Opera North is set to bring opera to venues across the north of England for its spring 2023 season, with the UK premiere of a 2018 production of Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos (1912), the return of Edward Dick’s powerful production of Puccini’s Tosca (1900) and another chance to see Sir David Pountney’s interpretation of Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen (1924).
The Leeds-based company’s spring 2023 season opens at Leeds Grand Theatre on 21 January with a revival of Edward Dick’s production of Tosca, one of the world’s most popular operas. The eponymous singer is the lover of Cavaradossi, an artist, but has also attracted the attention of Scarpia, the corrupt Chief of Police, who wants her for himself.
An opportunity presents itself when Cavaradossi is arrested and tortured for helping an escaped political prisoner. Scarpia offers Tosca a stark choice: if she gives herself to him, he will let Cavaradossi go free.
British bass-baritone Robert Hayward and Northern Irish soprano Giselle Allen return to Opera North to sing Scarpia and Floria Tosca, respectively. Allen shares the role with Polish soprano Magdalena Molendowska.
Ukrainian tenor Mykhailo Malafii makes his Opera North debut as Cavaradossi, with Uruguayan tenor Andrés Presno singing the role in Nottingham and Newcastle. Opera North music director Garry Walker conducts.
A very different take on life and loss is Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen. It’s the captivating tale of mischievous young vixen Sharp-Ears who, having been captured by the Forester to become his family pet, eventually manages to escape back into the wild only to be shot while defending her cubs.
Sir David Pountney’s interpretation of Janáček’s work is widely regarded as a classic. Andrew Gourlay conducts a cast which sees a host of singers making a welcome return to the Opera North stage including Welsh Soprano Elin Pritchard as Vixen Sharp-Ears, British mezzo-soprano Heather Lowe as Fox, British bass Callum Thorpe as the Poacher and British tenor Paul Nilon as the Schoolmaster. British bass-baritone James Rutherford shares the role of the Forester with Anglo-Swiss baritone Richard Burkhard.
The production opens at Leeds Grand Theatre on 4 February.
The Cunning Little Vixen will also be offered as a schools matinee both in Leeds and on tour to give upper KS2 and KS3 pupils the chance to experience live opera in the theatre, many for the first time.
A learning pack linked to various subjects in the curriculum will provide information and resources for teachers to use in the classroom before their visit. Schools will also have the opportunity to attend an online interactive music and drama workshop early in the year to explore the score, plot and characters with a vocal animateur and drama practitioner from the company’s Education team.
Using Janáček’s opera as an inspiration, family-friendly show Little Listeners: Mini Vixen has been created to give all ages a chance to experience live music and storytelling in a relaxed and welcoming setting.
A cast of professional opera singers and musicians will take the audience on a fun-filled adventure in the forest as a vixen and fox discover that working together achieves far more than going it alone.
The show will tour throughout northern England in spring 2023, with performances already planned in Alnwick, Cumbria, Dewsbury, Doncaster, Halifax, Hull, Leeds, Newcastle, Nottingham, Salford Quays, Wakefield and York.
Completing Opera North’s spring 2023 season is Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos. This co-production with Gothenburg Opera premiered at Sweden’s Gothenburg Opera House in 2018. This production marks its UK premiere.
London-based Greek director Rodula Gaitanou and designer George Souglides set the action in a bustling 1950s Fellini-esque Italian film studio. Much to everyone’s dismay, two different shows – a light musical comedy and a serious mythological opera – have been asked to merge at the last minute to cut costs.
Worlds collide to hilarious effect when the commedia dell’arte’s fickle Zerbinetta tries to cheer up Ariadne/Prima Donna, who longs only for death having been jilted by Theseus. The ensuing drama both on and off stage offers a meditation on differing attitudes to life and love and casts a quizzical eye over the concepts of ‘high’ and ‘low’ art.
Opera North’s principal guest conductor Antony Hermus returns to conduct a cast including, in their company debuts, English soprano Elizabeth Llewellyn as Ariadne/Prima Donna and Polish mezzo-soprano Hanna Hipp as the Composer. They are joined by British soprano Jennifer France as Zerbinetta and American tenor Erin Caves as Bacchus/Tenor.
Ariadne auf Naxos opens at Leeds Grand Theatre on 18 February.
Following the run in Leeds, which ends on 4 March, all three productions will tour to The Lowry at Salford Quays, Nottingham Theatre Royal and Newcastle Theatre Royal throughout March. Two further performances of Tosca and The Cunning Little Vixen are also planned for Hull New Theatre.
Tickets for all performances are on sale now. Full date, time and pricing information is available from Opera North.
A co-production with Gothenburg Opera, Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos receives its UK premiere as part of Opera North’s spring 2023 season (Mats Bäcker).