OPERA NORTH ANNOUNCES JOURNEY BACK FROM LOCKDOWN
Live tour for concert performances of Beethoven’s Fidelio
A Night at the Opera gala concert at The Lowry, Salford Quays in June
Co-production of Sondheim’s A Little Night Music with Leeds Playhouse rescheduled for Summer 21
The Whitehall Road Sessions: a new series of livestreamed chamber concerts from 22 April
As You Are: A Sound Walk for Leeds to reopen this Spring
Whistle Stop Opera: The Magic Flute will tour across the North
Orpheus in the Record Shop: Opera North and Leeds Playhouse’s co-production broadcast on BBC Four as part of #BBCLightsUp
Orfeo ed Euridice: Gluck’s opera for BBC Radio 3 broadcast, accompanied by documentary film of the recording in real time
Orchestra of Opera North records suites by Sibelius, Janáček and Humperdinck for BBC Radio 3, conducted by Richard Farnes
New live performances by Opera North are announced today, with four performances of Beethoven’s only opera, Fidelio, planned to be the first large scale production for over a year as the Leeds-based opera company builds back towards a fuller programme of public events.
Originally due to be performed in November 2020, a subsequent livestream of Fidelio filmed behind closed doors at Leeds Town Hall was a huge critical and audience success last year. The same cast will return to bring this ‘electrifying’ (The Guardian) performance to live, socially-distanced audiences for the first time, at Leeds Town Hall on Wed 9 and Sat 12 June, followed by The Lowry, Salford Quays on Tue 15 June and Royal Concert Hall Nottingham on Sat 19 June.
Staged by Matthew Eberhardt, these performances of Fidelio will be conducted by Paul Daniel, the Company’s Music Director from 1990-1997, with cast including Rachel Nicholls as Leonore, Toby Spence as Florestan, Robert Hayward as Don Pizarro, Brindley Sherratt as Rocco, Fflur Wyn as Marzelline and Oliver Johnston as Jaquino.
The filmed performance of Fidelio, originally streamed live on 12 December 2020, is additionally returning to Opera North’s ONDemand platform, where it can now be watched for £15.
A Night at the Opera, a gala concert conducted by Paul Daniel, will also be performed at The Lowry, Salford Quays on Wed 16 June, with the Orchestra of Opera North joined by guest soloists including Elin Pritchard (soprano), and Benson Wilson (baritone), in a programme featuring some of opera’s best loved arias and duets, including favourites from the works of Mozart, Verdi and Puccini.
In the coming weeks Opera North and Leeds Playhouse will confirm Summer 2021 dates for Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music, their co-production originally intended to be performed in 2020. Opera North’s former Head of Music James Holmes will conduct, with a cast including Dame Josephine Barstow, Stephanie Corley and Quirijn de Lang directed by Leeds Playhouse’s James Brining.
All performances will follow the latest guidance on social distancing for audiences, performers, crew and front-of-house staff, with limited audience capacities in line with Government COVID-19 regulations. Further details on Covid-19 safety measures are available on the Opera North website and via our partners at all venues.
Before live performances are able to restart, a new series of weekly livestreamed chamber concerts will feature soloists and small ensembles from the Orchestra of Opera North. Free to watch, The Whitehall Road Sessions will be streamed live on YouTube and Opera North’s ONDemand platform. The series of five concerts, broadcast live from the Company’s rehearsal studio in Whitehall Road, Leeds, will run on Thursdays at 6pm on 22 April, 29 April, 6 May, 20 May and 27 May.
The first of the Whitehall Road Sessions on 22 April will include Debussy’s Sonata for Flute, Viola and Harp, and the same composer’s Syrinx for solo flute. This repertoire will be complemented by a guest performance by South Indian classical musician Vijay Venkat on bansuri (Indian flute).
The second livestreamed concert, on 29 April, will be Schubert’s Octet in F Major, followed on 6 May by a concert of chamber music from neglected female composers, including Farrenc’s Piano Quintet No, 2 and Lili Boulanger’s trio for violin and piano, D’un Matin de Printemps.
Thursday 20 May’s livestream brings together two quintets for wind instruments by Mozart and Herzogenberg, while Thursday 27 May will feature Ravel’s String Quartet and Britten’s Phantasy Quartet for oboe and string trio.This Spring will also see the welcome return of Opera North’s sound walk for the streets of Leeds, As You Are. Commissioned last summer and originally opening on 12 December 2020, the initial dates were curtailed by changes to lockdown restrictions over the winter months.
Experienced through headphones on a 40-minute walk through central Leeds, As You Are is a major new commission for South African-born cellist, composer and improviser Abel Selaocoe. Audiences collect a pair of headphones from the Victoria Gate shopping centre, then begin their journey through the opulent County Arcade. A series of transmitters triggers each chapter of the composition, which features the Orchestra and Chorus of Opera North joined at various points by Zimbabwean mbira player Anna Mudeka, Moroccan guimbri player Simo Lagnawi, and djembe virtuoso Sidiki Dembélé from the Ivory Coast.
As You Are will re-open this Spring with free tickets available daily in timed slots, with limited numbers at all times. Dates for this event will be confirmed as soon as possible, in line with updated Government guidance on events and activities and the roadmap out of lockdown.
Opera North’s popular pop-up style Whistle Stop Opera strand also makes a return this spring, with a newly devised take on Mozart’s The Magic Flute written and directed by John Savournin for a small cast and accordion. Touring to indoor and outdoor small-scale venues across the North from June, performances will take place in schools, community spaces, and theatres in towns and rural touring networks across the region. Anyone interested in hosting a performance in their venue should contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Richard Mantle, General Director, Opera North, comments: ‘Following the challenges of the last year, we are very pleased to announce our return to live performances as we prepare to welcome audiences once again. During this long period when it has not been possible to perform live, we have certainly not been silent, and we have made great strides in recording and streaming large-scale pieces within social distancing restrictions over the last few months. Our 2020 livestream of Fidelio, with our wonderful Chorus and Orchestra alongside some truly outstanding soloists, was a musical highlight of the past year which we can’t wait to share with audiences in person.
‘A year later than planned, A Little Night Music brings us back to Leeds Playhouse, with our two companies celebrating a closer bond than ever following our inventive collaborations on Connecting Voices and Orpheus in the Record Shop in the intervening months.
‘We are also extending and developing our digital programme, with the release of a filmed version of Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice, as well as our new free series of livestreamed chamber concerts, allowing us to create and share powerful musical experiences with audiences at home. This follows the runaway success of a range of digital projects connecting with audiences online over the last months, from a livestream of Weill’s The Seven Deadly Sins last November, to the thousands of people who have participated in our virtual choir, From Couch to Chorus. The more recent series of ONe-to-ONe solo performances given for free by members of our Chorus and Orchestra over Zoom will also continue throughout April.’
Opera North hopes to announce further activity for Spring/Summer 2021 and a new season of work for September 2021 – July 2022 as further details around the Covid roadmap and the continued impact of the pandemic on indoor performances become clearer.
In the year since the first lockdown began on 23 March 2020, the Company has not been able to perform full-scale opera to audiences in theatres or concert halls, but has continued to deliver a wide range of recordings, new music commissions, and livestreams, as well as continuing much of its Education programme for young musicians, schools, and adults via remote and digital learning platforms. In between lockdown periods in Leeds and the North of England in 2020, the Company also produced an outdoor tour of Whistle Stop Opera: Hansel and Gretel in August and September 2020 and in October 2020 pioneered an innovative return to live theatre under social distancing restrictions in the Connecting Voices festival in collaboration with Leeds Playhouse.
The centrepiece new commission from Connecting Voices, Orpheus in the Record Shop, has now been made into a film to be broadcast on BBC Four and BBC iPlayer this Spring as part of #BBCLightsUp, an unprecedented season of plays for BBC TV and radio, produced in partnership with theatres across the UK and continuing BBC Arts’ Culture in Quarantine initiative.
Inspired by the Ancient Greek myth, acclaimed rapper and playwright Testament (Black Men Walking, The Beatboxer, WOKE) fuses spoken word and beatboxing with a cinematic score performed by members of the Orchestra and Chorus of Opera North, filling Leeds Playhouse’s Quarry Theatre with Orpheus’s dreams, his reminiscences and his struggle for redemption. A Leeds Playhouse and Opera North co-production, Orpheus in the Record Shop was originally directed and designed for the stage by Aletta Collins. The filmed version, directed by James Brining and Alex Ramseyer-Bache, will premiere on BBC Four on Wednesday 21 April.
Two concerts recorded during the winter lockdown will also be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 this Spring. Richard Farnes, Opera North’s former Music Director, returns to the Company to conduct the Orchestra of Opera North in a concert featuring Sibelius’ Pelléas and Mélisande Suite, Janáček’s Katya Kabanova Suite and Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel Suite, airing on Wednesday 28 April.
A broadcast of Orfeo ed Euridice will follow on Saturday 1 May, with Laurence Cummings conducting and cast including Paula Murrihy as Orfeo, Fflur Wyn as Euridice and Daisy Brown as Amore. An accompanying film following the recording process in real time will be available to stream on Opera North’s ONDemand player.
Wed 9 June – Leeds Town Hall
Sat 12 June – Leeds Town Hall
Tue 15 June – The Lowry, Salford Quays
Sat 19 June – Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham
A Night at the Opera
Wed 16 June – The Lowry, Salford Quays
A Little Night Music
June – July – Leeds Playhouse (dates TBC)
Orpheus in the Record Shop
Wed 21 April, 11pm BBC Four broadcast, then available to stream on iPlayer
BBC Radio 3
Wed 28 April, In Concert – Orchestra of Opera North/Richard Farnes 7.30pm
Sat 1 May, 6.30pm – Opera on 3 Orfeo ed Euridice
Fidelio – Available to watch now for £15 (REVIEW CLICK HERE)
Orfeo ed Euridice – Behind-the-scenes film to accompany the BBC Radio 3 broadcast
The Whitehall Road Sessions – Free chamber concerts streamed live at ondemand.operanorth.co.uk.
Thu 22 April, 6pm – Debussy Syrinx and Sonata for Viola, Flute and Harp
Thu 29 April, 6pm – Schubert Octet in F Major
Thu 6 May, 6pm – Farrenc Piano Quintet No. 2, Boulanger D’un Matin de Printemps
Thu 20 May, 6pm – Mozart Wind Quintet in Eb (K452), Herzogenberg Wind Quintet
Thu 27 May, 6pm – Ravel String Quartet in F Major, Britten Phantasy Quartet