Opera North announces three new productions – one 'fully sustainable'


Chrystal E Williams as Carmen in Edward Dick's production Pic: Tristram Kenton
Chrystal E Williams as Carmen in Edward Dick's production Pic: Tristram Kenton

Opera North's 2022 Winter Season opens at Leeds Grand Theatre in January with two new shows and another chance to catch Edward Dick's production of Carmen – followed in June by a new dramatic concert performance of Wagner's Parsifal.

Nigerian-British theatre artist Femi Elufowoju Jr makes his opera-directing debut in a production of Rigoletto (Leeds Grand, January 22) conducted by Garry Walker, that will map identity and inequality on a contemporary canvas. Returning to Opera North are Eric Greene in the title role and Sir Willard White as Count Monterone, while Russian tenor Roman Arndt and American soprano Jasmine Habersham make their company debuts as the Duke of Mantua and Gilda.

Femi Elufowoju Jr directs Rigoletto
Femi Elufowoju Jr directs Rigoletto

Next is Handel’s Alcina, which opens in Leeds on February 5. Directed by opera veteran Tim Albery, Opera North's first production of Alcina will have Laurence Cummings conducting a cast that includes Maire Flavin as the enchantress Alcina and Patrick Terry as Ruggiero. The opera will be the company's first fully-sustainable main-stage opera, and will be live-streamed on the OperaVision platform later in February for those who can’t get to a live performance.

The “fully sustainable” tag follows the company’s work in reducing its carbon footprint (to zero by 2030 is the intention). After trials reusing and recycling sets, designer Hannah Clark has created the set and cos-tumes using elements from previous productions and has found vintage or second-hand costumes and props. Nothing on stage will be newly purchased, and the environmental impact of making and transporting scenery has also been taken into consideration.

Opera North general director Richard Mantle said: “We are extremely proud to be the first opera company in the UK to have rolled out carbon literacy training to our full workforce, and we are committed to putting environmental thought and action at the heart of what we do. We have pledged to become carbon neutral by 2030 and we urge our peers across the arts to join us in this commitment.”

Finally, Carmen opens in Leeds on February 12, with principal guest conductor Antony Hermus conducting the winter run of Edward Dick's production, which opened last month. American mezzo Chrystal E Williams returns in the title role, joined for this run by Rafael Rojas as Don Jose, Alison Langer as Micaela, and Gyula Nagy as Escamillo.

On June 1 Opera North’s latest dramatic concert will be Wagner’s Parsifal at Leeds Grand, originally scheduled during the pandemic, but postponed. The latest in Opera North's acclaimed strand of dramatic concert performances will be directed by P J Harris, with and will see the company's former music director Richard Farnes returning to conduct. Brindley Sherratt and Toby Spence will both make their role debuts as Gurnemanz and Parsifal respectively.

Each of the main works will later tour to Salford’s Lowry in March, while Parsifal will also be performed at Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall on June 12.