This Christmas is undoubtedly different to any other. We simply can’t enjoy live performances together, but we can appreciate the hard work of our lovely venues who’ve been dedicated to bringing joy and performance into our lives.
Opera North has released a series of festive activities and events to safely enjoy as we hopefully enter the last few months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Their live streaming of Fidelio is available to watch online for just £15, filmed at Leeds Town Hall. It’s a dramatic concert performance of Beethoven’s only opera, telling the story of a noblewoman dressed as a man going in search of her husband. The piece is conducted by Mark Wigglesworth and features an impressive cast, 33-piece orchestra and 24-strong chorus.
If outdoor events are more your thing, audiences can enjoy As You Are: A Leeds Soundwalk. Restricted to just six people per walk, the Abel Selaocoe piece is the perfect successor to Opera North’s Walking Home soundtracks.
Audiences can collect a fully-sanitised audio device from the Victoria Gate shopping centre, before visiting landmarks around the city to the accompaniment of a specifically composed soundtrack. It will feature the Chorus and the Orchestra of Opera North alongside a range of highly impressive musicals.
Those wishing to stay firmly indoors can enjoy Whistle Stop Opera: Cinderella from 17th December. We might not be able to watch panto in the theatre, but we can still enjoy it together. The much-loved fairy story is directed by John Savournin with Marie Claire Breen as Cinderella, Amy J Payne as Prince/Stepmother, and Julia Mariko Smith as Fairy Godmother.
Better still, it’s been filmed at City Varieties Music Hall – one of my all time favourite venues. The show features excerpts from various versions of the rags-to-riches tale, including Rossini’s La Cenerentola, Massenet’s Cendrillon, Pauline Viardot’s operetta Cendrillon and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical Cinderella.
Side note: Opera North is offering the film free of charge to primary schools across the North in December as a lovely end of year treat. Schools will also get additional resources such as a song to learn and sing along to!
La petite bohème also moves online. It may not be as joyous and festive, but it’ll be an artistic event not to miss. It was originally planned to be projected onto walls and buildings in Leeds, Nottingham and Hull, but now this new 20-minute film will be available through Opera North’s ONDemand platform right the way through until January.
Artist and filmmaker Matthew Robins has used animated papercuts to bring two pairs of lovers to life as they sing passionately of their jealousy and desire. The Chorus and Orchestra of Opera North accompany the film alongside a cast of incredible singers.
Carols for Care Homes is another great project, designed to bring seasonal cheer to local residential homes. A recording of festive favourites performed especially for the occasion by the Chorus and members of the Orchestra of Opera North will be available for care homes to watch online – a lovely activity for people to take part in.
Richard Mantle, General Director, Opera North comments: “While being placed in Tier 3 under the new government restrictions continues to have a major impact on live performance in Leeds with venues remaining closed, we are steadfast in our determination to respond to the situation with creativity and innovation. We still remain committed to sharing extraordinary experiences with audiences across the North of England and beyond, whatever tier we find ourselves in.
“We are delighted that, under the current guidelines, we are now able to launch the As You Are outdoor soundwalk, enabling the people of Leeds to enjoy their city in a new and unexpected way, while encouraging footfall back into the city centre for a safe, socially-distanced activity in the run-up to Christmas. This will be complemented by more performances offered through our ONDemand livestreaming platform, including our much-anticipated dramatic concert performance of Fidelio under the baton of Mark Wigglesworth and performed in the stunning surroundings of Leeds Town Hall.
“Our work with schools and community settings also continues unabated and will continue to be a priority as this challenging year draws to a close and we look forward to brighter times ahead including a return to live theatre and touring during 2021.”
What are you waiting for? Visit the Opera North website for more information and get these amazing events in your diary.