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English National Opera announces cast for outdoor Alexandra Palace shows

The September shows will be Europe's first live drive-in opera production that audiences can safely experience from their cars

Alexandra Palace
© John Bointon / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)

Casting and further details have been revealed for the ENO's drive-in production of La bohème, which will be heading to north London in September.

Playing Mimì are Natalya Romaniw and Sinéad Campbell Wallace, whilst writer Rodolfo will be sung by David Butt Phllip and David Junghoon Kim. Sharing the role of Marcello are Roderick Williams OBE and former ENO Harewood Artist Matthew Durkan, while soprano Nardus Williams shares the role of Musetta with Soraya Mafi.

Joining director PJ Harris' production are bass William Thomas and baritone Benson Wilson, who take the respective roles of Colline and Schaunard. These roles are shared with bass Jonathan Lemalu and baritone Ross Ramgobin.

The conductors will be Martyn Brabbins and Martin Fitzpatrick, with assistant conducting by Olivia Clarke and Chris Hopkins.

Cast and orchestra will rehearse in two "bubbles", with 34 members of the ENO Orchestra, 20 ENO Chorus members and 8 principals in each.

There will be 50 free tickets available to the dress rehearsal for NHS staff via ballot and a number of free tickets will be available to Uber drivers to thank them for their key worker roles.

In an environmentally conscientious move, ticket buyers have the option of making a small £3 donation to contribute towards carbon offsetting the impact of these events. Within 30 days of the show, donations will be directly transferred to a carbon offsetting charity.

The production has emphasised that you do not need to own a car to come and has revealed a special partnership with Uber allowing non car owners to rent out "boxes", or you can turn up on a bicycle. Motorbikes are not allowed.

Artistic Director Annilese Miskimmon comments: "Here at the ENO we think of ourselves as experimenters – trialling innovative ideas on behalf of the whole opera industry. It's no secret that COVID has had a major impact on the arts, so we're ripping up the rulebook with ENO Drive and Live.

"These performances are an opportunity to create a thrillingly unmissable pilot project, allowing opera fans to enjoy world-class opera without fear. It's a huge creative challenge, but the success of this will allow us to see how best to roll the performances out nationally, bringing our award-winning forces to audiences everywhere."

Designer Chloe Lamford says: "It's so exciting to create a new production in this way, and really stretch my and the audience's imagination without the confines of a predetermined space or traditional theatre. Here we've got the chance to build the whole experience from the very beginning; a rare chance to redefine what opera can be." Costumes are by Camilla Clarke, lighting is by Natasha Chivers and sound is by Ian Dearden.

For anyone who can't watch the show in person, it will be broadcast on Sky Arts for free when the show becomes open to all in the UK in the autumn.

Further plans to bring drive-in opera to audiences across the country will be announced soon.