The 2023 Leeds Opera Festival runs from 19 August to 10 September. Produced by Northern Opera Group, this year’s festival foregrounds established and emerging talent from the Latin and Hispanic world. It features the UK premiere of Robert Rodriguez’s opera Frida (1991) and a new production of Astor Piazzolla’s tango opera María de Buenos Aires (1968).
Sung in both Spanish and English, Frida tells the story of renowned Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. It recounts moments from her life: the traffic accident that left her with lifelong pain, her turbulent relationship with fellow Mexican artist Diego Rivera, and her iconic art.
The opera is directed by British-Chilean director and theatre-maker Francesca Murray-Fuentes. Cuban-American conductor Odaline de la Martinez wields the baton. The cast includes Venezuelan-Indian soprano Parvathi Subbiah, Colombian baritone Jacobo Ochoa and Spanish mezzo-soprano Julia Merino.
Frida receives its UK premiere at the new £80m Leeds School of Arts Theatre in Leeds city centre on 29 August at 7pm. Further performances take place on 31 August at 7pm and 2 September at 2.30pm. Tickets cost £10-£30.
The story of María de Buenos Aires centres on the titular Maria, who is from a poor suburb of Buenos Aires. She moves to the city centre where she is seduced into becoming a sex worker. She dies and is condemned to Hell, which is the city itself; her shadow now walks the city.
This new production features dancers from the Northern School of Contemporary Dance. It is choreographed and directed by Carlos Pons Guerra and conducted by Natalia Luis-Bassa. Performances are at 7pm on 30 August, and 1 and 2 September in the Leeds School of Arts Theatre. Tickets cost £10-£30.
David Ward, Leeds Opera Festival artistic director, commented: “Latin music is often overlooked on classical stages in the UK – particularly operatic stages – so we’re delighted to be celebrating composers from across the Latin world this summer.
“Our UK premiere of Frida is a major opportunity for audiences to experience this tremendous piece of music theatre and delve deeper into the life of one of the world’s most iconic artists. With María de Buenos Aires we’re partnering with a dance conservatoire of international renown and collaborating with talent based and trained in Leeds.”
A new pop-up opera by composer Jose Puello and writer Zodwa Nyoni will tour to venues across Leeds and surrounding areas. The opera is being developed with young people from primary schools in Leeds who are taking part in workshops on traditional Latin American folk stories and songs.
Leeds Opera Festival also comprises a series of recitals featuring Latin American music, tickets for which are all on a pay-what-you-can basis, with a minimum price of £2. Award-winning London-based Cuban guitarist Ahmed Dickinson Cardenas will perform at Seven Arts on 8 September at 8pm.
On 9 September pianist Jose Luis Nieto will bring his acclaimed concert programme Pasión de Asión de Falla to the UK for the first time. The concert takes place in Castle Grove Masonic Hall at 8pm.
Spanish soprano Lorena Paz Nieto and Anglo-Hispanic pianist Helen Glaisher-Hernández will be celebrating female authors and composers from all over the Latin world. This special concert will be at Heart Centre Headingley at 2pm on 10 September, bringing the festival to a close.
“Our full programme incorporating workshops, recitals and other events promises to provide avenues into Latin music and opera for audiences of all ages, and explore music from across the Spanish speaking world,” Ward added.
Leeds Opera Festival 2023 includes the UK premiere of Robert Rodriguez’s opera Frida and a new production of Astor Piazzolla’s tango opera María de Buenos Aires.