LOVE, LOSS AND LAUGHTER: OPERA NORTH RETURNS TO THE LOWRY
With Puccini’s devastating take on passion and power, Janáček’s enchanting celebration of the cycle of life, and Strauss’ playful look at what happens when tragedy and comedy collide on and off stage, Opera North’s new season brings memorable characters, compelling drama and incredible music to The Lowry this March.
One of the world’s most popular operas is back with opportunities to catch Edward Dick’s thrilling production of Puccini’s Tosca on Thursday 9 and Saturday 11 March. The singer Tosca is the lover of Cavaradossi, an artist, but has also attracted the attention of Scarpia, the chillingly corrupt Chief of Police, who wants her for himself. The opportunity presents itself when Cavaradossi is arrested and tortured for helping an escaped political prisoner find refuge. Scarpia offers Tosca a stark choice: if she gives herself to him, he will let Cavaradossi go free.
Baritone Robert Hayward revisits the role of Scarpia with soprano Giselle Allen singing Tosca on 9 March and Magdalena Molendowska on 11 March. Ukrainian tenor Mykhailo Malafii makes his UK and Opera North debut as Cavaradossi, while Opera North Music Director, Garry Walker, conducts Puccini’s mesmerising score which includes Tosca’s moving paean to art ‘Vissi d’arte’, Caravadossi’s heart-wrenching farewell ‘E lucevan le stelle’, and the powerful hymn ‘Te deum’.
Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen takes a very different look at life and loss on Tuesday 7. Inspired by a comic strip in his local paper, Janáček reworked the captivating tale of a mischievous young vixen Sharp-Ears to create a work which appeals to adults and young people alike. Having been captured by a Forester to become the family pet, the vixen eventually manages to escape back into the wild where she falls in love with another fox only to be shot while defending her cubs. By turns funny and profound, the opera features a host of colourful characters including hens, a dragonfly and a badger, and a playful score brimming with folk-infused melodies.
Originally a Scottish Opera/ Welsh National Opera co-production, Sir David Pountney’s interpretation of Janáček’s work is widely regarded as a classic. Andrew Gourlay conducts a cast which sees a host of singers making a welcome return to Opera North including Elin Pritchard as Vixen Sharp-Ears, Heather Lowe as Fox, Callum Thorpe as the Poacher, Paul Nilon as the Schoolmaster and James Rutherford as the Forester. A matinee performance of The Cunning Little Vixen takes place for schools at 1pm on Wednesday 8 March giving many upper KS2 and KS3 pupils the chance to experience live opera in the theatre for the first time.
Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos, a first for Opera North, completes the season on Friday 10 March in a co-production with Gothenburg Opera, where it premiered to critical acclaim in 2018. London-based Greek director Rodula Gaitanou and designer George Souglides have set the action in a bustling 1950s Fellini-esque Italian film studio. Much to everyone’s dismay, two different shows – a light musical comedy and a serious mythological opera – have been asked to merge at the last minute to cut costs. The worlds collide to hilarious effect when the commedia dell’arte’s fickle Zerbinetta tries to cheer up Ariadne, who longs only for death having been jilted by her lover Theseus.
Underpinned by Strauss’ beautiful score, the ensuing drama both on and off stage offers a meditation on differing attitudes to life and love and casts a quizzical eye over the concepts of ‘high’ and ‘low’ art. Opera North’s Principal Guest Conductor, Antony Hermus, returns to conduct a cast including, in their Company debuts, English soprano Elizabeth Llewellyn as Ariadne/ Prima Donna and Polish mezzo soprano Hanna Hipp as the Composer. They are joined by Jennifer France as Zerbinetta for what she terms “Strauss’ love letter to opera”.
Under 30s can take advantage of discounted tickets for all performances, while newcomers to opera can enjoy two tickets for £20 each when they Try it ON. Following The Lowry, the productions tour to Nottingham and Newcastle, with performances of Tosca and The Cunning Little Vixen also planned in Hull.