Ignite set to transform Covent Garden into an enchanted forest

If you go down to the Royal Opera House, you're sure of a big surprise. Next weekend, Covent Garden will be transformed into a series of different forests as part of Ignite, the annual three-day contemporary arts festival. There's a shimmering Floating Forest, with real trees hanging from the beams, in the Paul Hamlyn Hall, while 200 discarded opera costumes from the ROH archives will create a surreal Faded Forest in the Conservatory, alongside mannequins and an Amazonian soundscape. The Linbury Studio will be transformed into a Reclaimed Forest of recycled telegraph poles and a reflecting pool by the opera designer Dick Bird. And in the entrance hall, the Anglo-French artist Alice Anderson has been commissioned to create a forest of tumbling auburn hair titled "Mother Web", which will remain in place for a year.

This year's festival takes its inspiration from forest themes found in the forthcoming season of fairytale operas, including Hansel and Gretel. The cultural historian Marina Warner will introduce Into The Woods, a series of fairytale-inspired films and animations, including Lotte Reiniger's silent 1922 masterpiece The Adventures of Prince Achmed, with live music by Mira Calix. And in Ghosts and Mirrors, in the subterranean Supper Rooms, actors from the Drama Centre will perform a series of eerie operatic vignettes.

Buried deep within the forests are performances from the Tashi Lhunpo Monks of Tibet, Jah Wobble and Talvin Singh, the London premiere of Alec Roth's Earthrise for 50 voices, as well as contemporary dance from Royal Ballet dancers and Phoenix Dance Theatre.

Joanna MacGregor, the curator of this year's festival, says: "It was important to me to take over all these spaces – some of them huge and public, some tiny and hidden – with the single unifying idea of a forest. In a forest you can get lost, stumble upon new ideas, marvel at the changing light, hear new stories. They're the perfect place to present old things in a new way and to have fun with contemporary music and ideas."

Royal Opera House, London WC2 (Roh.org.uk) 3 to 5 September