THREE OPERAS AT THE GRAND
Innocence pays a high price in Madama Butterfly, Puccini’s poignant story of tender love which fails to bridge the divide between two utterly different cultures.
French soprano Anne Sophie Duprels has won widespread praise in this production in the role of Cio-Cio-San, a young Japanese woman who sacrifices everything to marry a U.S. Naval Officer, yet is heartlessly discarded when he returns to his ‘real’ life in America. She is joined for this revival by Lithuanian tenor Merūnas Vitulskis, making his UK and Opera North debut as Pinkerton.
Globally hailed as one of the best-loved of all operas, Madama Butterfly features some of Puccini’s most popular music, such as Butterfly’s touching aria hoping for Pinkerton’s return, ‘Un bel di’ (One fine day), her ‘Flower Duet’ with Suzuki, and above all, the passionate love duet which closes Act I. It is conducted by Martin Pickard, who has previously conducted many performances for Opera North, including La vida breve/Gianni Schicchi, Macbeth, Peter Grimes and The Snow Maiden.
With its exquisitely simple set and costumes, this emotionally direct and subtle production by Tim Albery is devastating in its impact, as Butterfly’s dawning realisation of the harsh reality of her circumstances leads inexorably to a final act of despair.
Opera North’s new production of Un ballo in maschera, opened last week and is directed by Tim Albery and conducted by former music director, Richard Farnes: a creative pairing which has previously borne significant fruit in Verdi’s major operas, with productions of Don Carlos (2009) and Otello (2013). Un ballo in maschera also reunites Tim Albery with designer Hannah Clark, following their extremely well-received production of The Coronation of Poppea for Opera North in 2014.
Verdi’s passionate, elegant, and dramatically intense opera, inspired by the real-life assassination of Sweden’s King Gustav in 1792, hinges on the story of a leader threatened by conspirators, who is also in love with the wife of one of his closest friends. A powerful international cast includes Mexican tenor Rafael Rojas as King Gustavus, following his most recent appearances in the title role of Andrea Chénier (2015) and Calaf in Turandot (2016). Young New Zealand-born baritone Phillip Rhodes plays Count Anckarstroem after singing Silvio in Pagliacci and Alfio in Cavalleria rusticana during Opera North’s Autumn season of The Little Greats.
Hungarian soprano Adrienn Miksch, makes her UK and Opera North debut as Amelia, and Irish mezzo Patricia Bardon sings the fortune-teller Madame Arvidson, returning following appearances as the Principessa in Suor Angelica (2016). Armenian soprano Tereza Gevorgyan is Oscar, following Opera North’s support through her studies at the National Opera Studio in 2014-15 and her company debut as Lauretta in Gianni Schicchi in 2015.
Richard Farnes returns for the first time following the conclusion of his tenure at Opera North with acclaimed performances of Wagner’s Ring in 2016. His recent engagements have included Il trovatore at Covent Garden, and La traviata at Glyndebourne.
Opening on Saturday 17 February is Don Giovanni, sung in Italian with English titles.
A revival of Alessandro Talevi’s witty and imaginative 2012 production of Don Giovanni. Mozart’s sublimely beautiful music, driven by the dramatic urgency of a fast-unfolding plot, stands in stark contrast with the barbarous cruelty of his deeply ambiguous anti-hero. Having seduced his way across Europe, with 2065 women listed in his book of conquests, the unrepentant Don also resorts to despicable violence, killing the father of a woman who resists his advances.
Set and costumes designed by Madeleine Boyd locate the action across disparate eras and classes, with the archetypal Giovanni moving with ease between the starched Victorian mourning dress of Donna Anna and Don Ottavio, and the rock ’n’ roll frivolity of a 1950’s wedding party for Zerlina and Masetto.
The cast reunites William Dazeley as the Don, Alastair Miles as Leporello, and Elizabeth Atherton as Donna Elvira. They are joined for this revival by young Irish soprano Jennifer Davis and British bass James Platt both making Opera North debuts as Donna Anna and the Commendatore, and by Kathryn Rudge as Zerlina (Sesto, Giulio Cesare; Annio, Clemenza di Tito; Hermia, A Midsummer Night’s Dream).
The Opera North Season runs until 3rd March. For performance diary visit operanorth.co.uk.