Friday 18 November 2022

Celebrating an exciting and diverse year: Opera North's review of 2022

Verdi: Rigoletto - Sir Willard White, Callum Thorpe, Eric Greene, Roman Arndt, Themba Mvula - Opera North (Photo Clive Barda)
Verdi: Rigoletto - Sir Willard White, Callum Thorpe, Eric Greene, Roman Arndt, Themba Mvula - Opera North (Photo Clive Barda)

With all the gloomy news about mainstream arts funding in the UK, I thought that we ought to look at something more positive, what can be achieved despite underfunding. I recently received Opera North's review of 2022 (actually September 2021 to August 2022) and it makes heartening reading.

During this period, the company saw over 86,000 people pass through its doors to attend an Opera North show, concert or event somewhere in the country. Add to this nearly 3 million social media engagements, and over 40,000 streams of the company's production of Handel's Alcina on the OperaVision platform and you can see why they feel pleased. For their production of Carmen, 50% of audience members were new, and the Under 30s membership scheme has over 7,000 members. 

The season saw Garry Walker finally making his debut as music director, the opening of the Howard Opera Centre (the company's new home next to the Grand Theatre) and the opening of the refurbished Howard Assembly Room where the re-opening season attracted of 12, 000 people.

And it is not just about Opera North, it is about others too. The company collaborated with Phoenix Dance Theatre, and with Leeds Playhouse on A Little Night Music, as well as the orchestra resuming its Kirklees concert season. The Resonance residencies (which began in 2017) supported five UK-based artists from a wide variety of musical genres [see my article], including composer and tabla player Mendi Mohinder Singh who created a new piece of percussive music with visually impaired people.  

And the DARE Art Prize, done in partnership with the University of Leeds, challenges artists and scientists to work together. The 2022-23 prize winner is sculptor Katie Surridge, who is addressing the problem of resources wasted in discarded electronic devices.

Over in education, over 800 school children took part in the Big Sing: The Water-Diviner's Tale event, where children aged 7 to 11 were joined by four professional singers, a narrator and an instrumental ensemble drawn from the orchestra, and the production will return in 2023. The Opera North Youth Orchestra was launched in October 2021, intended as a pre-professional ensemble for talented instrumentalists in college or university, and in March 2022 the orchestra gave its first public performance outside of Opera North's premises, at The Venue in Leeds. The Opera North Youth Company gave performances of Hans Krasa's Brundibar in the Howard Assembly Room and at Sage Gateshead in February 2022.

And not to forget the Opera North In Harmony programme, currently taking place in six primary schools in Leeds and Halifax, and one secondary school in Leeds, giving pupils access to regular music making activities both in the curriculum and as extra-curricular activity

Planet Hugill at Opera North

  • Bizet: Carmen - February 2022 - my review
  • Handel: Alcina - February 2022 - my review
  • Verdi: Rigoletto - February 2022 - my review
  • Sondheim: A Little Night Music - seen July 2021, but production revived in 2022 - my review
  • See all our articles on Opera North

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