Seasons come and go, but good music continues all around Britain.
While the ‘gathering swallows twitter in the skies’ (Keats, ‘To Autumn’) the opera houses are opening their doors all over the UK, with offerings from the traditional favourites to new and ground-breaking projects. One company has even embraced touring to the most far flung regions, whilst another engages those who are unable to travel to the ‘Great Wen’ (Cobbett) with cinema showings of live performances.
The deservedly lauded Opera North is staging three very different events this season, beginning with a new production of Verdi’s Falstaff, directed by Olivia Fuchs and cast from impressive strength; Henry Waddington is the Fat Knight, Kate Royal is Alice Ford and Paul Nilon is Dr Caius. First night at Leeds Grand Theatre is on 28 September, then after a short stay there it will tour to Newcastle, Nottingham and Salford.
The company follows this with a new event, Masque of Might with its first night on 6 October in Leeds. Purcell’s music is featured in this ‘Eco-Entertainment’, assembled by David Pountney and showcasing pieces from The Fairy Queen and The Tempest. It’s based on the 17th century equivalent of the variety show, and described as an evening where we should expect “song, dance and spectacle”. After the Leeds season, this goes to the same touring venues as Falstaff.
Also beginning in Leeds and then on tour, La Rondine by Puccini in a new production by James Hurley which promises to “…capture all the warmth of a musical” – it’s strongly cast and conducted by Kerem Hasan and Oliver Rundell. Friends were surprised and delighted to see posters advertising these productions on the London Underground, so come on up, Londoners – you’re in for a treat.
• Details of all performances at Opera North can be found here.
Welsh National Opera has already embarked on its autumn season, with a clever pairing of the expected and loved in Verdi’s La Traviata with the unusual and infrequently seen Osvaldo Golijov’s Ainadamar. The name of the latter is Arabic for ‘Fountain of Tears’ and is the ancient well near Granada where the Spanish poet and playwright Federico Garcia Lorca was executed in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War. The opera reimagines Lorca’s life through flashbacks of memories by his muse and collaborator, the actress Margarita Xirgu, and promises “…a dazzling kaleidoscope of music, dance and theatre where flamenco meets opera through traditional Spanish singing and sumptuous operatic numbers”. Performances run until 22 November, commencing at Cardiff’s Wales Millennium Centre and touring to Llandudno, Bristol, Plymouth, Birmingham, Milton Keynes and Southampton.
La Traviata opens on 21 September in Cardiff and then tours to the same venues as Ainadamar. The much-loved David McVicar production is revived by Sarah Crisp and conducted by Alexander Joel.
• Details of all performances at Welsh National Opera can be found here.
At the other end of the UK, Scottish Opera soldiers on with two events, beginning with Opera Highlights on 21 September; the work explores the highs and lows of love in opera. Premiering at the Eastwood Park Theatre in Griffnock, it then tours to several venues including such far-flung ones as Thurso and the Isle of Seil. The next production is a revival of Thomas Allen’s joyful take on Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, which will be sung in English and has its first performance in Glasgow on 17 October.
• Details of all performances at Scottish Opera can be found here.
English Touring Opera opens its season at Hackney Empire, and then tours to Leamington Spa, Norwich, Saffron Walden, Snape Maltings, Buxton, Exeter and Poole. Their two offerings are the contrasting Cinderella (Rossini) and Monterverdi’s The Coronation of Poppea. Both are new productions, Cinderella by the movement specialist Jenny Ogilvie and Poppea by Robin Norton-Hale. The opening performances are on 30 September (Poppea) and 7 October (Cinderella).
• Details of all performances at English Touring Opera can be found here.
Finally, for those obliged by distance or finances to ignore the director Barrie Kosky’s dictum about the dreadfulness of the mere concept of streamed opera, the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden gives the opportunity to sample two of its offerings, beginning with Kosky’s own, already much praised, production of Wagner’s Das Rheingold, in cinemas from 20-24 September. Soon after that, any gluttons for ‘punishment’ in the shape of virtual performances can experience the delights of Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore, which is being shown on 5 October.
• Details of all performances at the Royal Opera can be found here.