Opera North has announced new live performances, with Fidelio the first large scale production for over 12 months.
Beethoven’s only opera was originally scheduled for November 2020, but, nothing daunted, Opera North livestreamed Fidelio to huge acclaim, The Guardian reviewing it as ‘electrifying’. The same cast will perform to a socially distanced audience on 9 and 12 June. The filmed and streamed performance of Fidelio is also returning to Opera North’s ONDemand platform, where it can now be watched for £15.
Staged by Matthew Eberhardt, these performances of Fidelio will be conducted by Paul Daniel, the Company’s Music Director from 1990-1997, with cast including Rachel Nicholls as Leonore, Toby Spence as Florestan, Robert Hayward as Don Pizarro, Brindley Sherratt as Rocco, Fflur Wyn as Marzelline and Oliver Johnston as Jaquino.
A Little Night Music
June/July dates for this co-production between Opera North and Leeds Playhouse will be confirmed in due course for this summer. Opera North’s former Head of Music James Holmes will conduct, with a cast including Dame Josephine Barstow, Stephanie Corley and Quirijn de Lang directed by Leeds Playhouse’s James Brining.
All performances will take place in line with government guidance on social distancing and any other measures recommended to keep everyone safe – our audiences, crew, performers and front of house staff. Measures are detailed on the Opera North website and at all venues.
Livestreamed Chamber Concerts (free of charge)
In the meantime, a new series of weekly livestreamed chamber concerts will feature soloists and small ensembles from the Orchestra of Opera North. Free to watch, The Whitehall Road Sessions will be streamed live on YouTube and Opera North’s ONDemand platform. The series of five concerts, broadcast live from the Company’s rehearsal studio in Whitehall Road, Leeds, will run on Thursdays at 6pm on 22 April, 29 April, 6 May, 20 May and 27 May.
The first of the Whitehall Road Sessions on 22 April will include Debussy’s Sonata for Flute, Viola and Harp, and the same composer’s Syrinx for solo flute. This repertoire will be complemented by a guest performance by South Indian classical musician Vijay Venkat on bansuri (Indian flute).
The second livestreamed concert, on 29 April, will be Schubert’s Octet in F Major, followed on 6 May by a concert of chamber music from neglected female composers, including Farrenc’s Piano Quintet No, 2 and Lili Boulanger’s trio for violin and piano, D’un Matin de Printemps.
Thursday 20 May’s livestream brings together two quintets for wind instruments by Mozart and Herzogenberg, while Thursday 27 May will feature Ravel’s String Quartet and Britten’s Phantasy Quartet for oboe and string trio.
Sound Walk for The Streets
As You Are’s dates were cut short in December 2020, but will begin again with daily timed slots and limited numbers. Dates will be released as soon as possible when the roadmap out of lockdown is confirmed.
Experienced through headphones on a 40-minute walk through central Leeds, As You Are is a major new commission for South African-born cellist, composer and improviser Abel Selaocoe. Audiences collect a pair of headphones from the Victoria Gate shopping centre, then begin their journey through the opulent County Arcade. A series of transmitters triggers each chapter of the composition, which features the Orchestra and Chorus of Opera North joined at various points by Zimbabwean mbira player Anna Mudeka, Moroccan guimbri player Simo Lagnawi, and djembe virtuoso Sidiki Dembélé from the Ivory Coast.
Whistle Stop Opera
This pop-up style opera strand also returns, touring across the North in small indoor and outdoor venues, including community spaces, schools and town theatres. If you or anyone you know would like to host a performance of The Magic Flute in or at their venue, please contact [email protected]
Richard Mantle, General Director, Opera North:
“Following the challenges of the last year, we are very pleased to announce our return to live performances as we prepare to welcome audiences once again. During this long period when it has not been possible to perform live, we have certainly not been silent, and we have made great strides in recording and streaming large-scale pieces within social distancing restrictions over the last few months. Our 2020 livestream of Fidelio, with our wonderful Chorus and Orchestra alongside some truly outstanding soloists, was a musical highlight of the past year which we can’t wait to share with audiences in person.
A year later than planned, A Little Night Music brings us back to Leeds Playhouse, with our two companies celebrating a closer bond than ever following our inventive collaborations on Connecting Voices and Orpheus in the Record Shop in the intervening months.
We are also extending and developing our digital programme, with the release of a filmed version of Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice, as well as our new free series of livestreamed chamber concerts, allowing us to create and share powerful musical experiences with audiences at home. This follows the runaway success of a range of digital projects connecting with audiences online over the last months, from a livestream of Weill’s The Seven Deadly Sins last November, to the thousands of people who have participated in our virtual choir, From Couch to Chorus. The more recent series of ONe-to-ONe solo performances given for free by members of our Chorus and Orchestra over Zoom will also continue throughout April.”
Whilst Opera North hasn’t been able to perform opera in theatres or concert halls to audiences owing to COVID-19 restrictions, the Company has delivered new music commissions, livestreams and a wide variety of recordings. Their education programme has continued remotely via digital learning platforms, too, in a best effort to reduce the impact of the restrictions on the communities the Company serves.
The centrepiece new commission from Connecting Voices, Orpheus in the Record Shop, has now been made into a film to be broadcast on BBC Four and BBC iPlayer this Spring as part of #BBCLightsUp, an unprecedented season of plays for BBC TV and radio, produced in partnership with theatres across the UK and continuing BBC Arts’ Culture in Quarantine initiative.
Inspired by the Ancient Greek myth, acclaimed rapper and playwright Testament (Black Men Walking, The Beatboxer) fuses spoken word and beatboxing with a cinematic score performed by members of the Orchestra and Chorus of Opera North, filling Leeds Playhouse’s Quarry Theatre with Orpheus’s dreams, his reminiscences and his struggle for redemption. A Leeds Playhouse and Opera North co-production, Orpheus in the Record Shop was originally directed and designed for the stage by Aletta Collins. The filmed version, directed by James Brining and Alex Ramseyer-Bache, will premiere on BBC Four on Wednesday 21 April.
Two concerts recorded during the winter lockdown will also be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 this Spring. Richard Farnes, Opera North’s former Music Director, returns to the Company to conduct the Orchestra of Opera North in a concert featuring Sibelius’ Pelléas and Mélisande Suite, Janáček’s Katya Kabanova Suite and Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel Suite, airing on Wednesday 28 April.
A broadcast of Orfeo ed Euridice will follow on Saturday 1 May, with Laurence Cummings conducting and cast including Paula Murrihy as Orfeo, Fflur Wyn as Euridice and Daisy Brown as Amore. An accompanying film following the recording process in real time will be available to stream on Opera North’s ONDemand player.
Opera North is certainly making sure that audiences will continue to have the opportunity to enjoy the Company’s rich variety of production and performance on the journey back to normality.
Feature photograph by Richard H Smith.