Southampton-based touring company OperaUpClose has revealed that renowned mezzo-soprano Flora McIntosh is to be the company’s new artistic director. She takes over the role from Robin Norton-Hale, who recently left OperaUpClose to become general director at English Touring Opera (ETO).
McIntosh was born in London and trained at the Royal Northern College of Music. She is a highly experienced and respected performer, facilitator and teacher. She is already very well known to OperaUpClose staff and audiences, having sung multiple roles for the company to great critical acclaim. She played the title role in the company’s 2019 new English-language production of Donizetti’s Mary, Queen of Scots (Maria Stuarda, 1835)
She took on the advisory role of OperaUpClose’s artistic associate in 2019, helping to shape the company’s artistic content and direction, alongside fundraising strategy, throughout the pandemic, and in the following months of recovery.
She will now expand this role to lead OperaUpClose as the organisation works to fully establish itself as a resident partner company at the cultural hub of MAST Southampton.
“It is an honour and a privilege to take on the role of OperaUpClose’s artistic director, expanding and re-focusing the work and impact of an organisation I know and love,” Flora McIntosh commented.
“I am passionate about embedding ourselves as a partner at the brilliant and dynamic cultural hub at MAST, developing lasting multi-disciplinary partnerships and opening up our creative process to audiences and local communities. This is a major transformational stage of OUC’s development and a thrilling opportunity to develop our reputation as a truly innovative force in UK opera.”
Flora McIntosh is a singer, an actor and a storyteller praised for her “wonderfully rich” mezzo-soprano, “vivid” characterisation and “thrilling” stage presence. She has performed at venues across Europe and the UK. McIntosh is also an experienced teacher, vocal coach and workshop leader with more than a decade’s experience. She has previously won the Anne Ziegler Award and Ricordi Prize for Opera.
Some of McIntosh’s recent and notable performances include Waltraute in Die Walkure (The Valkyrie, 1870), Wellgunde in Das Rheingold (1869) and covering Brangane in Tristan und Isolde (1865), all by Wagner, for Longborough Festival Opera; Dryade in Stauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos (1912); Pauline in Gounod’s Polyeucte (1878; UK premiere); and Romeo in Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi (The Capulets and the Montagues, 1830) for Grimeborn.
OperaUpClose chair, Abigail Toland, said: “The Board and I are delighted that Flora is stepping into the role of artistic director. Flora has impressed us with her clear vision for OperaUpClose – building on all that Robin has achieved and now taking the company forward into an exciting future of creative collaboration.
“We look forward to seeing OperaUpClose flourish under Flora’s artistic direction both at our home at MAST, and around the country with the many partner organisations with whom she has already established strong relationships.”
Robin Norton-Hale co-founded OperaUpClose, along with Ben Cooper and Adam Spreadbury-Maher, in 2009 in order to stage her own new, English-language version of Puccini’s La bohème (The Bohemians, 1896). The company has since grown into a national touring, Olivier Award-winning opera company. Norton-Hale took up her new position with ETO this month.
OperaUpClose has also announced that, in a change to the original schedule, the company’s production of Laura Bowler and Glyn Maxwell’s re-imagined version of Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman (Der fliegende Holländer, 1843), directed by Lucy Bradley, will now premiere in 2023. It was originally set to tour to venues in Blackpool, Bristol, Hull, London and Southampton this autumn.
Further information on cast, dates and venues is yet to be announced.
Renowned mezzo-soprano Flora McIntosh has been appointed OperaUpClose’s new artistic director; she takes up the role with immediate effect.