Introducing the 2014-2015 season of Opera North, general director Richard Mantle comments on the broad range of work covering "each of the last four centuries". In fact, the programme contains operas from the 17th century to the 21st – the last five centuries! At the same time the company has to focus on financial stability, so, together with some adventurous choices, the programme contains some guaranteed commercial successes.
Chief among these is the revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein‘s Carousel next year, a huge success in Jo Davies‘ production in 2012. Many of the principals return, from James Holmes as conductor to Claire Boulter and Gillene Butterfield as the female leads. Carousel fills the role taken in 2014 by La bohème, a solid run of a dozen performances (plenty of matinees) in May at Leeds Grand.
The autumn 2014 season is an enterprising mix of the familiar and the more rarely performed. A new production of Verdi’s La traviata is directed by Alessandro Talevi, returning in the winter 2015 season, with performances between September and March. The lovers Violetta and Alfredo are sung by the rising South Korean stars Hye-Youn Lee and Ji-Min Park (currently Rodolfo in La bohème). In January Polish soprano Anna Jeruc-Kopec takes over as Violetta.
Also in the autumn season are Opera North’s first production of a Baroque masterpiece and a revival of an intelligently re-thought 19th century Czech social comedy. Baroque specialist Laurence Cummings conducts Tim Albery‘s production of Monteverdi’s The Coronation of Poppea, with American soprano Sandra Piques Eddy in the title role and counter-tenor James Laing as Nerone. First seen in 1998, Daniel Slater‘s production of Smetana’s The Bartered Bride is one of those updatings – to Czechoslovakia in 1972 – that immediately makes sense. Kate Valentine as the bride and American tenor Brenden Gunnell as her choice of husband (not her parents’!) are supported by a formidable cast of Opera North favourites, including American bass James Creswell, also to be seen in The Coronation of Poppea.
Jo Davies returns following her successes with Carousel and Ruddigore to direct a new production of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro in the winter 2015 season. The principal female parts are taken by singers from abroad making their Opera North debuts: Silvia Moi from Norway as Susanna, Swiss-Romanian Ana Maria Labin as the Countess and Australian Helen Sherman as Cherubino. More familiar to Leeds audiences are Richard Burkhard and Quirijn de Lang as Figaro and the Count respectively. Alexander Shelley conducts his first opera for the company, though he has frequently worked with the orchestra in the concert hall.
The winter double-bill will no doubt have a touch of the experimental, with Christopher Alden directing. Manuel de Falla’s La vida breve is remembered from the Eight Little Greats season as a violently dramatic production and is joined by Puccini’s comedy Gianni Schicchi in a new production. Anne-Sophie Duprels returns to the company as Salud in La vida breve and the outstanding baritone Christopher Purves takes the title role in the Puccini.
The spring 2015 season is centred less on the main theatre, with only Carousel as a main house production. In 2009 Jonathan Dove and Alasdair Middleton‘s opera for younger audiences, Swanhunter, based on Norse myth, premiered in the Howard Assembly Room; now it will return there, in a new production conducted by Catriona Beveridge and directed by Hannah Mulder in association with The Wrong Crowd, noted for fusing puppetry and live action.
Finally, for all those who find the early days of summer intolerable without the latest chunk of Opera North’s concert hall Ring cycle, a smaller-scale Wagner epic, The Flying Dutchman, will fill the need until the full-scale four-part Ring tours in Summer 2016. The Flying Dutchman again has Richard Farnes‘ inspirational conducting supported by Peter Mumford‘s evocative staging and draws on an international cast familiar from the previous Wagner performances: Bela Perencz (Wotan) as the Dutchman, Alwyn Mellor (Sieglinde/Brunnhilde) as Senta, Mats Almgren (Fafner) as Daland and Mati Turi (Siegfried) as Erik.
– The autumn 2014 season La traviata, The Coronation of Poppea and [[show:34302]]The Bartered Bride) runs from September 20 to November 1 at Leeds Grand Theatre, then tours to the Theatre Royal, Newcastle (11-15 November), The Lowry, Salford Quays (18-22 November) and the Theatre Royal, Nottingham (25-29 November).
– The winter 2015 season (The Marriage of Figaro, La traviata, La vida breve/Gianni Schicchi) follows Leeds (24 January – 28 February) with Newcastle (3-7 March), Salford (10-14 March), the Grand Opera House, Belfast (18-21 March) and Nottingham (24-28 March).
– Swanhunter plays the Linbury Studio Theatre, the Royal Opera House, London (2-11 April) and the Howard Assembly Room, Leeds (16-18 April). Carousel runs at the Leeds Grand from 13-23 May. Further tour dates for both of these are to be confirmed.
– The Flying Dutchman follows Leeds Town Hall (27 & 30 June) with The Sage Gateshead (3 July), Symphony Hall, Birmingham (5 July), Liverpool Philharmonic Hall (8 July) and the Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham (11 July).