EXCESS ALL ARIAS: TWO DAYS OF PASSION, BLOODSHED AND MAGIC TO CLOSE OPERA NORTH’S SEASON OF LITTLE GREATS
All six short operas performed between Fri 20 and Sat 21 Oct
£10 tickets for anyone new to opera
£5 tickets for Under 30s and full-time students
Live BBC broadcast of Whistle Stop Opera for #OperaPassion Day on Thu 19 Oct
Opera North’s acclaimed season of short operas, The Little Greats, will close at the end of this week with a chance to see all six brief but breathtaking productions in just over 24 hours.
The Little Greats comprises six short operas – each of which packs a huge emotional punch in around an hour – in an innovative mix-and-match format. Tickets for each are sold separately, meaning that audience members can plot their own course through the season, opting for a single short or an offbeat pairing. It offers the perfect introduction to opera for newcomers, who can book the best available seat at any performance for just £10.
On Friday 20 October, two of the season’s rare gems make up an unmissable double bill. Eccentric, surreal and utterly charming, Ravel’s L’enfant et les sortilèges (The Child and the Magic Spells) is the tale of a naughty child who gets his comeuppance when the objects in his room come to life to take their revenge for the wrongs he has done them. Characters include a singing teapot and china cup, a talking armchair, a tree-frog and a squirrel, with Colette’s words set to a brilliantly colourful score.
Completing the evening, Janáček’s ground-breaking Osud (Destiny) is the intense account of a composer’s tangled love affair with his muse. It opens in the sunlit 1930s and follows the tempestuous life and times of Živný and his family over two decades, with cinematic narrative jumps and some of the Czech composer’s most incandescent music. Tenor John Graham-Hall – the teapot in L’enfant – sheds his spout for a revelatory performance in the central role.
Shimmering with 1950s glamour, Leonard Bernstein’s brilliant satire on the dark side of the American Dream, Trouble in Tahiti, opens the matinee double bill on Saturday 21 October. Another rarity, its masterful combination of jazz, opera and Broadway anticipates West Side Story. Outstanding performances by Wallis Giunta and Quirijn de Lang as a discontented suburban couple have confirmed its importance in Bernstein’s oeuvre at the beginning of the composer’s centenary year. The madcap comedy of Gilbert and Sullivan’s courtroom farce Trial by Jury follows, with a much lighter look at the pitfalls of love cast entirely from Opera North’s celebrated Chorus.
Saturday evening brings the final double bill in Leeds, a classic pairing of two Italian big-hitters. Staged as a darkly knowing exploration of the fine line between life and art, Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci (Clowns) opens in a rehearsal room as an opera company prepares for a show. But real-life passions are roiling beneath the greasepaint, and as the crowd gathers for the performance the stage becomes the scene of a bloody reckoning.
Mascagni’s gritty drama of betrayal, jealousy and vengeance, Cavalleria rusticana brings the curtain down with a bang, featuring gorgeous melodies including the famous Intermezzo, familiar from its use in The Godfather and Raging Bull. Young Polish director Karolina Sofulak has transplanted this quintessentially Italian opera to a less familiar setting, though: her home country in the late-1970s, complete with an iconic communist-era Fiat 126 and echoes of classic Polish cinema. Giselle Allen, who also appears as the composer’s long-suffering wife in Osud, excels in her second tragic lead role as Santuzza, the jilted lover who vows revenge on the faithless Turiddù.
Earlier in the week, at 1pm on Thursday 19 October, Opera North will reach far beyond the stage with this season’s Whistle Stop Opera broadcast live on BBC Arts Digital and the Company’s Facebook page for #OperaPassion Day. Devised and narrated by John Savournin, the director of Trial by Jury, the performance compresses the power of opera even more tightly into a half-hour packed with laughter, love and tragedy. Arias featured in The Little Greats, plus favourites including Nessun dorma, chart the comic ups and downs of a young couple (soprano Elin Pritchard, who sings the role of Nedda in Pagliacci, and baritone Milo Harries). Opera North joins seven other leading UK opera companies in the day of live streaming to celebrate the landmark exhibition at the V&A, Opera: Passion, Power and Politics.
Best available seats for single operas in the season can be purchased by opera first-timers for just £10 via the Opera North Box Office on 0844 848 2710. Full-time students and young people under 30 can access tickets for just £5 per show through Opera North’s free-to-join Under 30s membership scheme. For more information and to book tickets, visit operanorth.co.uk. Following this week’s performances, The Little Greats tours to Hull New Theatre, Theatre Royal Nottingham, Theatre Royal Newcastle and The Lowry, Salford Quays.