Dates for the broadcasts have been announced:
• Wednesday 21 April: Orpheus in the Record Shop, BBC Four.
• Wednesday 28 April: a concert featuring Sibelius’s Pelléas and Mélisande Suite, Janáček’s Katya Kabanova Suite and Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel Suite, BBC Radio 3.
• Saturday 1 May: Orfeo ed Euridice, BBC Four.
A new programme of broadcast and online events will be available this spring from Opera North (ON), the Leeds-based opera company has revealed. The series will include concert recordings, as well as a brand-new take on a well-known Greek myth.
Orpheus in the Record Shop by acclaimed writer, MC and beatboxer Testament is a co-production with Leeds Playhouse. Inspired by the ancient Greek myth about the legendary musician, poet and prophet, the new production fuses spoken word and beatboxing with a cinematic score performed by members of the Orchestra and Chorus of Opera North.
The piece premiered to a socially distanced audience in Leeds Playhouse’s Quarry Theatre in October 2020. A recording of Orpheus in the Record Shop will be broadcast on BBC Four and BBC iPlayer this spring as part of #BBCLightsUp, a season of plays for BBC TV and radio, produced in partnership with theatres across the UK.
Originally directed and designed for the stage by Aletta Collins, the filmed version is directed by James Brining and Alex Ramseyer-Bache. The cast includes Testament as Orpheus and Helen Évora as Justine.
BBC Director of Arts Jonty Claypole commented: “BBC Lights Up is a major broadcast season celebrating the creativity and resilience of UK theatre in its darkest hour. It’s that seemingly impossible thing: a theatre festival in the midst of a pandemic, consisting of 18 original productions from theatres and producers across the UK.
“Testament’s Orpheus in the Record Shop, with Leeds Playhouse and Opera North, is an entertaining, poetic and deeply moving show written and performed by one of the most exciting creative voices working anywhere in the UK right now. I am delighted it is joining BBC Lights Up, and that audiences around the country will have access to this acclaimed production.”
Two newly recorded concerts will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 this spring. Richard Farnes, a former music director at Opera North, returns to conduct the Orchestra of Opera North in a concert featuring Sibelius’s Pelléas and Mélisande Suite, Janáček’s Katya Kabanova Suite, and Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel Suite.
Opera North then returns to the Orpheus myth with a concert recording of Gluck’s opera Orfeo ed Euridice (1762). The performance is conducted from the harpsichord by Laurence Cummings, with guest soloists mezzo-soprano Paula Murrihy as Orfeo, soprano Fflur Wyn as Euridice and soprano Daisy Brown as Amore joining the Orchestra and Chorus of Opera North.
The broadcast of Orfeo ed Euridice will be accompanied by a specially commissioned behind-the-scenes film, documenting the recording of the production in real time and giving a unique insight into the recording process at Leeds Town Hall. The 90-minute film, directed by Andrew Quick, will be available to watch on Opera North’s ONDemand platform later this spring.
Richard Mantle, general director of Opera North, said: “At a time when performing and playing together has become much more of a challenge, bringing our musicians together with some exceptional guest artists to make these new recordings and films for broadcast in partnership with the BBC is a true pleasure.
“The first live performances of Orpheus in the Record Shop between lockdowns last year were an extraordinary achievement, drawing on the capacious talents of Testament as a writer and performer, and the combined forces of Opera North and Leeds Playhouse. Having brought together the two companies’ expertise in dramaturgy and directing for camera, we’re delighted to be able to share this unique and inspirational work with so many more people through this substantially reworked capture and broadcast.”
Broadcast dates and times are still to be confirmed; keep an eye on TV and radio listings for further details.
Testament performs the title role in his new work Orpheus in the Record Shop (Anthony Robling).