Opera North has announced five new productions for its 2021-22 season, the Leeds-based opera company’s first full season since the start of the Covid-19 health crisis in March 2020.
The season will see five new productions open at Leeds Grand Theatre before touring concert halls and theatres across the north of England. It starts with the company’s first new version of Carmen (1875) in over a decade.
Bizet’s tragic opera is conducted by Garry Walker in his first production as Opera North’s new music director; it is directed by theatre director Edward Dick. American mezzo-soprano Chrystal E Williams takes on the eponymous role of the fiery, but doomed, gypsy, alongside Canadian tenor Antoine Bélanger as her lover Don José. Starting on 2 October, performances of Carmen will continue into 2022.
Richard Mantle, Opera North’s general director, commented: “One of our new productions delayed by the pandemic, Carmen will be our first event back in residence at Leeds Grand Theatre since early 2020. We are delighted that this opening production will be conducted by Garry Walker in his belated debut as our new music director, following much success in previous performances with the company of Billy Budd, The Rite of Spring and The Greek Passion.”
A double bill of works by Leonard Bernstein sees a revival of the American composer’s one-act opera Trouble in Tahiti (1952) paired with a new co-production of West Side Story Symphonic Dances in collaboration with Phoenix Dance Theatre.
The former tells the story of a day in the life of Sam and Dinah, a desperately unhappy married couple, who are lonely, longing for love and unable to communicate. Symphonic Dances is an entirely new dance work, interpreting Bernstein’s thrilling music in an exploration of identity and conflict. The performance is conducted by Antony Hermus, Opera North’s principal guest conductor, and choreographed by Phoenix Dance Theatre’s recently appointed Artistic Director Dane Hurst.
Launching in January 2022 is a new production of Verdi’s Rigoletto (1851), conducted by Garry Walker and directed by the British Nigerian actor/director Femi Elufowoju Jr in his operatic debut. The tragic story revolves around the licentious Duke of Mantua, his hunchbacked court jester Rigoletto and Rigoletto’s daughter Gilda.
American baritone Eric Greene sings the title role in a cast which also includes Jamaican-born British bass-baritone Sir Willard White as Monterone and Russian tenor Roman Arndt as the Duke. American soprano Jasmine Habersham makes her Opera North debut as Gilda.
The season continues in February 2022 with a new version of Handel’s Alcina (1735), Opera North’s first environmentally sustainable production, created from recycled, re-used and secondhand sources. The opera is set on the enchantress Alcina’s island; she has used her magic powers to create a magnificent palace in a beautiful landscape, to lure her many lovers into her influence. One of these is Ruggiero, a warrior who, under Alcina’s spell, has forsaken his duty and his betrothed, Bradamante.
The new production is conducted by Laurence Cummings and directed by Tim Albery, with Irish soprano Máire Flavin as Alcina and American countertenor Patrick Terry as Ruggiero. Polish mezzo-soprano Joanna Motulewicz sings the role of Bradamante.
The season is rounded off with a rescheduled tour in June 2022 of Wagner’s Parsifal (1882), which will open at Leeds Grand Theatre before touring to concert halls across the country, including a London venue yet to be announced. The opera tells the story of Arthurian knight Percival and his quest for the Holy Grail.
Opera North’s former music director, Richard Farnes, returns to the company to conduct a cast including British bass Brindley Sherratt as Gurnemanz and British tenor Toby Spence as Parsifal, both in role debuts. PJ Harris directs this new concert staging, which continues Opera North’s acclaimed strand of large-scale works presented dramatically in concert halls.
Tickets for all productions are on sale now. All performances will follow any Covid-19 restrictions that are in place, with audience capacities following the most up-to-date government guidelines. The company will work with partner venues to ensure that the safety and comfort of all audience members, staff and performers remain the highest priority.
Mezzo-soprano Chrystal E Williams will sing the title role in Opera North’s new production of Bizet’s Carmen, which kicks off the company’s 2021-22 season.