Opera North ready to hit high notes with an exciting new season ahead

Opera North's new production of Madama Butterfly
Opera North's new production of Madama Butterfly
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“With a large orchestra and chorus and a very long cast list, it may seem a strange choice in the present financial stringencies to be scheduling a new production of Tchaikovsky’s Queen of Spades,” says Richard Mantle, general director of Opera North. “It is a work we have never performed before and something we have been planning for years, so we decided that it should still go ahead.”

Queen of Spades is a long, dark and highly-charged work, quite different to Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, and Neil Bartlett, one of the UK’s most highly-acclaimed theatre directors will produce the work, conducted by the company’s music director, Richard Farnes.

Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts, who sang the leading role in Opera North’s award-winning production of Britten’s Peter Grimes, takes the part of Herman, the young man hell-bent on gaining wealth; Orla Boylan makes her company debut as Lisa, the girl at the centre of the story, with the legendary soprano, Dame Josephine Barstow, returning to take the cameo character part of the old Countess. Richard Farnes conducts.

Tim Albrey’s 2007 production of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly opens the season next Saturday, and however many times you have seen the opera, this is the one that will linger in your memory. When it was first staged I wrote, “it would be hard to imagine a more potent Butterfly, Anne Sophie Duprels’ personal maturity still able to recreate the young teenager”.

She returns for this revival together with Peter Savidge in his sensitive portrayal of Sharpless.

“We have two further new productions in addition to the Tchaikovsky, including a new Giulio Cesare to add to our rather sparse catalogue of Handel operas,” adds Mantle.

“We have invited Tim Albery back to direct with Pamela Helen Stephen in the name role.”

The third opera, Bellini’s Norma, sees the dramatic American soprano, Takesha Meshe Kizart, sensational in Tosca a few years back reunited with the director of that opera, Christopher Alden, and it will also have Luis Chapa, the Mexican tenor.

“There are two operas our audiences repeatedly ask to see again and we are planning to return Peter Grimes sometime soon. But we are meeting their other request with an autumn rerun of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Ruddigore.

“The spring season will be different, very busy and full of new ideas. Hopefully we will have details finalised before we open with Butterfly.”

The year will be rounded-off with Die Walkure, the second installment of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen. Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts sings his first Siegmund; Alwyn Mellor is Sieglinde; Swedish soprano Annalena Persson, is Brunnhilde, and Bela Perencz is Wotan.

Opera North at Leeds Grand Theatre 0844 8482706.