Tuesday 27 April 2021

Opera North launches its 2021/22 season and looks forward to the completion of the new Howard Opera Centre

Garry Walker conducting the Orchestra of Opera North. (Photo Justin Slee)
Garry Walker conducting the Orchestra of Opera North. (Photo Justin Slee)

Opera North has announced its plans for 2021/22, and it is heartening to see some of the company's cancelled projects re-appearing, with new productions of Carmen, Rigoletto and Alcina plus a concert staging of Parsifal. Alongside main-stage plans, the company's £18m redevelopment of its city centre home, the Howard Opera Centre, enter its final stages, and the Howard Assembly Room re-opens in October with a full programme.

The season opens with the company's first new production of Bizet's Carmen in over a decade conducted by Garry Walker in his first production as Opera North's new music director, and directed by Edward Dick, who directed Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel in 2017 [see my review]. American mezzo-soprano Chrystal E. Williams sings Carmen with Canadian tenor Antoine Bélanger as Don José. 

The second new production is Verdi's Rigoletto directed by British Nigerian actor/director Femi Elufowoju Jr. in his operatic debut. Garry Walker conducts a cast including Eric Greene in the title role, [Greene sang Porgy in ENO's 2018 production of Gerswhin's Porgy and Bess, see our review] Sir Willard White as Monterone, Roman Arndt as the Duke of Mantua and Jasmine Habersham as Gilda. 

To complete the trio, there is a new production of Handel's Alcina, conducted by Laurence Cummings and directed by Tim Albery [whose production of Handel's Giulio Cesare was revived at Opera North in 2019, see my review], with Máire Flavin as Alcina, Fflur Wyn [last seen as Marzelline in Beethoven's Fidelio at Opera North, see my review] as Morgana and Patrick Terry [who we caught in Handel's Berenice at Covent Garden in 2019, see my review] as Ruggiero and this will be Opera North's first environmentally sustainable production. 

There is also a double-bill of works by Bernstein which sees a revival of Trouble in Tahiti paired with a new production of West Side Story Symphonic Dances in collaboration with Phoenix Dance Theatre.

Next year's concert staging is Wagner's Parsifal which opens at Leeds Grand Theatre before touring to concert halls. Richard Farnes conducts with Katarina Karnéus as Kundry, Brindley Sherratt as Gurnemanz and Toby Spence as Parsifal, the latter two both role debuts and both interesting singers who have been making the journey towards more dramatic roles in recent years [Spence sang Florestan in Opera North's 2020 performance of Fidelio, whilst I chatted to Brindley Sherratt about his Wagner plans in March 2020, see my intervew]. Not to be missed.

Exterior of redevelopment work on New Briggate below Howard Assembly Room
Exterior of redevelopment work on New Briggate below Howard Assembly Room

With the reopening of the Howard Assembly Room, the season there will include Courtney Pine and  pianist Zoe Rahman, Cuban pianist Omar Sosa with Senegalese kora master Seckou Keita, Leveret, and Richard Dawson.

A new Making Music campaign has been launched to drive donations to complete the redevelopment project and fill the new spaces with music. The names of Making Music supporters will become part of a new installation symbolising a musical score. Wrapping around the central staircase in the new glass atrium, the installation will celebrate the making of music in the heart of the building: www.operanorth.co.uk/support-us/making-music/

Full details from the Opera North website.

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