Opera North is to partner with Phoenix Dance Theatre, Jazzart Dance Theatre and Cape Town Opera to present a staged re-imagining of Mozart’s iconic Requiem as part of Leeds 2023 Year of Culture.
Requiem: Journeys of the Soul combines both Mozart’s awe-inspiring choral masterpiece and a newly commissioned work by South African composer Neo Muyanga. It opens at Leeds Grand Theatre on 26 May with performances until 4 June.
Mozart’s final work, the Requiem is a funeral mass left unfinished on his own death at the age of just 35. It confronts human mortality in music of exceptional beauty, taking audiences on a journey of the soul from the agony of loss to the terror of judgement and the freedom of redemption.
This new production, conceived during the Covid-19 pandemic, takes Mozart’s music as an act of remembrance, honouring those we have lost – and examining what life means for those left behind in a reflective and hopeful expression of the beauty, brutality and brevity of life.
The production will be led by the creative team of Phoenix Dance Theatre guest choreographer and former artistic director Dane Hurst, Opera North music director Garry Walker and co-designers Joanna Parker and Peter Mumford. It will be performed by dancers from the ensembles of Phoenix Dance Theatre and Jazzart Dance Theatre, the full Orchestra of Opera North and 36 singers of the Chorus of Opera North, and four guest singers.
“This year is promising to be one to remember for culture in Leeds, and this collaboration will be an unmissable experience,” Richard Mantle, general director of Opera North, commented.
“We are thrilled to be joining forces once again with the brilliant dancers of our neighbours Phoenix Dance Theatre, and to be creating a truly international work alongside our South African partners Jazzart Dance Theatre and Cape Town Opera. Mozart’s Requiem is a definitive classical work, which will be excitingly brought to new life by Dane Hurst’s choreography and the musical forces of the Orchestra and Chorus of Opera North.
“To respond to this iconic Requiem, we have commissioned a new work, After Tears, from Neo Muyanga, one of the pre-eminent South African contemporary composers, which will receive its world premiere here in Leeds as part of Leeds 2023 Year of Culture.”
After Tears: After a Requiem forms the second half of the double bill. It is a new composition by Neo Muyanga for choir and chamber orchestra. It has been conceived as a response to Mozart’s Requiem.
This new work will invoke South African cultural traditions on the themes of collective loss, the rituals of mourning and remembrance, and celebration of life. It will be choreographed by Jazzart Dance Theatre artistic director Dane Hurst for dancers from Jazzart Dance Theatre and Phoenix Dance Theatre. It will offer a vibrant contemporary counterpoint to the classical elegance of Mozart’s choral lament.
Composer Neo Muyanga said: “I am delighted to be working on a new piece in response to Mozart’s Requiem with so many partners in both the UK and South Africa. My new work, After Tears, laments the palpable sense of loss after the dream of a utopia has been deferred.
“The work is a rallying call for individual citizens to work collectively, with empathy, to rebuild after a period of distress and loss. It envisages this collective work as a vibrant ‘after tears party’ where the blues of mourning are submerged and constrained by the reverie of a cleansing ceremony.”
Requiem: Journeys of the Soul opens at Leeds Grand Theatre on 26 May, with further performances on 30 May and 1, 3 and 4 June. Tickets cost from £15 and are available now.
Phoenix Dance Theatre dancers in rehearsal for Requiem with dancer Teige Bisnought elevated (Point of View Photography).