Opera North’s winter season looks to be absolutely smashing, with three great performances scheduled to help theatre-goers get back into their creative mindsets.
First up is The Magic Flute, opening at Leeds Grand Theatre on Saturday 19th January for 13 performances. It’s a Mozart classic with a strange and complex plot about Prince Tamino’s quest to rescue the daughter of the Queen of the Night. It’ll be an interesting piece for sure, as it marks Leeds Playhouse’s James Brining’s first time direction opera. Of course West Yorkshire Playhouse and Opera North co-produced Sondheim’s Into the Woods in 2016, but this is a different kettle of fish.
Vuvu Mpofu makes her UK debut at Pamina, while Tamino will be played by Kang Wang (you might recognise him from the final of BBC Cardiff Singer of the World). Robert Howarth conducts the piece.
One of my favourite pieces of theatre news so far in 2019 so far is that a specially-devised, shortened version of The Magic Flute will be available for young people ages 7+. I’ve actually never seen opera, due possibly to a lack of understanding of its artistic beauty. So to introduce young people at an early age at a special schools’ matinee is a really lovely idea. The Mini Magic Flute goes one step further – giving teeny tots chance to enjoy an interactive 30-minute retelling of the story.
Following The Magic Flute is Katya Kabanova, opening on 2nd February with 7 performances in total. Janáček’s opera tells a 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.
Conductor Sian Edwards makes her Opera North Debut, though it’s not the first time performing with the company for Stephanie Corley (who plays Katya) as she played Lilli Vanessi/Katherine in Kiss Me, Kate in 2018.
Finally the third opera in the season is a double bill created for the very first time in association with Phoenix Dance Theatre, which opens on 16th February. Stravinsky’s ground-breaking The Rite of Spring will be newly choreographed and performed by Phoenix’s ensemble with the full Orchestra of Opera North playing the score. Internationally-acclaimed choreographer Jeanguy Saintus makes his UK debut in this ground-breaking dance piece.
The piece is paired with Puccini’s short operatic comedy Gianni Schicci, which tells the story of scheming relatives gathering round the deathbed of a rich man in an attempt to claim a chunk of his fortune. The mini masterpiece is based on an episode of Dante’s Inferno, Richard Burkhard sings the title role, with Garry Walker conducting both pieces.
If you are, like me, an opera newbie it’s definitely a great chance to see something a bit different. The performances all seem accessible and they are certainly performed and conducted by some of the world’s best operatic artists.
Find out more information from the Opera North website.
Photograph credited to Guy Farrow.