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Opera North launches new season

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The world-wide recession has been spreading panic through many a major opera company. In the United States New York City Opera has been flirting with closure and Opera Boston has actually done so whilst in Spain as illustrious opera house as Barcelona’s Liceu has entered into a desperate cycle of last-minute cancellations, company revolts and reinstatements.

Opera North is taking an unusual and realistic approach to the problem. Instead of the traditional Autumn-to-Spring/Summer programming, announcements of upcoming fare will now follow the financial year, thus eliminating the likelihood of cancellations.

At the moment the previously announced programme is somewhat fragmentary, but full of interest. Carousel plays the Grand Theatre until 19 May and, after a short run at the Lowry, settles into London’s Barbican for a month in August. Jo Davies’ wonderful production of Ruddigore takes in the Lyceum, Sheffield (31 May – 2 June) as part of a short tour and , the next stage of the company’s acclaimed Ring Cycle under Richard Farnes, plays Leeds Town Hall for three performances from 16 June.

The new season, then, takes us only as far as March, with three new productions each in the Autumn and Winter/Spring programmes. There’s no shortage of challenging operas, with Janacek’s The Makropulos Case standing out in the Autumn programme after featuring in the Edinburgh Festival. Musical Director Richard Farnes leads a largely British cast, including Paul Nilon who has such a remarkable track record with the company. The role of Emilia Marty, however, will be taken by the exciting Swedish soprano Yiva Kihlberg. In the same season two rather more mainstream operas receive new productions: Don Giovanni and Faust, the latter in a striking high-tech production by Rob Kearley and Ran Arthur Braun.

2012-2013’s second Mozart opera appears in the New Year with a very strongly cast La Clemenza di Tito, Paul Nilon again, Annemarie Kremer, fresh from her success in Norma, and the more than promising young singers Fflur Wyn and Kathryn Rudge. Richard Farnes and director Tim Albery are in charge of Verdi’s Otello, with Trinidad-born tenor Ronald Samm in title role and Kazakhstani soprano Elena Kelessidi as Desdemona.

Much attention will focus on the casting of Yorkshire’s own Lesley Garrett in the final announced production. Interestingly enough, far from staying in the popular repertoire, she can be heard in Poulenc’s La Voix Humaine, a dramatic monologue by a desperate and deserted woman. Completing an evening of desperate and deserted women, La Voix Humaine is joined in a double bill by the only revival in the programme, Aletta Collins’ acclaimed production of Purcell’s masterpiece, Dido & Aeneas, with Pamela Helen Stephen, this year’s Julius Caesar, joined by Amy Freston and Heather Shipp whose most recent appearances were at the other end of the operatic spectrum in Ruddigore.

Details beyond March 2013 will be revealed in November, but look out for the third instalment of the Ring Cycle, Siegfried, a new children’s opera and a Festival of Britten, four operas by Benjamin Britten.


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