English Touring Opera (ETO) is set to bring its spring tour to venues across England, starting in February 2022. The programme consists of a revival of ETO director James Conway’s popular 2015 production of Puccini’s La bohème (The Bohemians, 1896), a new version of Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Golden Cockerel (1909) and a staging of Bach’s St John Passion (1724).
The season starts with La bohème. Puccini’s timeless story of young love, kindled on Christmas Eve in a Parisian garret, is one of the most popular operas in the repertory. It is a classic tale of passion, friendship, jealousy and mortality set in late 19th century Paris.
Christopher Moon-Little directs this revival of Conway’s highly acclaimed 2015 production, sung in Italian with English surtitles. Remaining in period, the director stays true to the original opera. Brazilian tenor Luciano Botelho and British tenor Thomas Elwin share the role of the poet Rodolfo, with Nigerian-American soprano Francesca Chiejina and American soprano Paula Sides sharing the role of seamstress Mimì.
Brazilian baritone Michel de Souza and British baritone Jerome Knox sing the part of the painter Marcello. The roles of Colline, a philosopher, and Schaunard, a musician, are taken by Canadian bass Trevor Eliot Bowes and Zambian-born baritone Themba Mvula.
The production tours to 14 venues across England between 26 February and 3 June 2022, starting at east London’s Hackney Empire on the former date.
The second opera on the roster is James Conway’s new production of The Golden Cockerel, a comic Russian fantasy by Rimsky-Korsakov. The piece is conducted by Gerry Cornelius and marks his first as music director of ETO, a position he took up in 2021.
Rimsky-Korsakov’s final opera, the libretto by Russian poet Vladimir Belsky is derived from Alexander Pushkin’s 1834 poem ‘The Tale of the Golden Cockerel’. It tells the story of the inept Tsar Dodon who believes that his country is in danger of being invaded. He asks the advice of an Astrologer, who supplies a magic Golden Cockerel to protect him. The cockerel confirms the tsar’s fears and the monarch pre-emptively attacks a neighbouring country with an army led by his sons.
However, the sons prove to be useless and instead kill each other in battle. The tsar heads to war himself, but falls for the tsaritsa of the enemy country. She engineers a marriage proposal from the tsar so she can conquer his country without bloodshed.
This new staging, sung in English, stars Australian baritone Grant Doyle as the tsar, with Thomas Elwin and Jerome Knox as his two sons. Paula Sides sings the role of Tsaritsa of Shemakha. Welsh tenor Robert Lewis plays the part of the Astrologer, with Welsh soprano Alys Mererid Roberts as the Golden Cockerel.
The production tours to 13 venues in England between 5 March and 31 May 2022, again starting at the Hackney Empire.
Finally, ETO marks Easter with a national tour of Bach’s St John Passion. Conway’s staging unites professional soloists and the Old Street Band with singers from local choirs at each venue. The anonymous libretto is compiled from recitatives and choruses narrating the Passion of Christ as told in the Gospel of John to tell a story of intense hope.
Sung in German and English, the production will visit 13 venues in England between 21 March and 14 April 2022.
Tickets to some shows are on sale now, with the rest to be released shortly. For full venue, date and price information, visit ETO’s spring tour pages.
A revival of a 2015 production of Puccini’s La bohème will kick off English Touring Opera’s spring tour for 2022 (Richard Hubert-Smith).