Opera North has announced details of its 2022-23 season. The eight productions include a new co-production of Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos (1912), revivals of Puccini’s Tosca (1900) and Verdi’s La traviata (The Fallen Woman, 1853), a concert staging of The Pearl Fishers (Bizet, 1863), and two exciting collaborations with partners in the company’s home city of Leeds.
The season opens in September with a revival of director Alessandro Talevi’s popular version of La traviata, set in Belle Époque Paris.
Violetta is a courtesan who is enjoying the Parisian high life when, to her surprise, she falls in love with the handsome Alfredo Germont. But she cannot escape the consequences of her past life, and circumstances conspire to force her to sacrifice what may be her only chance of true love.
Two casts feature across the tour. With Russian soprano Anna Denisova and a singer to be confirmed sharing the role of Violetta, Maltese tenor Nico Darmanin and British tenor Oliver Johnston as Alfredo and English baritone Stephen Gadd and Italian baritone Damiano Salerno as his father Giorgio Germont.
Orpheus: Monteverdi reimagined is an innovative collaboration with longstanding Opera North partner South Asian Arts-uk (SAA-uk), a Leeds-based centre of excellence in Indian classical music.
This reimagining of Monteverdi’s pioneering 1607 work, often credited as the first great opera, is the culmination of a long period of research and development, during which musicians and consultants from both organisations explored ideas and connections between Western and Indian classical music.
The intimate scale, partially improvised and collaborative nature of early Baroque opera, featuring continuo accompaniment, and arias where soloists are able to add ornamentation, offers creative parallels with the structured improvisation of the Indian classical tradition.
The story begins with the wedding of Orpheus – a musician of mythical power – to Eurydice. But the celebrations are cut short by Eurydice’s sudden death. The grief is too great for Orpheus to bear, and he resolves to do anything he can to return his beloved to life.
This new production relocates the mythic fields of Thrace to a British garden. It is directed by young British Asian director and dramaturg Anna Himali Howard, with sets and costumes by Leslie Travers.
The creative team includes artistic consultant Ustad Dharambir Singh MBE, previously artistic director of SAA-uk and founder of Leeds Centre For Indian Music and Dance. Musical direction is by early music specialist Laurence Cummings and composer and sitar player Jasdeep Singh Degun. English tenor Nicholas Watts sings the title role.
Keranjeet Kaur Virdee, artistic director and CEO of SAA-uk, commented: “2022 is a year of celebration for South Asian Arts-uk as we mark and celebrate 25 years of work, and pave the way to Leeds 2023 and beyond.
“This unique collaboration is the end result of a longstanding relationship and many conversations through which Opera North and SAA-uk have developed trust and the confidence to be bold and innovative. This creative approach has developed into a musical and cultural exchange, pushing the boundaries and challenging perceptions while exploring universal narratives.
“It is exciting to be a part of this evolution and see a new work that is reflective of people like me who have made the UK their home.”
British mezzo-soprano Alice Coote returns to Opera North in October in a concert version of another retelling of the Orpheus myth, Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice (1762).
Originally performed for film and radio broadcast during lockdown in 2021, Opera North will now tour this to venues across the north of England, with Coote as Orfeo, Welsh soprano Fflur Wyn as Euridice and British soprano Daisy Brown as Amor. The Orchestra of Opera North comes under the baton of principal guest conductor Antony Hermus.
Heading into 2023, January sees Edward Dick reviving his production of Tosca. Irish soprano Giselle Allen will reprise her role as the eponymous superstar opera singer, with English bass-baritone Robert Hayward as Baron Scarpia, the corrupt chief of police who is obsessed with her.
In February, Opera North’s music director Garry Walker takes up the baton for a revival of David Pountney’s classic staging of Janáček’s juxtaposition of the natural and human worlds, The Cunning Little Vixen (1924).
A Forester captures a young Vixen and takes her home as a pet for his children. But she escapes back into the wild, where she meets a Fox. Welsh soprano Elin Pritchard returns to Opera North as Vixen Sharp-Ears, with British mezzo-soprano Heather Lowe as Fox.
The same month also sees Opera North’s first ever presentation of Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos, in a co-production with Gothenburg Opera. Comedy and tragedy collide when a wealthy patron commissions two entertainments for his guests – one a knockabout comedy, the other a high-flown mythological opera.
London-based Greek director Rodula Gaitanou and set and costume designer George Souglides set the Prologue within a bustling film studio, where two very different operatic films are combined to cut costs.
Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers will be presented as a concert staging in May. Telling the story of two men, Nadir and Zurga, whose vow of friendship is tested by their love for the same woman, the priestess Léïla, the opera is set in an exoticised pre-colonial Sri Lanka, presenting challenges for contemporary opera companies.
Through this new staging along with a related series of events, Opera North will explore some of the issues involved in presenting this 19th-century work today.
The final production of the season is a new contemporary dance staging of one of the most famous of all choral works, Mozart’s Requiem mass – left unfinished at his death at just 36 years old.
In this unique collaboration with Phoenix Dance Theatre, Dane Hurst directs and choreographs a new version of the Requiem alongside a new work created with guest artists from South Africa. In this cross-cultural production, Phoenix and performing artists from South Africa will join forces with the Chorus and Orchestra of Opera North conducted by Garry Walker.
All productions open at Leeds Grand Theatre before touring to venues across the north of England. Tickets are on sale now; for full date, location and pricing information, see Opera North’s website.
A revival of director Alessandro Talevi’s popular version of Verdi’s La traviata opens Opera North’s 2022-23 season in September 2022 (Richard H Smith).