This Autumn, award-winning opera company Opera North returns to The Lowry, Salford Quays with The Little Greats, innovative pairings of six brand new productions; each a powerful operatic experience in miniature. Love and hate, joy and sadness, courage and fear, trust and jealousy, kindness and cruelty – this is an opera season like no other.
In a festival that celebrates the amazing variety that can be found in even the shortest operas, The Little Greats gives people the opportunity to experience a double dose of Italian passion and tragic revenge one evening, and to opt for 1950s glamour and style followed by hilarious courtroom antics the next. There is also a magical childhood fantasy from Ravel, which can be watched either as a stand-alone matinee or paired with a rarely-performed gem by Czech composer, Janáček.
Annabel Arden, Director, L’enfant et les sortilèges and Osud commented:
“The Little Greats aren’t stuffy or about big sets and costumes; what they are about is telling a story with music, and moving our audience to tears — and laughter.”
PAGLIACCI and CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA
Wednesday 15 and Saturday 18 November
The Little Greats festival opens with a double bill of Italian verismo opera which shows that normal people have opera-sized emotions too. Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci (The Clowns) is a short, sharp shot of thrilling drama, raw passion and gritty realism. Directed by Charles Edwards, who is also the set designer for all six productions, this is a tale of adultery and revenge played out amongst a troupe of travelling actors. Everything might be falling apart but, as Canio’s (Peter Auty) celebrated aria ‘Vesti la giubba’ (‘Put on the costume’) says, the show must go on.
Pagliacci is partnered with Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana, a red-blooded tale of jealousy and revenge given an unusual twist by Polish director, Karolina Sofulak. When Turridù (Jonathan Stoughton) returns from the army, he discovers that his lover (Katie Bray) has married someone else. He consoles himself by seducing another girl, Santuzza (Giselle Allen), even though he is still consumed by desire for his previous passion. For many, this is the very essence of Italian opera in miniature.
L’ENFANT ET LES SORTILEGES (The Child and the Magic Spells) and OSUD (Destiny)
Thursday 16 November (double bill)
Saturday 18 November, matinee at 2.15pm (L’enfant et les sortilèges only)
When a young boy refuses to do his homework and flies into a tantrum, everything around him starts to come to life including his nursery furniture and even his arithmetic. So begins L’enfant et les sortilèges (The Child and the Magic Spells), Ravel’s most enchanting work. Dazzling, witty and surreal, this 45-minute production is directed by Annabel Arden and is offered as a Saturday matinee for adults and children (7+) alike.
In addition to the matinee on the Saturday, L’enfant et les sortilèges will be performed as a schools’ matinee introducing opera to hundreds of young people from the North West with a free cross-curricular resource pack available for teachers.
L’enfant et les sortilèges is also paired with Janáček’s Osud (Destiny) for one evening performance on Thursday 16 November. Míla (Giselle Allen) is in love with the composer Živný (John Graham-Hall), but her mother (Rosalind Plowright) forces her to take a rich suitor instead. Four years later, the couple are reunited and living together but, as Živný wrestles with the opera he is writing, a tragedy occurs which changes everything. At 80 minutes, Osud (Destiny) is the longest of The Little Greats and contains some of Janáček’s most glorious music, transporting the listener from the heights of romantic ecstasy to the depths of despair.
TROUBLE IN TAHITI and TRIAL BY JURY
Friday 17 November
A heady mix of hilarity, glamour and vintage style, the last pairing takes a witty look at both love and marriage.
Leonard Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti is the perfect introduction to opera and to Bernstein in his centenary year, expertly capturing the spirit of the 1950s with its dazzling fusion of opera, Hollywood, musical theatre and jazz. Set against the unattainable perfection of the American Dream, a couple in suburban America are dismayed at the emotional emptiness of their marriage. Canadian mezzo-soprano, Wallis Giunta, and Dutch baritone Quirijn de Lang, who both charmed audiences in Opera North’s production of Cinderella earlier this year, return to the stage as Dinah and Sam.
The evening continues with a hilarious courtroom farce which follows the fortunes of Angelina (Amy Freston) as she brings a case against her intended husband Edwin (Nicholas Watts), when he jilts her after coming to the ghastly realisation that she bores him intensely. Trial by Jury is the first operetta composed by Gilbert and Sullivan and includes all their trademark features: satirical wit, catchy tunes and an ingenious plot which refuses to turn out quite as expected. This new production is cast entirely from the Chorus of Opera North and conducted by Opera North Chorus Master, Oliver Rundell.
The performance of Trouble in Tahiti and Trial by Jury will also be audio-described and captioned, with a free touch tour for visually impaired patrons before the show (book via Box Office).
For more information, and to book tickets, please Click Here.
Images by Richard Moran