Wednesday, August 10

Tag: Opera North

Opera North: Parsifal – Bridgewater Hall
North West

Opera North: Parsifal – Bridgewater Hall

Opera North’s production of Wagner’s final work for the stage arrives in a blaze of glory from director Sam Brown’s theatrical staging in Leeds but what is served up at Bridgewater Hall in Manchester is much more muted in its dramatisation, and although the work was originally written with the orchestra below the stage to add acoustic and psychological drama, here it was very much centre and fore. Running at just over four hours stage time, Parsifal tells the story of the Knights of the Holy Grail, much of it narrated by a veteran knight, Gurnemanz (Brindley Sherratt). The castle of Monsalvat has been established by Titurel (Stephen Richardson) as a sanctuary for the Holy Grail and the Spear that pierced Christ’s side, before retiring in favour of his son, Amfortas (Robert Hayward), wh...
Opera North: Carmen – Hull New Theatre
Yorkshire & Humber

Opera North: Carmen – Hull New Theatre

“Enjoy the screaming ab-dabs!”, were my opera-hating husband’s parting words as I headed for the Hull New Theatre on Thursday evening to watch Opera North’s production of Carmen. I’ve seen several of this company’s operas, in the line of duty, but never Carmen, so, blocking out hubby’s words, I vowed to watch with an open mind. Before “curtain up” an Opera North representative took to the stage to explain that there were Ukrainian and Russian cast members, who were all horrified by the current events in the Ukraine, and would we please be upstanding while the orchestra played the Ukrainian National Anthem. It was a reflective and sombre start to what turned out to be a colourful and riotous production. Set in 1830’s Seville, Spain, the opening scene featured drunken soldiers a...
Opera North: Alcina – The Lowry
North West

Opera North: Alcina – The Lowry

The staging of Handel’s Alcina presents a challenge and from what I saw tonight, the jury is still out; if we focus instead on the delivery of some of the finest vocal writing ever written and all-round musicality, then this performance should be considered a success. Searching for her fiancé Ruggiero (Patrick Terry), Bradamante (Mari Askvik) arrives on an island belonging to the enchantress Alcina (Sky Ingram). Bradamante has adopted the disguise of her own brother, Ricciardo, and is accompanied by her protector, Melissa (Claire Pascoe). Alcina’s sister, Morgana (Fflur Wyn), instantly falls in love with ‘Ricciardo’ despite already being in a relationship with Oronte (Nick Pritchard), whilst Bradamante is distraught when she discovers Ruggiero and Alcina are lovers. Within this medl...
Opera North: Carmen – The Lowry
North West

Opera North: Carmen – The Lowry

Carmen is stuffed full of well-known arias and melodies, or as one audience member put it as she left the theatre, “I was surprised by how many songs I already knew.” From the Toreador’s song to the Habanera and the Seguidilla the music is easily recognisable by most people even if they have never been to an opera. This boisterous production by Opera North updated events from 19th century Sevilla to a border town in the late 1950s early 1960s. This was a clever idea as this was a time of rebellion, of counter-culture, where young people wanted to be free and do their own thing. To live and love on their own terms. For the character of Carmen love is transitory. She is open and honest in saying that she falls in and out of love with ease. She just wants freedom and is unconcerned wit...
Opera North: Rigoletto – The Lowry
North West

Opera North: Rigoletto – The Lowry

Femi Elufowoju Jr’s interpretation of Giuseppe Verdi’s 1851 masterpiece for Opera North by and large works although I’m yet to be convinced about the zebra. We open as the Duke (Roman Arndt) leads his courtiers in drinking and debauchery whilst his jester, Rigoletto (Eric Greene) mocks all those around. The arrival of Count Monterone (Byron Jackson) in a failed attempt to save his daughter results in a curse on the Duke and Rigoletto. Rigoletto is tormented by the curse, and we discover he has a daughter, Gilda (Jasmine Habersham) whom he jealously guards, but the Duke has already spied and fallen for her – or has he? The courtiers have also tired of Rigoletto’s antics at court and under the steer of Marullo (Themba Mvula), they trick him before carrying Gilda off to the palace. ...
Opera North: Trouble in Tahiti – The Lowry
North West

Opera North: Trouble in Tahiti – The Lowry

Trouble in Tahiti is a one-act opera in seven acts, composed by Leonard Bernstein, who is perhaps best known for his musical West Side Story. It is one of Bernstein’s darker and more autobiographical works, based on the relationship between the composer’s parents, combining themes of domestic struggle and breakdown with operatic melodrama, performed here by Opera North at The Lowry in Salford. The opera is set in the 1950s, and opens with a jazz trio (Laura Kelly-McInroy, Joseph Shovelton, Nicholas Butterfield) singing about domestic bliss in an unspecified suburb in the form of a radio advertisement for the American Dream. The reality, however, is very different, as we soon follow the story of Sam (Quirijn de Lang) and Dinah (Sandra Piques Eddy), a young couple whose marriage is colla...
Opera North: Carmen – The Lowry
North West

Opera North: Carmen – The Lowry

Hard on the heels of 'Waitress' at the Opera House this week, another musical tale of female lust and empowerment comes to Manchester, with the arrival of Georges Bizet's 'Carmen' from Opera North playing at The Lowry. Unfortunately, whilst this production promises 'desire and hot-blooded passion', what we are served is a reheated dish that attempts to be innovative and succeeds only in being lacklustre and imitative. Carmen was hugely controversial upon its initial staging in 1875 with its story of immorality amongst the proletarian class of Andalucia; the eponymous heroine being both lawless, amoral and (spoiler alert) suffering a brutal on stage death at the denouement. Bizet died less than three months after the premiere of his final work, never getting to see it staged to internat...
A Little Night Music – Leeds Playhouse
Yorkshire & Humber

A Little Night Music – Leeds Playhouse

A hot July evening in West Yorkshire proved to be the perfect backdrop for a musical set at the Scandinavian midsummer, as the theatregoers of Leeds joyfully returned to a stunning adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's puckish, satirical operetta from Leeds Playhouse and Opera North. Written in 1973, during a golden period of his gilded career, 'A Little Night Music' shows Sondheim at the peak of his powers, utilising his tongue twisting lyricism and complex musicality to stunning effect, against the backdrop of a country weekend in 'fin de siecle' Sweden. Sondheim always chooses arcane subject matter around which to base his work, everything from a Seurat painting (Sunday in the Park with George) to homicidal pie making (Sweeney Todd), have been used by him as source material and 'Night Mu...
Leeds Playhouse’s James Brining talks about staging A Little Night Music with Opera North
Interviews

Leeds Playhouse’s James Brining talks about staging A Little Night Music with Opera North

Most people have heard the haunting Send In The Clowns but how many could say which musical it is from? Well, it’s just one of a bunch of brilliant tunes penned by Oscar and multiple Tony winner Stephen Sondheim for A Little Night Music that traces the complicated and interlocking relationships of several Swedish couples at the dawn of the twentieth century. Inspired by Bergman’s film Smiles of a Summer Night, Sondheim’s challenging score and an intelligent book by Hugh Wheeler offers genuine insights into the high and lows of human relationships. Leeds Playhouse’s Artistic Director James Brining was gearing up to direct A Little Night Music as his latest coalition with Opera North, but then the pandemic struck. Now the company including the legendary Dame Josephine Barstow ar...
Opera North: A Night at the Opera – The Lowry
North West

Opera North: A Night at the Opera – The Lowry

The last performance Opera North gave before lockdown in March 2020 was at The Lowry so it seems somehow appropriate that they should come out of their enforced hibernation to perform an evening of popular opera classics at the same venue. Also, this was the first time I have seen anything live since then and I have to say it was absolutely wonderful to see performers in the flesh, to feel their emotions and admire their talent. Online performances have got us through this terrible time but there is nothing like the real thing. The cavernous auditorium of the Lyric theatre was, because of Covid restrictions, mostly empty. Even though the audience was small it was extremely appreciative of a wonderful night’s entertainment. Paul Daniel, the conductor, was a charming and witty tour...