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30 Years of Opera North

The National Opera Company in the north of England embarks on its fourth decade in a refurbished and revitalised Leeds Grand Theatre following the completion of the Grade ll* listed opera house's 32m Transformation.

A key element of the project has been the rehabilitation of the adjoining Assembly Room now restored to its original Victorian splendour and open to the public for the first time in more than thirty years.  This 350-seat flexible performance space will showcase the work of new artists, present chamber ensemble work and host events designed to complement the main stage programme of Opera North.  Opera North Projects and Opera North Education will now have a permanent home in the Assembly Room. The space will become the rehearsal base of the Orchestra of Opera North.

The Orchestra, meanwhile, continues to develop its activities outside the opera house most notably through its management of the Kirklees Orchestral Season at Huddersfield and Dewsbury Town Halls, and its continuing partnership with the Leeds International Concert Season. The orchestra recently took part in a gala concert to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the opening of Leeds Town Hall.  Now, the orchestra is forging links with the Bradford Orchestral Series and will give the opening and closing concerts of the 2008/09 season.

An important strand of the company's programme since the mid-1990s is the presentation of semi-staged productions in Leeds Town Hall and other major concert halls of operas whose huge orchestral requirements are constrained by the orchestra pits in most theatres.  Consequently it has been possible to perform Walton's Troilus and Cressida, Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, Richard Strauss's Salome, Bartok's Duke Bluebeard's Castle and Strauss's Electra with the orchestral resources for which these monumental works were originally scored.

Opera North's 2008/09 Thirtieth Birthday Season is typically bold, with five new productions - including a world premiere and a British premiere -among the nine operas to be staged at the Grand Theatre and on tour. A chamber version of Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel will be the first opera to be performed in the Assembly Room.  
  
The idea of planning successive opera seasons around a "theme" has been developed in recent years. Last season it was Shakespeare, this season politics, religion and satire are the underlying themes.  The inspirational force for the 2000/01 season had been an exploration of German Romanticism and idea of a themed season was taken a stage further in 2000/01.  The Company mounted "Amaze Me", a major festival focusing on Paris between the two world wars and the seminal work of Jean Cocteau.  Stravinsky's opera-oratorio Oedipus Rex (libretto by Cocteau) was staged in Leeds Town Hall and virtually every corridor and cranny of the building was pressed into service for a massive multi-media extravaganza entitled Under the Roofs of Paris.  Sound installations, films and visual art exhibitions magically re-captured the dynamism and creativity of the French Capital during the inter-war years.

Prestigious awards that have been heaped on Opera North in recognition of both artistic excellence and imaginative programming have included the Prudential Award for Opera in 1992 and 1993, an international Emmy for Gloriana: A Film (based on Phyllida Lloyd's landmark production of Britten's "Coronation" opera Gloriana, 1993).  8 Little Greats (2003/04) scooped four major awards and Lloyd's 2006 production of Peter Grimes won the Royal Philharmonic Society Opera and Music Theatre Award, the 2007 South Bank Show Opera Award and the TMA Theatre Award for Outstanding Achievement in Opera.

Gloriana starred Dame Josephine Barstow, one of Britain's greatest post-war dramatic sopranos, as Queen Elizabeth l (1993/97/99), with Tom Randle as the Earl of Essex.  Dame Josephine's memorable roles for Opera North also include Lady Macbeth (Verdi's Macbeth, 1987) Odabella (Verdi's Attila, 1990) title role (Puccini's Tosca, 1994), title role (Cherubini's Medea, 1996), title role (Verdi's Aida, 1997), Marie (Berg's Wozzeck,1996), Alice Ford (Verdi's Falstaff, 2000), Lady Billows (Britten's Albert Herring, 2002), Kostelnicka (Janacek's Jenufa, 2002),  

Sheffield-born Dame Josephine writes: "Working in the company is a privilege and a joy. One has time to develop, a chance to find oneself, to find what it is one wants to say and then say it.  That is why so many talented artists can be tempted back here so often. What better compliment can a company hope for?"

Renowned Lancastrian bass Sir John Tomlinson is another of those talented artists to have been tempted back. Sir John's Roles for Opera North include Mephistopheles (Gounod's Faust, 1986), title role (Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov,1989/92), title role (Verdi's Attila, 1990), Claggart (Britten's Billy Budd, 1992), King Philip ll (Verdi's Don Carlos,1993),   title role (Verdi's Oberto, 1994), which Tomlinson also directed, and title role (Bartok's Duke Bluebeard's Castle, 2005).


"Opera North aims to challenge both its audience and itself as a company, constantly looking for new ways to develop and deliver work".  

The following list of operas outside the "core repertory" produced by the company since its inception clearly embodies that ethos. It includes seven world premieres of new operas commissioned by Opera North and six British premieres of neglected masterworks in addition to many operas never previously staged in Leeds, or not seen here for several generations.

1978/79  
Poulenc   Les Mamelles de Tiresias /  Purcell  Dido and Aeneas
Britten  Peter Grimes

1979/80
Verdi   Nabucco
Wagner  The Flying Dutchman
Delius  A Village Romeo and Juliet
Richard Rodney Bennet   The Mines of Sulphur

1980/81
Janacek     Jenufa
Stravinsky  Oedipus Rex
Weber       Der Freischutz
Offenbach   The Tales of Hoffman

1981/82
Smetana     The Bartered Bride
Britten     A Midsummer Night's Dream
Puccini     Manon Lescaut
Massenet    Werther

1982/83
Janacek     Katya Kabanova
Borodin     Prince Igor
Berlioz     Beatrice and Benedict

1983/84
Wilfred Josephs   Rebecca  (world premiere)
Kurt Weill  The Threepenny Opera
Richard Strauss  Salome
Janacek     The Cunning Little Vixen

1984/85
Ernst Krenek  Johnny Strikes Up
Rimsky-Korsakov  The Golden Cockerel
Puccini  La fanciulla del west
Wagner   The Mastersingers of Nuremberg
Handel   Tamburlaine

1985/86
Tippett   The Midsummer Marriage
Richard Strauss   Intermezzo
Bellini   I Puritani
Stravinsky    The Rake's Progress

1986/87
Stravinsky   Oedipus Rex / Pulcinella   (Pulcinella danced by Ballet Rambert)
Berlioz   Part 1 of The Trojans: The Capture of Troy
Bellini   Norma
Richard Strauss   Daphne (British premiere)

1987/88
Berlioz  Part 2 of The Trojans: The Trojans at Carthage

1988/89
Prokofiev  The Love for Three Oranges
Mussorgsky Boris Godunov

1989/90
Mozart  La Finta Giardiniera
Jerome Kern   Showboat
Verdi   Jerusalem
Nielson   Masquerade
Donizetti  Don Pasquale
Ravel   L'Heure Espagnol / Puccini    Gianni Schicchi

1990/91
Dukas   Ariane and Bluebeard (1st British performance for 50 years)
Verdi   Attila
Mozart  The Jewel Box
Tippett  King Priam

1991/92
Chabrier   L'etoille
Robert Saxton   Caritas  (world premiere)
Franz Schreker  Der ferne Klang (British premiere)
Rossini   The Thieving Magpie

1992/93
Roberto Gerhard   The Duenna (British premiere)
Tchaikovsky  Yolande/ The Nutcracker (danced by Matthew Bourne's Adventures in Motion Pictures)
Ponchielli    La Gioconda
Alban Berg    Wozzeck
Britten       Billy Budd
Verdi         Don Carlos

1993/94
Michael Berkeley  Baa-Baa Black Sheep (world premiere)
Benedict Mason  Playing Away  (world premiere)
Britten   Gloriana
Mozart    Il re pastore
Puccini   La Rondine

1994/95
Chabrier  The Reluctant King  (British premiere)
Cimerosa  The Secret Marriage
Walton    Troilus and Cressida
Debussy   Pelleas and Melisande
Verdi     Oberto

1995/96
Ambrose Thomas   Hamlet
Kurt Weill   Love Life
Verdi     Louisa Miller
Cherubini  Medea

1996/97
Gluck   Iphigenia in Aulis
Montiverdi   The Return of Ulysses
Wagner   Tannhauser
Korngold  Violanta (concert performance)
Verdi   Falstaff

1997/98
Martinu    Julietta
Sondheim   Sweeney Todd
Verdi      Joan of Arc
Gershwin   Of Thee I Sing

1998/99
Simon Holt  The Nightingale's to Blame  (world premiere)
Richard Strauss   Arabella

1999/2000
Handel  Radamisto

2000/01
Schuma  Genoveva  (opened at Edinburgh International Festival)
Wagner  Tristan und Isolde (semi-staged at Leeds Town Hall)
Shostakovich  Paradise Moscow

2001/02
Britten  Albert Herring
Ravel  L'enfant et les Sortileges
Stravinsky  Petrushka

2002/03
Mozart  Idomeneo
Berlioz  La Damnation da Faust (opened at Theatre Royal, Nottingham)
Wagner  Die Walkure Act 1 (concert performance)

2003/04
Dvorak  Rusalka

8 Little Greats:
Zemlinsky  The Dwarf
Falla  La Vida Breve
Puccini  Il Tabarro
Bizet  Djamileh
Rachmaninov  Francesca da Rimini
Leoncavallo  Pagliacci
Rossini  Love's Luggage Lost
Weill  The Seven Deadly Sins

2004/05
Weill  One Touch of Venus
Bartok  Duke Bluebeard's Castle  (semi-staged at Leeds Town Hall)
Gluck  Orfeo ed Euridice(co-production with Emio Greco I PC Dance  Company  - opened at Edinburgh International Festival)

2005/06
Weill  Arms and the Cow  (opened at Bradford Alhambra Theatre)
Handel  Saul (semi-staged at Leeds Town Hall)

2006/07
Poulenc  La Voix Humaine
Monteverdi  Orfeo
Stravinsky  Les Noces

2007/08
Keiser  The Fortunes of King Croesus(British Premiere)
Dove  The Adventure of Pinocchio(World Premiere)
Gounod  Romeo et Juliette

2008/09            
Gershwin  Of Thee I Sing  (staged production)
Gershwin  Let 'em Eat Cake(British Premiere)
Sawer  Skin Deep(World Premiere)
R Strauss  Electra  (concert perf at Leeds Town Hall)
Bellini  I Capuleti e i Montecchi

All mainstage productions opened at Leeds Grand Theatre unless otherwise stated.  Due to pressure on space, only the year in which the production was premiered has been shown. Subsequent new productions or revivals of the same operas have not been listed here.



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Opera North

Click images to enlarge
Logo for 25 years of Opera North
Logo for 25 years of Opera North
Samson et Dalila, 1978. John Tranter as The Old Hebrew, Gilbert Py as Samson and Katherine Pring as Dalila
Samson et Dalila, 1978. John Tranter as The Old Hebrew, Gilbert Py as Samson and Katherine Pring as Dalila
La Traviata, 1979. Lois McDonall as Violetta, Ryland Davies as Alfredo
La Traviata, 1979. Lois McDonall as Violetta, Ryland Davies as Alfredo
Nabucco, 1980
Nabucco, 1980
Bartered Bride, 1981. Thomas Lawler as Kecal
Bartered Bride, 1981. Thomas Lawler as Kecal
Falstaff, 1997. Andrew Shore in make up 1
Falstaff, 1997. Andrew Shore in make up 1
Falstaff, 1997. Andrew Shore in make up 2
Falstaff, 1997. Andrew Shore in make up 2
Falstaff, 1997. Andrew Shore in make up 3
Falstaff, 1997. Andrew Shore in make up 3
Falstaff, 1997. Andrew Shore and Frances McCafferty
Falstaff, 1997. Andrew Shore and Frances McCafferty
Tannhauser, 1997. Jeffrey Lawton as Tannhauser
Tannhauser, 1997. Jeffrey Lawton as Tannhauser
Carmen, 1998. Ruby Philogene as Carmen and Antoni Garfield as Jose
Carmen, 1998. Ruby Philogene as Carmen and Antoni Garfield as Jose
Elixir of Love, 2000
Elixir of Love, 2000
Gloriana, 2000. Josephine Barstow as Elizabeth I and Tom Randle as Essex
Gloriana, 2000. Josephine Barstow as Elizabeth I and Tom Randle as Essex
Paradise Moscow, 2001
Paradise Moscow, 2001
Grand Theatre, interior, 1982
Grand Theatre, interior, 1982
Opera in the Park ticket, 1995
Opera in the Park ticket, 1995
English National Opera North programme, October 1980
English National Opera North programme, October 1980
English Northern Philharmonia programme, 5th May 1982
English Northern Philharmonia programme, 5th May 1982
25th Anniversary Gala Concert programme
25th Anniversary Gala Concert programme
The Chorus, 2006
The Chorus, 2006
John Tomlinson as Bluebeard, 2005
John Tomlinson as Bluebeard, 2005
Orchestra of Opera North at Leeds Town Hall, 2010
Orchestra of Opera North at Leeds Town Hall, 2010
Soprano, Amanda Roocroft, with the Orchestra of Opera North, 2010
Soprano, Amanda Roocroft, with the Orchestra of Opera North, 2010
Orchestra of  Opera North at Leeds Grand Theatre 2010
Orchestra of Opera North at Leeds Grand Theatre 2010




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© 2003 Leeds City Council | Site created by: LCC electronic information team | 25 March 2003