Thursday 28 February 2019

Opera North's 2019/2020 season

Handel: Giulio Cesare at Opera North in 2012 (Photo Tristram Kenton)
Handel: Giulio Cesare at Opera North in 2012 (Photo Tristram Kenton)
Opera North has announced its plans for the Autumn 2019 and Winter 2020 seasons, with a strong mix of operas including new productions of Martinu's The Greek Passion (receiving only its second ever professional UK production) and Weill's Street Scene, along with revivals of Handel's Giulio Cesare, Britten's Turn of the Screw, Puccini's La Boheme and Mozart's  The Marriage of Figaro.

Martinu's The Greek Passion, based on a novel by Nikos Kazantzakis, was written for Covent Garden in 1957 to Martinu's own English libretto. Rejected by Covent Garden, Martinu revised the work and it premiered in Zurich in 1961, and it was this version which Charles Mackerras conducted at Welsh National Opera (and recorded) in 1981. It would take longer for the original version to be performed, it was premiered at Bregenz in 1999 and this production came to Covent Garden in 2000 and 2004. I saw both these two latter revivals, and was knocked out by the work so look forward to the new production. Christopher Alden directs, Garry Walker conducts, with Nick Spence, Magdalena Molendowska, Paul Nilon, Stephen Gadd, John Savournin, Steven Page and Brian Bannatyne-Scott.

Kurt Weill's opera Street Scene premiered on Broadway in 1947, with lyrics by Langston Hughes and book by Elmer Rice, based on Rice's play of the same name. For an award-winning, Street Scene has rather an uneven performance history in the UK.There was an important UK revival of the piece in the early 1980s when there was a one-off gala performance at the Cambridge Theatre, I seem to remember Alec McCowen as Harry Easter in a memorable acount of 'Wouldn't you like to be on Broadway' and Janis Kelly sang Rose, a role she would return to in the 1989, David Poutney production which was shared between Scottish Opera and ENO. Strangely, the next professional UK production wasn't until 2008 when the Opera Group performed the work. Opera North's new production will be directed by Matthew Eberhardt, who directed Bernstein's Trouble in Tahiti in 2017 [see my review], with Giselle Allen, Robert Hayward, Gillene Butterfield and Alex Banfield, conducted by James Holmes.

We missed Tim Albery's 2012 production of Handel's Giulio Cesare first time round, so we are looking forward to this revival with Justina Gringyte in the title role, Sophie Bevan as Cleopatra and James Laing as Tolomeo; Christian Curnyn conducts. Alessandro Talevi's production of Britten's Turn of the Screw returns with Nicholas Watts, Sarah Tynan, Eleanor Dennis, Heather Shipp and Jennifer Clark, conducted by Leo McFall. Handel's opera is famously long and Albery's production inevitably uses a heavily edited version of the score which brings it into manageable proportions for touring. English Touring Opera's performances of the opera uncut, spread across two nights [see my review], showed that the full version of Giulio Cesare is very much an occasional piece for modern audiences.

Phyllida Lloyd 1960s-set production of Puccini's La Boheme returns conducted by Renato Balsadonna and Matthew Kofi Waldren, and with a cast including Lauren Fagan, katie Bird, Eleazar Rodriguez, Thomas Atkins, Anush Hovhannisyan and Samatha Clarke. Jo Davies' 2015 production of Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro comes back conducted by Antony herus and James Hendry, with Phillip Rhodes, Fflur Wyn, Quirijn de Lang, Maire Flavin and Heather Lowe.

Spring 2020 will include a large-scale community event in County Durham, a new opera written by Will Todd and involving communities from across South and West Durham.

Full details from the Opera North website.

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