BY OPERA NORTH AT THE GRAND THEATRE
Simmering tensions, madcap capers and a spooky ghost story make up Opera North’s compelling winter season which opened to triumphant five star reviews in January before touring to theatres across the North of England.
Opera North has long championed the work of Kurt Weill and the company’s first opera for 2020 is a new production of Street Scene, the work he considered to be his masterpiece. Picking up on the theme of exile from last season’s The Greek Passion, Street Scene turns the spotlight on a New York tenement building on a stiflingly hot summer’s day as the residents struggle with their individual desires, dreams and disappointments. Giselle Allen and Robert Hayward take on the roles of Anna and Frank Maurrant, alongside many members of the Chorus of Opera North, including Gillene Butterfield as their daughter, Rose, and Alex Banfield as her lover, Sam.
With operatic arias rubbing shoulders with music from Broadway, it is no surprise that the opera won Best Original Score at the very first Tony awards in 1947. Conducting the piece will be James Holmes, one of the world’s leading interpreters of the composer’s work, while the director is Matthew Eberhardt, whose production of Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti was a highlight of Opera North’s The Little Greats season in 2017.
Jo Davies’ witty interpretation of The Marriage of Figaro, Mozart’s joyous farce of mistaken identity and misunderstanding is a sheer joy to watch. We join Figaro on his wedding day, but trouble clouds the horizon. His master, Count Almaviva, plans to seduce Susanna, Figaro’s bride-to-be. Meanwhile the heartbroken Countess finds herself the object of the page-boy Cherubino’s infatuation and, to top it all off, if Figaro cannot repay a debt to the housekeeper Marcellina, he will have to marry her instead!
In this fast-paced farce, Phillip Rhodes sings the title role, with Fflur Wyn as Susanna, Quirijn de Lang as Count Almaviva and Máire Flavin as the Countess. Mozart’s sublime score is conducted by Opera North’s Principal Guest Conductor, Antony Hermus, with the high-spirited action taking place against the backdrop of Leslie Travers’ timeless designs.
Darker evenings lend themselves to nail-biting ghost stories and Alessandro Talevi’s production of The Turn of the Screw chilled many a spine when it was first performed in 2010. Based on the novella by Henry James, this tale of strange happenings in a remote country house reaches new levels of terror and claustrophobia with Britten’s disturbingly beautiful music ratcheting up the tension at each twist and turn of the plot.
Nicholas Watts is the spectral Peter Quint, while Sarah Tynan returns to Opera North to play the Governess appointed to take charge of the orphaned Flora and Miles. Are they really at the mercy of strange and menacing spirits or is it all in her troubled mind? Leo McFall conducts.
With all three operas offering something different for first-time opera goers, Opera North will once again be encouraging people to give the art-form a go with its Try It ON initiative. Audience members who have never been to an opera before are given the chance to purchase a seat in the stalls for £20 and receive additional information and insights in advance of the performance to ensure they get the most out of their visit.
Below is the performance diary of the operas that are too good to miss.
Fri 14 Feb The Marriage of Figaro 7.00pm
Sat 15 Feb The Turn of the Screw 7.30pm
Tue 18 Feb The Turn of the Screw 7.30pm
Wed 19 Feb The Marriage of Figaro 7.00pm audio described
Thu 20 Feb Street Scene 7.00pm
Fri 21 Feb The Turn of the Screw 7.30pm
Sat 22 Feb The Marriage of Figaro 7.00pm
Tue 25 Feb The Turn of the Screw 7.30pm
Wed 26 Feb The Marriage of Figaro 7.00pm
Thu 27 Feb The Turn of the Screw 7.30pm
Fri 28 Feb Street Scene 7.00pm
Sat 29 Feb The Marriage of Figaro 7.00pm