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A night of operatic Pleasure

Tonight sees the opening of Mark Simpson's new touring chamber opera

Steven Page in Pleasure (ON/Aldeburgh Music/ROH)
© Robert Workman

For an opera by a young composer to receive a multi-city premiere production, be directed by one of the country's leading names and have most performances sold out before it opens, is no mean feat. But the debut work for the lyric stage by Mark Simpson bucks the notion that no one goes to hear ‘new stuff'.

Pleasure opens tonight at the Howard Assembly Rooms in Leeds before touring to Liverpool, Snape and the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith.

Val (Lesley Garrett) works the toilets in "Pleasure", a hedonistic gay club in the north of England. For years, she's been a shoulder to cry on and a confidante. But why is she there, and why does she never leave? When a handsome young man (Timothy Nelson) arrives with a gift for Val, events take a dramatic turn.

2006 was Mark Simpson's annus mirabilis. As an 18-year-old he not only won BBC Young Musician of the Year as a clarinettist, but was also chosen as BBC Young Composer of the Year. Four years later he won the Royal Philharmonic Society Composition Award, and last September he was appointed as Composer in Association with the BBC Philharmonic.

Pleasure has a text by Melanie Challenger, the poet-librettist with whom Simpson wrote The Immortal for the Manchester International Festival. The director is Tim Albery, whose production of Wagner's Tannhäuser returned to the Royal Opera House earlier this week, and set and costumes are by Leslie Travers, one of the UK's foremost opera designers whose triumphant solution to staging Peter Grimes on Aldeburgh Beach earned international acclaim. Nicholas Kok conducts.

A 75-minute chamber opera for four singers and ensemble, Pleasure also features Steven Page and Nick Pritchard. It marks the third collaborative project by Opera North, Aldeburgh Music and The Royal Opera in a nationwide initiative that gives opportunities to emerging opera writers.

Timothy Nelson and Nick Pritchard in Pleasure (ON/Aldeburgh Music/ROH)
© Robert Workman

Pleasure runs at the Howard Assembly Rooms, Leeds, from 28-30 April, then tours to the Liverpool Playhouse (4 May), the Britten Studio in Snape (7 May) and the Lyric, Hammersmith (12-14 May).