The Orchestra of Opera North brought Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf to life with their stunning classic skills and breathtaking musical talent, followed by a stunning accompaniment to the animated film The Snowman.
The Peter and the Wolf illustrations on the big screen leave a lot to be desired, and I would have probably preferred to see a live screening of the soloists who were tucked away at the back of the stage. Hearing the oboe representing the duck is one thing, but it would have been quite another to be able to see the player in closer detail. As it was, the audience can really only see the string section which is such a shame. It would have been a lovely device to have a cameraman providing live close-ups of the musicians, as they do across gigs and festivals everywhere.
The first act is narrated by Pui Fan Lee, of Teletubby and CBeebies fame. She’s very animated and no doubt the kids in the audience find her addition engaging and fun. But, for the grown ups, it’s a little irritating. She misses her cues, fluffs her lines and even tells us we’ll be watching Peter and the Wolf after the interval (we’re not, we’ve just seen it). She seems terribly unprepared and she should have been placed further back on the stage so the fantastic conductor could have brought her in on time.
Luckily Pui doesn’t appear after the interval, with the big screen showing the beautiful classic animation The Snowman. It’s simply joyous to see the orchestra bring the music to life, with Ben, a member of Opera North’s Youth Chorus, sublimely singing Walking in the Air live. I find the animation a little creepy, to be honest, but there’s something truly heartwarming to hear a full orchestra play such classic music. A festive bucket list moment well and truly ticked off.
It’s a funny crowd, a mix of adults enjoying a bit of festive culture and over-indulgent parents dragging their kids away from candy canes and Santa’s grotto to sit still and listen to classical music for a change. Unlucky if you’re sat behind / in front of / next to the latter. However, it’s wonderful to see Opera North provide such an inclusive offering. Particularly the 2.30pm show which offered a relaxed and audio described performance. Allowing everyone to access such incredible talent and live entertainment in this way should absolutely be applauded.
To find out what other festive treats Opera North have in store, visit their website.