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Opera North's Carmen

New Carmen marks Opera North's return to The Lowry

This autumn marks the long-awaited return of opera to theatres across the north of England as Opera North performs its first full live season and tour since the pandemic, including bringing Bizet’s passionate masterpiece Carmen to The Lowry.

Carmen remains one of the most popular operas of all times, continuing to enthral today’s audiences with its themes of femininity, desire, violence and toxic masculinity, all underpinned by instantly recognisable and unforgettable melodies. It tells the story of a woman on the margins of society, driven by a fierce, uncompromising desire for personal liberty, and of a man who, in the grip of sexual obsession, tries to own her.

This is the Company’s first new production of Bizet’s work in over a decade and is conducted by Opera North’s new Music Director, Garry Walker in his first main stage appearance since taking on the role.

Edward Dick returns to the Company to direct the production following his critically-acclaimed Tosca in 2018: “Essentially, I want to harness the raw energy of the music, whilst creating a production that makes an audience think about the attitudes that are embedded in the opera.”

American mezzo-soprano Chrystal E. Williams makes her Opera North debut in the title role alongside American tenor Erin Caves who sings Don José after Rafael Rojas withdrew from the current run due to the effects of long Covid.

Leonard Bernstein takes centre-stage the following evening, when a double-bill of his works explores the tensions which can arise in both a relationship and in society at large.

His one-act opera Trouble in Tahiti puts the American Dream under the spotlight as the cracks begin to show in Sam and Dinah’s seemingly perfect marriage in 1950s suburbia. First performed as part of Opera North’s Little Greats season of short operas in 2017, this revival, directed by Matthew Eberhardt, sees baritone Quirijn de Lang returning in the role of Sam, with American mezzo Sandra Piques Eddy joining him as Dinah.

Paired with Trouble in Tahiti is a new co-production of West Side Story Symphonic Dances in collaboration with Phoenix Dance Theatre. West Side Story is a landmark of musical theatre and Bernstein’s stand-alone Symphonic Dances extracted from the show are packed with mambos, waltzes and cha-chas. Conducted by Antony Hermus, Opera North’s Principal Guest Conductor, and choreographed by Phoenix Dance Theatre’s recently appointed Artistic Director Dane Hurst, Symphonic Dances is an entirely new dance work inspired by the situation in South Africa in the 1950s and 60s. Responding to the rhythms of the piece, the dancers navigate the rough edges and walls of city life, exploring conflict and the need to connect.

The double bill is complemented by a short spoken-word performance, Halfway and Beyond, by writer and performer Khadijah Ibrahiim, who has created a poetic dialogue between nature and consciousness, the concept of identity and the notion of belonging.

After The Lowry, the productions move to Nottingham Theatre Royal completing the tour on Saturday 20 November.

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