Touring company Opera North (ON) has revealed that it is to return to live shows this summer with four concert performances of Beethoven’s only opera Fidelio (1805). This marks the Leeds-based company’s first large-scale production for more than a year.
Originally due to be performed in November 2020, the production had to be cancelled due to Covid-19 restrictions. It was later filmed behind closed doors and the recording streamed to audiences in December last year. The production will be performed to live, socially distanced audiences for the first time, at Leeds Town Hall on 9 and 12 June, followed by The Lowry, Salford Quays, on 15 June and Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham, on 19 June.
Fidelio will be conducted by Paul Daniel. The cast includes soprano Rachel Nicholls as Leonore, tenor Toby Spence as Florestan, bass-baritone Robert Hayward as Don Pizarro, bass Brindley Sherratt as Rocco, soprano Fflur Wyn as Marzelline and tenor Oliver Johnston as Jaquino.
ON’s filmed performance of the opera is also returning to the company’s ONDemand platform, where it can be watched for £15.
“Following the challenges of the last year, we are very pleased to announce our return to live performances as we prepare to welcome audiences once again,” Richard Mantle, general director of Opera North, commented.
“During this long period when it has not been possible to perform live, we have certainly not been silent, and we have made great strides in recording and streaming large-scale pieces within social-distancing restrictions over the last few months. Our 2020 livestream of Fidelio, with our wonderful Chorus and Orchestra alongside some truly outstanding soloists, was a musical highlight of the past year which we can’t wait to share with audiences in person.”
ON continues its journey out of lockdown with A Night at the Opera, a gala concert conducted by Paul Daniel. It will be performed at The Lowry, Salford Quays on 16 June. The Orchestra of Opera North will be joined by guest soloists including soprano Elin Pritchard and baritone Benson Wilson to deliver a programme featuring some of opera’s best-loved arias and duets, including favourites from the works of Mozart, Verdi and Puccini.
All performances of both events will follow the latest guidance on social distancing for audiences, performers, crew and front-of-house staff, with limited audience capacities in line with government Covid-19 regulations.
Spring also sees the return of As You Are, Opera North’s soundwalk for the streets of Leeds. Commissioned last summer and originally due to open on 12 December 2020, the initial dates were curtailed by changes to lockdown restrictions over the winter months.
Experienced through headphones on a 40-minute walk through central Leeds, As You Are is a major new commission for South African-born cellist, composer and improviser Abel Selaocoe. Free tickets will be available daily in timed slots, with limited numbers at all times. Dates for this event will be confirmed as soon as possible, in line with updated government guidance on events and activities.
Audiences collect their headphones from the Victoria Gate shopping centre, then begin a journey through the County Arcade. A series of transmitters triggers each chapter of the composition, which features the Orchestra and Chorus of Opera North joined at various points by Zimbabwean mbira player Anna Mudeka, Moroccan guimbri player Simo Lagnawi and djembe virtuoso Sidiki Dembélé from the Ivory Coast.
Opera North’s pop-up-style Whistle Stop Opera strand also makes a return this spring, with a newly devised take on Mozart’s The Magic Flute written and directed by John Savournin for a small cast and accordion. Touring to indoor and outdoor small-scale venues across northern England from June, performances will take place in schools, community spaces and theatres in towns and rural touring networks across the region.
Before live performances restart, however, ON has announced a series of weekly livestreamed chamber concerts featuring soloists and small ensembles from the Orchestra of Opera North. Free to watch, The Whitehall Road Sessions – broadcast live from the company’s rehearsal studio in Whitehall Road, Leeds – will be available on YouTube and Opera North’s ONDemand platform.
The first of the sessions on 22 April will include Debussy’s Sonata for Flute, Viola and Harp, and Syrinx for solo flute. This repertoire will be complemented by a guest performance by South Indian classical musician Vijay Venkat on bansuri (Indian flute).
The second concert, on 29 April, will be Schubert’s Octet in F Major, followed on 6 May by a concert of chamber music from neglected female composers, including Farrenc’s Piano Quintet No 2 and Lili Boulanger’s trio for violin and piano, D’un Matin de Printemps.
Thursday 20 May’s livestream brings together two quintets for wind instruments by Mozart and Herzogenberg, while the final one on Thursday 27 May will feature Ravel’s String Quartet and Britten’s Phantasy Quartet for oboe and string trio.
Opera North will be bringing Beethoven’s Fidelio to Leeds, Salford and Nottingham in June (Richard H Smith).