Black Sabbath ballet to be ‘next best thing’ for fans after Ozzy pauses tour

The artistic director of a newly announced ballet inspired by Black Sabbath has said the production will the “next best thing” for fans of the heavy metal band after Ozzy Osbourne recently stepped back from touring because of poor health.

Black Sabbath – The Ballet will merge the world of dance with classic songs by the Birmingham band alongside new and archive material from the group.

Commissioned for the Birmingham Royal Ballet, the 90-minute show will premiere at the Birmingham Hippodrome in September before showcasing in Plymouth and London.

Carlos Acosta, the director of Birmingham Royal Ballet who is behind the artistic vision of the project, told the PA news agency: “I always try to find a way for the company to give something that nobody else has.

“We already have Nutcracker, Swan Lake, all these story classics. But Black Sabbath is traditional Birmingham. It is a band that came out of nowhere and transcended and so many people are represented in those lyrics.

“And I think it would be amazing to transport that essence into a symphonic format.

“Ultimately, it is going to be a celebration of the band that came out of Birmingham and became one of the greatest bands of the world and gave birth to the heavy metal sound.”

He added that as former Black Sabbath singer Osbourne has paused touring “for now” after spinal surgery, it is even “more important that we engage the fans for probably the next best thing”.

Osbourne has given his blessing to the project while the band’s former guitarist, Tony Iommi, was “very interested” in the concept, according to Acosta.

Black Sabbath – The Ballet (Perou/PA)
Black Sabbath – The Ballet (Perou/PA)

“He saw that it was just a wonderful thing to explore that sound into a ballet, and his enthusiasm for this piece was contagious,” he said.

“And that gave me a lot of strength to carry on because, obviously, we needed the validation of the band for this.”

The production is hoping the band will be involved in some capacity with the show, including potentially having members record new interviews describing their time in the band.

Eight of the band’s classic tracks – including Paranoid, Iron Man, War Pigs and Sabbath Bloody Sabbath – have been re-orchestrated for the Royal Ballet Sinfonia, Birmingham Royal Ballet’s permanent orchestra.

New compositions inspired by the band will also be played live by the orchestra with guitars and drums to be integrated into the performance.

Black Sabbath formed in 1969 with lead singer Osbourne, guitarist Iommi, bassist Geezer Butler and drummer Bill Ward.

Black Sabbath (Ian West/PA)

Iommi said: “I’m looking forward to seeing how this all develops. Black Sabbath have always been innovators and never been predictable, and it doesn’t come any more unpredictable than this!

“I’d never imagined pairing Black Sabbath with ballet but it’s got a nice ring to it.

“I’ve met with Carlos several times and his enthusiasm is infectious. I performed alongside some of the dancers at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony and they had an incredible energy, so I’m happy to go along for the ride with them and see you on the other side.”

The new project brings together a host of international creatives including Swedish choreographer Pontus Lidberg, Cuban designer Alexandre Arrechea, Tony Award-winning composer Christopher Austin, additional choreographers Raul Reinoso and Cassi Abranches and composers Marko Nyberg and Sun Keting.

Black Sabbath – The Ballet is the second Birmingham-focused commission by Acosta. The first, City Of A Thousand Trades, explored the city’s industrial heritage and multicultural communities.

It will run at the Birmingham Hippodrome from September 23 to 30, with further dates in the autumn in Plymouth and London to be announced soon.