Opera North set to stage production of Cole Porter’s Kiss Me, Kate
- Credit: Alastair Muir
The new season at Opera North has something for everyone, whether seasoned opera buffs or first timers
The common perception is that opera is an elitist artform catering to a diminishing and ageing audience. But the figures at Opera North not only challenge that idea, but prove it to be utter tosh.
In the last year 44 per cent of audience members have been new to opera, hundreds of young people have been given their first experience of opera at a schools matinee, more than 2,000 under 30s have joined a scheme to attract younger audiences and 78 groups in Leeds alone have signed up to a community engagement programme, with more than 1300 people attending special taster performances and workshops.
And they are planning to build on those impressive figures in the new season, with a series of events and performances aimed at attracting yet more new and young audiences, while providing plenty for seasoned opera goers.
In February there will be another performance for school children and other new initiatives for 2015/16 include Whistle Stop Opera: bite-sized performances created especially to take opera into a range of community settings, from care homes to museums, libraries and cafés. With the original music condensed for a small group of singers and musicians, these introductory performances squeeze drama, excitement and glorious voices into just 20 minutes.
The In Harmony scheme has been expanded too, so pupils at two Leeds primary schools will now have the chance to sing and to play as part of an orchestra. And with Hull’s year as Capital of Culture now just over 12 months away Opera North has announced a five year partnership with the University of Hull as well as new branches of the Children’s Chorus and Youth Company in the city.
Meanwhile, on the main stage, Opera North will stage a broad and eclectic range of work including new productions of Cole Porter’s Kiss Me, Kate and Giordano’s Andrea Chénier. Lesley Garrett will perform in the world premier of Pleasure, a new chamber opera by Mark Simpson and a new production of Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods marks Opera North’s first major artistic collaboration with West Yorkshire Playhouse in June 2016.
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The programme also features The Barber of Seville, Jen?fa, Così fan tutte and L’elisir d’amore along with highly anticipated full cycles of The Ring conducted by Richard Farnes from April-July in Leeds, Nottingham, Salford, Gateshead and London, where performances of the first ever full Ring at Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall have already sold out.
General director Richard Mantle said: ‘The next year at Opera North promises to be one of our most excitingly diverse seasons yet, beginning with Cole Porter’s Kiss Me, Kate, a work we have long wanted to stage, and concluding with our six complete cycles of Wagner’s Ring, via the works of Janá?ek, Mozart, Giordano and Sondheim.
‘I am particularly delighted that two new productions in the spring demonstrate our ongoing commitment to forging creative partnerships and creating new work, breathing new life into contemporary opera performance. Pleasure is a new opera by a hugely talented young composer, Mark Simpson, jointly commissioned and produced through a partnership between Aldeburgh Music, The Royal Opera and Opera North. Then in June we join forces with West Yorkshire Playhouse for a major collaboration in which we will co-produce Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods in the Quarry Theatre, in a new production by the Playhouse’s Artistic Director James Brining.
‘This season marks the conclusion of Richard Farnes’ twelve-year term as music director of Opera North. Richard’s contribution to the life of the company is incalculable, and there can be no more fitting conclusion to his illustrious tenure than conducting The Ring. It promises to be a festive moment for the whole company, and we are planning an incredibly diverse range of special events surrounding these performances, for audiences and participants of all ages.’