English Touring Opera present works by Puccini, Rimsky-Korsakov and Bach in their Spring 2022 tour

ETO’s Spring Season 2022

English Touring Opera launches into 2022 with two contemporaneous operas that could hardly be more different, a choral masterpiece pairing choirs from around the country with professional singers, and an innovative new film.

Puccini’s famous opera La bohème, about a poet who falls in love with a consumptive seamstress, is a cultural touchstone throughout the world; ‘a poignant memory in music of love and loss – like a shard of mirror in which one sees one’s youth’, as English Touring Opera’s (ETO’s) Artistic Director James Conway describes it.

This spring, the opera will be presented across the country by ETO, in rep alongside Rimsky-Korsakov’s infrequently performed Russian satire, The Golden Cockerel. A send-up of corruption and sloth in government, the fairy-tale opera holds up a mirror to the last days of the Romanovs. ‘Despite its political edge, which meant it fell foul of the Tsarist censors, the music is daringly sensual and erotic at points,’ Conway says. ‘For many it’s an undiscovered joy of an opera.’

In addition to these two productions, ETO will mark Easter with a tour of Bach’s towering oratorio St John Passion, uniting professional soloists and the Old Street Band with nearly 30 regional choirs to inspire audiences with the work’s incisive storytelling and timeless vision of hope. The company also proudly releases the last in its current series of films made for audiences at home, Il pianto di Maria.

Puccini’s La bohème – Saturday 26 February – Friday 3 June 2022

  • The revival of ETO’s much praised 2015 production of La bohème opens at Hackney Empire on Saturday 26 February 2022 and will have 21 performances at venues across the country.
  • Told with the most memorable music–from ‘Che gelida manina’ to the shattering brass chords announcing Mimì’s death–Puccini’s story of youthful love is a classic tale of passion, friendship, jealousy and mortality that captures the drama and poverty of late nineteenth-century Paris.
  • Soprano Francesca Chiejina (named by the Guardian as one of the ‘exciting new artists across the musica lspectrum who are set for success in 2022’) sings the role of seamstress Mimì, while tenors Luciano Botelho and Thomas Elwin play her love-sick poet Rodolfo. Jenny Stafford and April Koyejo-Audiger portray the flirtatious Musetta, with baritones Michel de Souza and Jerome Knox as the painter Marcello.

Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Golden Cockerel – Saturday 5 March – Tuesday 31 May 2022

  • The first opera by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov to be produced and toured by ETO, The Golden Cockerel opens at Hackney Empire on Saturday 5 March 2022 and tours to 12 other venues throughout the country.
  • Fantasy, mischief and musical delight combine in the composer’s final and favourite opera, based on a poem by Alexander Pushkin. A daring satire on the last days of Tsarist Russia, the score is bursting with the exotic orchestrations that made Rimsky-Korsakov’s symphonic suite Scheherezade so popular.
  • ETO’s new Music Director Gerry Cornelius conducts James Conway’s production, starring baritone Grant Doyle (most recently with ETO in the 2019 production of Verdi’s Macbeth) in the role of the indolent Emperor Dodon, and soprano Paula Sides as the seductive Queen of Shemakha.
  • The new production also features Edward Hawkins, Amy J Payne, Robert Lewis, Luci Briginshaw and Alys Mererid Roberts in the title role.

Bach’s St John Passion – Monday 21 March – Thursday 14 April 2022

  • ETO’s national tour of one of the masterpieces of sacred music, Bach’s St John Passion, kicks off in Lichfield on Monday 21 March 2022 and tours to nine other venues throughout the country.
  • James Conway’s staging brings together professional soloists and the Old Street Band to work together with up to 30 regional choirs, led by Jonathan Peter Kenny. ● For this intense drama of turmoil, suffering, redemption and hope, ETO’s production features translations of the chorales from theological and literary figures, including the Anglican priest, journalist and broadcaster Dr Giles Anthony Fraser, and former Archbishop of Canterbury and poet Dr Rowan Williams.

Ferrandini’s Il pianto di Maria Available free online from end of January 2022

  • Il pianto di Maria, a new ETO film by designer Rebecca van Beeck, juxtaposes a performance of Giovanni Battista Ferrandini’s poignant cantata of 1739 with imagery of mothers and sons, with a particular emphasis on maternal loss. This in turn is overlaid with footage of tumultuous natural forces, like the earthquakes described in the original poem.
  • The performance is sung by mezzo soprano Catherine Carby, accompanied by the Old Street Band, conducted by Jonathan Peter Kenny.
  • James Conway says: ‘Il pianto di Maria is unlike anything ETO has made before, and a culmination of the work ETO has been doing throughout the pandemic to bring a different approach to digital output. It is certainly ‘opera that moves’ and will speak to anyone who has known mothers or sons, to lovers of this impassioned baroque music (long attributed to Handel), and anyone interested in the possibilities of presenting music in film.’
  • The 30-minute Il pianto di Maria, becomes available for free online at the end of January 2022 (click here)


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