Opera North announces its 2011/2012 Season

Opera North announces its 2011/2012 Season (RJF)

The production of From the House of the Dead performed in May 2011 was made possible by support from the Opera North Fund. Following cuts in local authority and Arts Council funding, Opera North is facing budget cuts and is unable, at present, to schedule three seasons of performances for next year in the usual way. Sponsorship and private funding are likely to be ever more important, but are more difficult to come by in the present climate.

In recent years the company have explored many corners of the operatic repertoire, often without much consideration of the box office clientele and whilst also indulging producers and designers without consideration of revivability or sharing, let alone selling on, of productions. Whilst the management and their audiences will not want a procession, of La Bohemes, the repertoire and box office relationship need, I suggest, to become more important; the relatively sparse audiences in this current season cannot be supported with a reduced Arts Council contribution. Below, I give details of what has been announced and, I presume, committed. Whilst it includes revivals of two productions that have been very popular with audiences one, Madam Butterfly, has already had one reprise, filling The Lowry, the largest of Opera North’s touring venues.

The works currently scheduled for the Winter Season are new productions of Bellini’s Norma, and Handel’s Giulio Cesare together with further performances of Madam Butterfly. The Bellini opera is a welcome further addition bel canto period to Opera North’s bel canto repertoire, as is the Handel, an area rarely covered by the Company. I hope that both will be recognisable realisations of two of the great operas of their respective periods. In the case of the Bellini I hope it will emulate the standards of production and performance of Maria Stuarda (seereview) and not the travesty of theI Capuletti ed i Montecchi sets and designs (see review) that many patrons found objectionable and not worthy of the music. Productions that find favour with some London critics are often less welcome in the more provincial theatres Opera North serves, and the proposed director of Norma is not one renowned for his concern for a composer’s music or more traditionally minded audiences. Tim Albery is in charge of the Handel. A regular with Opera North he has shown himself to be imaginative in his productions whilst respecting both the composer and his audience. Details of the 2011-12 season follow.

The first event of the new Opera North year at The Lowry will be the concert performance of Wagner’s Das Rheingold on Saturday 10th September. This will be followed by staged performances of Ruddigore, Madam Butterfly and a new production of Tchaikovsky’s Queen of Spades with director and writer Neil Bartlett undertaking his first full scale opera production. The dates for the Autumn season at The Lowry are, Tuesday November 15th to Saturday 19th and will include two performances of Madam Butterfly and the Queen of Spades and one of Ruddigore. The Winter Season at The Lowry will commence on Tuesday 28th February2012 for five nights and include two further performances of Madam Butterfly, two of the new production of Norma and one of Giulio Cesare.

A similar schedule of performances in the Autumn and Winter seasons will be toured to the Theatre Royal, Nottingham (November 1st to 5th and 21st February 2012 to 25th) and The Theatre Royal Newcastle (8th November to 12th, and 6th March to 10th 2012). Opera North will pay a first visit to the Pit Theatre at the Barbican, London from Tuesday November 22 nd presenting four performances, including a Saturday matinee of Ruddigore, and two of Queen of Spades. In March 2012 they will visit Dublin from March 13th to 17th with the same schedule as at their normal English venues.

For reasons outlined above, the only item currently scheduled for the Spring season is the second instalment of the concert performances of Wagner’s ring Cycle, Die Walküre on June 16th 2012.

Robert J Farr

P.S. Opera North have since assured us that they will be mounting a full programme for the spring season, and despite the difficult financial situation all arts organisations in Britain are facing 50% of the productions they are planning will be brand new, including the two major productions already announced for the winter.