, talks and art exhibitions this year.
London Theatre in 2020
It’s going to be a stellar year on stage, confirming London as the world’s top theatrical destination. Book ahead for these productions which are sure to sell-out fast:
- Timothy Chalamet and Eilleen Atkins in 4000 miles at the Old Vic Theatre.
- To Kill a Mockingbird at the Gielgud Theatre.
- I’m not a fan of Jamie Lloyd, but plenty will want to see Jessica Chastain in a Doll’s House at the Playhouse (sign-up to get priority on tickets).
- The world premiere of Message in a Bottle at Sadler’s Wells, the latest masterpiece by The Kate Prince Company and set to 17 of Sting’s iconic hits.
- If you’ve ever seen Imelda Staunton on stage, you know you’re in for a massive treat with Hello Dolly at the Adelphi.
- Death in Venice and The Glass Menagerie starring Isabelle Huppert, both at the Barbican and directed by Ivo van Howe.
- 101 Dalmatians at the Open Air Theatre, Regent’s Park.
- Jennifer Saunders stars in Blithe Spirit at Duke of York in the spring and then joins Whoopi Goldberg at the Hammersmith Apollo for Sister Act (come on, you know you want to!)
- Oedipus at the National Theatre, starring Mark Strong and Helen Mirren (dates to be announced soon).
- Lose yourself in a world of outrageous parties, scandals and gossip with Les Enfants Terribles who are exclusively taking over Kensington Palace for five weeks this Spring. United Queendom is the true story Queen Caroline and Lady Henrietta Howard, told within the palace’s magnificent State Apartments, once home to both women.
What I am most looking forward to: Sunday in the Park with George
I first saw Sunday in the Park in 2006, a production which stays with me to this day. Inspired by George Seurat’s painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, the story follows George (Seurat) and in the future, his great-grandson (also George), who is a contemporary artist. The Savoy Theatre’s rendition sees Jake Gyllenhaal and Annaleigh Ashford starring in Stephen Sondheim’s much-loved musical, and I simply cannot wait for this one.
You can book Sunday in the Park and more theatre tickets across London with Theatre Tickets Direct. As an affiliate, I can offer you a discount if you use the code adtr3 when you checkout. (Please note: I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you).
London Art and Exhibition in 2020
The immersive exhibition Filthy Lucre at the Victoria and Albert Museum will present a detailed reimagining of Whistler’s famed Peacock Room. Also at the V&A, a major exhibition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Curioser and Curioser is an immersive and mind-bending journey down the rabbit hole into Alice’s fantastical and extraordinary world.
Over at Southbank, you’ll be able to get up close to large recreations of Van Gogh’s works in Meet Vincent.
Step back into a dangerous world of plots, espionage and treachery to explore the turbulent relationship between Elizabeth and Mary, Queen of Scots in their own words at the British Library.
It’s one blockbuster after another at the National Gallery with Titian opening on the 16 March, Artmesia (Gentileschi) on the 4 April, Sin on the 15 April, and Raphael on 3 October.
Royal Museums Greenwich will host a major exhibition exploring royal portraiture, Tudors to Windsors, whilst the Queen’s House in Greenwich will open Woburn Treasures, a major collaboration which will see significant works from the private art collection of The Duke and Duchess of Bedford. More here.
An exhibition marking the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth opens at the Florence Nightingale Museum in March.
The Charles Dickens Museum is showing the author off in its Technicolor Dickens opening in May. Expect to see plenty of Dickens the dandy.
At the Wallace Collection, you can see Rubens and his Great Landscapes opening in May, and for pooch lovers, there’s an exhibition opening in October which traces the evolution of the representation of dogs in art. Woof!
The Royal Academy is staging an exhibition on its own Angelica Kauffman, a founding member of the Royal Academy and one of the most successful artists of the late 18th and early 19th century.
Tate Britain will be staging a show dedicated to 17th century art in British Baroque this February. Over at Tate Modern, there’s an Andy Warhol retrospective opening in March and Auguste Rodin coming in October.
Miuccia Prada takes over the Design Museum this September with Front and Back in what is sure to be a blockbuster exhibition.
British Surrealism at Dulwich Picture Gallery will position British Surrealism as a fundamental movement in the history of art, bringing together over 30 artists and 70 eclectic works from 1783 to 1952.
In October, the British Museum is getting up close to Thomas Becket who was assassinated in 1170. To mark the 850 years since the crime which would change the course of English history, the exhibition will present Becket’s journey from saint to traitor.
And finally, say hello again to the Geffrye Museum which is re-opening this summer after a two year-facelift and with a new name: the Museum of the Home. Make sure you pop in at Christmas to see their fantastic historical room displays.
What I am most looking forward to: Cecil Beaton’s Bright Young Things at the National Portrait Gallery
Cecil Beaton’s portraits from a golden age will be brought together for the first time in a major new exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. Featuring around 150 works, many of which are rarely exhibited, Cecil Beaton’s Bright Young Things will explore the extravagant world of the glamorous and stylish Bright Young Things of the twenties and thirties, seen through the eye of renowned British photographer Cecil Beaton. A fitting exhibition as we enter the new 20s, you might want to watch Stephen Fry’s Bright Young Things before you go.
London Talks and Festivals in 2020
Chelsea’s Cadogan Hall is celebrating Michael Palin on the 26 February with a limited number of greet and meet tickets.
Hillary Mantel discusses the eagerly-awaited third novel in her Thomas Cromwell trilogy, The Mirror and the Light on the 6 March at Southbank.
Meltdown Festival will be curated by the international icon of music, fashion, art and film, and inimitable singer, songwriter, producer and performer, Grace Jones from 12 to 21 June at Southbank Centre.
Es Devlin has been named Artistic Director for the 2020 London Design Biennale this September at Somerset House. Resonance is the theme, which over 50 countries and territories will respond to in their installations and presentations across the entirety of the site. You might remember Devlin’s sensational set design for The Lehman Trilogy, and you can also catch her over at Pitzhanger Manor and Gallery until 9 February.
London Opera and Classical Music in 2020
Max Raabe, who is known for his unique interpretations of songs from the 1920s and 30s, is at the Wigmore Hall on the 5 February and at the Cadogan Hall on the 4 March. Staying at the Cadogan on the 6 May is National Treasures: Shakespeare’s Works in Opera. Directed by Keith Warner and conducted by David Parry, the semi-staged concert will include performances of scenes from operas and musical theatre based on the incredible writings of the Bard.
It’s another musically-packed year at the Wigmore Hall with highlights which include counter-tenor Philippe Jaroussky on the 16 January, lestin Davies on 13 June and 25 July, Roderick Williams on 29 June, an Oxford Lieder Day on 18 July (with four Gustav Mahler tribute concerts), and celebrity cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason on 26 July.
Head over to the Royal Opera House for some family fun this February with Alice’s Adventures Under Ground, and don’t forget the delightful Recitals at Lunch which cost a mere £12. You won’t be able to bag a seat for the sold-out Fidelio starring the sizzling Jonas Kaufmann, but you can catch it in cinemas on 17 March. If you saw Nina Stemme in Tristan and Isolde, you’ll already be a big fan of the Swedish soprano. She’s heading back to the Royal Opera House for Strauss’s Elektra in May, and you can also catch it in cinemas across the country on the 18 June. Katie Mitchell is also back with her electrifying 2016 split-stage production of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor.
Enjoy Monteverdi’s Vespers (1610) in the glorious surroundings of Westminster Abbey on 19 May with the London Festival of Baroque Music.
The London Handel Festival is on again this March and April, with a new theme: Handel and the Hanoverians.
Opera Holland Park has an exciting line-up this summer with Eugene Onegin, Rigoletto, The Merry Window and the Pirates of Penzance (a great introduction for the kids).
OperaGass Works returns to Wilton’s Music Hall with Benjamin Britten’s Turn of the Screw in March.
Looking ahead to next Christmas is the English National Opera’s staging of A Christmas Carol but in the meantime, you could treat yourself to Afternoon Tea and chamber music from the ENO Orchestra in the Edwardian dining room.
What I am most looking forward to: Margot la Rouge and Le Villi
I saw Nadine Benjamin twice last year, most notably in the ENO’s Porgy and Bess, and I can’t wait to see her in Opera Holland Park’s production of Margot La Rouge. This one-act opera by English composer Frederic Delius is part of a double-bill which also includes Puccini’s Le Villi with French soprano Anne Sophie Duprels taking the lead in both operas.