Inaugural Bradford Opera Festival to Première on 23 November

Poet, broadcaster and playwright Ian McMillan has adapted Rossini’s The Barber of Seville into Yorkshire dialect – and it’s the opening event of the inaugural Bradford Opera Festival: opera in Bradford, for Bradford – and in a very Bradford way.

Editor’s note: Our classical music writer Tom Tollet will be reviewing. This should be good!

From Bradford Opera Festival, Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra and Bradford Festival Choral Society comes the world première of celebrated Yorkshire poet, playwright and broadcaster Ian McMillan’s exciting new adaptation, performed for the first time in a Yorkshire dialect, of Rossini’s comic tale of class, marriage, mischief, and young love – The Barber of Seville.

Made especially for Bradford, it will be performed in concert format at St George’s Hall, Bradford on Thursday 23 November at 7.30pm.

Rossini’s opera tells the story of Count Almaviva as he sets his sights on the beautiful Rosina and enlists Figaro – barber, fixer, and all-round man of action – to help woo her. And this will be no easy feat: Rosina’s guardian Doctor Bartolo keeps her under lock and key with the intention of marrying her himself!

Directed by Alex Chisholm and conducted by Ben Crick , the new adaptation has been written by poet, writer, playwright and broadcaster Ian McMillan who has written comedy for radio and plays for the stage, and worked extensively on BBC Radio. Ian is currently presenting The Verb on BBC Radio 3.

Baritone Oscar Castellino and Ian McMillan

The production’s cast will feature an accomplished cast that includes international baritone Oscar Castellino as Figaro; mezzo-soprano Felicity Buckland as Rosina; Sam Kibble as Count Almaviva; Bradford bass baritone Julian Close as Basilio; and Ukrainian Soprano, who now resides in Bradford, Milana Sarukhanyan as Bertha. The performance will feature the Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra and Bradford Festival Choral Society.

Ian McMillan said about his new adaptation of The Barber of Seville.

“I am really excited to be adapting The Barber of Seville into Yorkshire dialect because it is an opera that was just made for the poetic tones of The Sublime Tyke Talk! “

Director Alex Chisholm added:

Six years in the making, we are delighted to be presenting the first ever Bradford Opera Festival. And Ian McMillan’s version of The Barber of Seville is the perfect piece to start with – Yorkshire to the core, it has love, marriage, class, rebellion and some great tunes. Alongside new work popping up all over Bradford, and opportunities to get involved, The Barber of Seville really has something for everyone.”

In 2017 Ben Crick and Alex Chisholm worked together to bring Ice Cream: The Opera  by Ian McMillan and Russel Sarre to the Bradford Festival which over 600 people stopped by in one day to watch and listen. From there grew the idea to have a homegrown Opera Festival – featuring classic operas remade for Bradford and brand-new work made by Bradford artists.

As well as staging The Barber of Seville in the City, the festival is on a mission to find and train the opera talent of the future and will be running workshops for families and young people in Bradford, also creating a series of ‘chota operas’ – little operas created by and for children, and community groups.

This year’s Festival will also feature two 15 minutes pop up operas  –Alya Al-Sultani and Bradford writer Kamal Kaan’s Perfume which tells the story of a sensual, romantic encounter between a cosmetic salesperson and a customer, and The Last Gift by Ben Crick and Khadijah Ibrahiim, which intertwines the stories and voices of Emperor Tewodros of Ethiopia, deposed by the British in 1868, and his son, raised in exile in Leeds, ward of Queen Victoria. Both operas will be popping up in shopping centres and community settings around the district as part of Bradford’s Music Month.

Bradford Opera Festival – Pop up operas Perfume and The Last Gift

Saturday 25 November – Both will be performed:

12 noon Airedale Shopping Centre Keighley
2pm Baptist Church Shipley
4pm Broadway Shopping Centre Bradford BD1 

The Barber of Seville is a co-production amongst Bradford Opera Festival, Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra and Bradford Festival Choral Society. The Festival is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England, as well as Bradford Council.

Tickets for the Barber of Seville are available from the Bradford Theatre Box Office on 01302 432000 or online

Main image – L-R: Baritone Oscar Castellino, Director Alex Chisholm, Conductor Ben Crick, and Ian McMillan.

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