Updated: Mar 17
Opera North’s next season begins by going green. Guided by the industry-wide Theatre Green Book, the company is putting on three productions this autumn using shared scenic elements, designed by Leslie Travers, to create three interlinked yet distinctive designs to allow the company to reduce its use of materials and carbon footprint.
All sets, props and costumes in the season will be sourced from previous productions, or bought second-hand, and a few more matinee performances are scheduled than in previous years, to make it easier for audiences to use public transport.
The three shows are a varied mix, with one a completely new concept for the genre: eco-entertainment. It’s Sir David Pountney’s idea, and he’s recycling some of Purcell’s music (including that of The Faerie Queen and The Tempest), and on the 17th-Century theatrical entertainment known as the masque. He will use modern technology to create a contemporary satire, says the company, so watch this space.
The show’s called Masque of Might and features Callum Thorpe (The Poacher in Sir David’s The Cunning Little Vixen, just seen in Opera North’s touring production) as what sounds like a real bad guy called Diktat.
Verdi’s evergreen Falstaff, with its wonderful outdoor final scene in a moonlit Windsor Great Park, and Puccini’s La Rondine (which has a hint of wildlife in itself – the title means “The Swallow”) complete the tally of new productions.
Falstaff was Verdi's final opera and it’s a warm-hearted comedy, based on Shakespeare’s character from The Merry Wives of Windsor and the Henry IV and V plays. The last time we saw it by Opera North was in 2007, reviving a production that originally starred the great comedic and character singer Andrew Shore.
This time the eponymous fat man will be sung by Henry Waddington, another great performer and Opera North veteran. Nanetta will be Isabelle Peters, the young soprano who was Rapunzel in the Royal Exchange Theatre’s production of Sondheim’s Into The Woods while still a student at Manchester's Royal Northern College of Music, and in 2021 took over a key role at short notice in Errollyn Wallen’s Dido’s Ghost, both in London and at the Buxton International Festival with great success. Paul Nilon is Dr Caius and Richard Burkhard is Ford – and Opera North musical director Garry Walker conducts (except for one date in Manchester, when Martin Pickard takes his place).
La Rondine – the nearest Puccini ever got to emulating the sentimental whimsy of a Strauss-style operetta – is directed by James Hurley and conducted by Kerem Hasan, with a cast including Galina Averina as Magda, Claire Lees as Lisette, Sebastien Gueze as Ruggero and Elgan Llyr Thomas as Prunier.
For the winter season (January-March 2024), Opera North begin with a revival of Giles Havergal’s production of Britten’s Albert Herring – in Leeds only, in the Howard Assembly Room. The cast includes Dame Josephine Barstow, Katie Bray, William Dazeley, Amy Freston, Richard Mosley-Evans, Claire Pascoe, Dominic Sedgwick and Heather Shipp, and Garry Walker conducts.
Another revival – and another comedy – kicks off the mainstage and touring schedule for next year: Tim Albery’s production of Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte, a frequent favourite with the company. The new cast includes Alexandra Lowe as Fiordiligi and Heather Lowe as Dorabella, with Anthony Gregory and Henry Neill as their duplicitous lovers, and conducted by Clemens Schuldt and Chloe Rooke, each making their Opera North debuts.
The third show on the slate is a double bill of Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana – a revival of the
production from Karolina Sofulak – and a new production of Rachmaninov’s Aleko by the same director. Robert Hayward, Giselle Allen, Andres Presno, Elin Pritchard and Anne-Marie Owens appear in one or both of the works, and conductor is Antony Hermus.
Falstaff – various from September 28-October 25 in Leeds; also in Newcastle (October 31, November 2), Nottingham (November 7, 11) and Salford (November 15, 18).
Masque of Might – various from 6-27 October in Leeds; also in Newcastle (November 4), Nottingham (November 9) and Salford (November 16).
La Rondine – various from October 20-28 in Leeds; also in Newcastle (November 1, 3), Nottingham (November 8, 10) and Salford (November 17).
Albert Herring – various from January 12-March 2 in Leeds only.
Cosi fan tutte – various from February 2-23 in Leeds; also in Nottingham (March 7-9), Newcastle (March 14, 16), Salford (March 21, 23) and Hull (April 4, 6).
Cavalleria Rusticana/Aleko – various from February 15-24 in Leeds; also in Nottingham (March 6, 8), Newcastle (March 13, 15) and Salford (March 20, 22).
More info here