Tuesday 22 November 2016

Rare Rimsky Korsakov and a tempting witch

Hansel and Gretel - Opera North
I am looking forward to Opera North's Winter 2017 season, which tours to Leeds, Newcastle, Salford Quays, Belfast and Nottingham between 21 January 2017 and  18 March 2017. We have the prospect of three new productions all under the banner of Magic and Mischief: A Winter Season of Deliciously Dark Fairy Tales,  including Rimsky Korsakov's rarely performed The Snow Maiden plus Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel  and Rossini's La Cenerentola (Cinderella), along with some interesting casting.

Amazingly, Rimsky Korsakov's opera is being professionally staged in the UK for the first time in 60 years (I have only heard it once, in the late 1980s when Chelsea Opera Group gave a concert performance). At Opera North, John Fulljames will be directing with Aoife Miskelly in the title role and Heather Lowe as Lel (a role that I heard being sung by a young Fiona Kimm). The opera is being sung in English,

Sunnyboy Dladla - credit Tatjana Dachsel
Sunnyboy Dladla
credit Tatjana Dachsel
Almost as tempting is Humperdinck's perennial favourite Hansel and Gretel (sung in English) where the opera is directed by Edward Dick, the children are being sung by Katie Bray (whom was last saw in the London English Song Festival's Songs of the Somme, see my review) and Fllur Wyn (whom we recently saw as Sophie in Opera North's revival of Der Rosenkavalier, see my review), with Susan Bullock doubling the roles of Mother and the Witch. I still have strong memories of Pauline Tinsley's chilling performance in the double roles in David Pountney's production at English National Opera, and I am pleased to see that Opera North is following the correct voice casting and not having a tenor as the Witch.

Completing the trio is Rossini's La Cenerentola (sung Italian), which is being directed by choreographer Aletta Collins, with Canadian mezzo-soprano Wallis Giunta as Cinderella, and fast-rising South African tenor Sunnyboy Dladla is her prince, Don Ramiro.

The three productions will share the same basic elements of a highly adaptable set, designed by Giles Cadle, using video to blur fantasy and reality and bring the themes of transformation and magic to the forefront, with real-time live video capture in Hansel and Gretel, folk-influenced dreamscapes in The Snow Maiden, and a riot of colour and invention in La Cenerentola. The flexibility of video also means that there are extra Saturday matinees of La Cenerentola, as well as a series of special schools' matinees of Hansel and Gretel.

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