MUSIC, THEATRE, DANCE & VISUAL ARTS NEWS

Two leading arts organisations in Leeds have collaborated with Opera North for the Company’s latestseason which features a bewitching coming-of-age adventure, a tempestuous tragedy, and a double billof iconic ballet and wickedly funny opera.

Content by Elizabeth Simmonds Opera North

Two leading arts organisations in Leeds have collaborated with Opera North for the Company’s latest season which features a bewitching coming-of-age adventure, a tempestuous tragedy, and a double bill of iconic ballet and wickedly funny opera.

Opening the season is a new production of The Magic Flute, Mozart’s epic tale about Prince Tamino’s quest to rescue Pamina, the daughter of the Queen of the Night, held captive by the Priest of the Sun. Directing opera for the first time will be James Brining, Artistic Director at the Leeds Playhouse, who joins forces with set and costume designer Colin Richmond, recreating the partnership that was responsible for the critically-acclaimed West Yorkshire Playhouse/Opera North co-production of Sondheim’s Into the Woods in 2016.

The international cast includes South African soprano, Vuvu Mpofu, who makes her UK debut as Pamina and, as Tamino, Chinese-Australian tenor Kang Wang, who reached last year’s finals of the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World. Samantha Hay takes on the role of Queen of the Night, with Gavan Ring (Figaro, The Barber of Seville, 2015) appearing as Papageno the bird-catcher. Robert Howarth conducts.

A specially-devised, shortened version of The Magic Flute has also been created for schools, providing young people from 7 years old with the chance to enjoy their first experience of opera. Sung in English, it will be performed at a special schools’ matinee in Leeds and at each of the touring venues. For even younger family members, The Mini Magic Flute, an interactive 30-minute retelling of Mozart’s story, will be performed by a trio of opera singers and an accordionist in venues across the North of England.

A very different production follows with Katya Kabanova, Janáček’s wildly beautiful tale of temptation, passion and guilt in a small-minded community. With a weak-willed husband and overbearing mother-in-law, Katya does her best to conform to society’s expectations but, when her husband goes away on business, temptation proves impossible to resist. As Katya’s world unravels and the insidious effects of guilt take hold, Janáček’s music beautifully captures the tension and barely suppressed eroticism.

Sian Edwards, one of the country’s most distinguished conductors, makes her Opera North debut with a cast including, as Katya, Stephanie Corley, who last appeared as Lilli Vanessi/Katherine in Kiss Me, Kate (2018), Harold Meers as her lover Boris, Heather Shipp as the formidable mother-in-law Kabanicha, and Andrew Kennedy as the spineless Tichon.

Completing the season is a dance/opera double bill created in association with Phoenix Dance Theatre in the first ever collaboration between the two Leeds-based companies. The newly choreographed version of Stravinsky’s ground-breaking The Rite of Spring will be performed by Phoenix’s ensemble with the full Orchestra of Opera North playing the unmistakable modernist score. The piece shocked audiences when it was first performed in 1913 and is set to do so again as it is reimagined by internationally-acclaimed Haitian choreographer Jeanguy Saintus in his UK debut, with a focus on the crushing power of nature, the relentless growth of capitalism and technology, and the inevitable fate of the sacrificial victim.

Enabling audiences to experience two art-forms in one evening, The Rite of Spring is paired with Puccini’s short – and only – operatic comedy Gianni Schicchi. Scheming relatives gather round the deathbed of a rich man, each laying claim to a chunk of his fortune, before they make the questionable decision to call in local conman Gianni Schicchi for help. Based on an episode in Dante’s Inferno, Puccini’s mini masterpiece is rich with vivid characterisation and colourful music. Richard Burkhard (Tonio, Pagliacci, 2017; Figaro, The Marriage of Figaro, 2015) returns to Opera North to sing the title role with the supporting cast including Tereza Gevorgyan as Lauretta, Diego Silva as Rinuccio and Leah-Marian Jones as Zita. Scottish conductor Garry Walker conducts both pieces.

The 2019 Winter season opens at Leeds Grand Theatre with The Magic Flute on Saturday 19 January before touring to The Lowry at Salford Quays, Newcastle Theatre Royal and Nottingham Theatre Royal.

Opera North's New Season

Sat 19 Jan Mozart The Magic Flute 7.00pm NEW              
Sat 2 Feb Janáček Katya Kabanova 7.30pm REVIVAL
Sat 16 Feb Stravinsky The Rite of Spring 7.30pm NEW
Puccini Gianni Schicchi REVIVAL

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