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Regional Opera, 2012 Season | reviews, news & interviews

Regional Opera, 2012 Season

Regional Opera, 2012 Season

What's on at Welsh National Opera, Opera North and Scottish Opera this year and further on

Devil calls the tune: Scottish Opera offers a new production of Stravinsky's 'The Rake's Progress' in March

Popular operatic love stories by Puccini, Wagner and Mozart dominate the regional scene in 2012, but key talents like producer Tim Albery in Leeds, Lothar Koenigs in Cardiff and David McVicar in Glasgow all promise significant stage experiences.


Opera North

Handel’s Giulio Cesare (NEW PRODUCTION), Leeds Grand Theatre 14 Jan-16 Feb 2012; Nottingham Theatre Royal 23 Feb; Salford Quays The Lowry 1 Mar; Newcastle Theatre Royal 9 Mar; Dublin Grand Canal Theatre 14 Mar. The epic love affair between Julius Caesar and Cleopatra, dazzlingly composed for two outstanding female singers. Pamela Helen Stephen and Sarah Tynan sing Cesare and Cleopatra, Robert Howarth conducts, and Tim Albery directs.

Bellini’s Norma (NEW PRODUCTION), Leeds Grand Theatre 28 Jan-17 Feb; Nottingham Theatre Royal 22-25 Feb; Salford Quays The Lowry 29 Feb-3 Mar; Newcastle Theatre Royal 7-9 Mar. Annemarie Kremer sings Norma, the priestess who falls illicitly in love with Pollione, sung by Luis Chapa. Oliver von Dohnanyi conducts, Christopher Alden directs, with sets by Charles Edwards and costumes by Sue Willmington. A co-production with Theater Chemnitz.

Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, Leeds Grand Theatre 5-18 Feb; Nottingham Theatre Royal 21-24 Feb; Salford Quays The Lowry 28 Feb-2 Mar; Newcastle Theatre Royal 6-8 Mar; Dublin Grand Canal Theatre 13-17 Mar. Anne-Sophie Duprels sings Cio-Cio-San, the “Madame Butterfly” of the title, a Japanese teenager who is deceived in her marriage to an American GI, Pinkerton, sung by Rafael Rojas (or Noah Stewart on 17 March only). Wyn Davies or Martin Pickard conducts Tim Albery’s production, with sets by Hildegard Bechtler and costumes by Ana Jebens.

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel (NEW PRODUCTION), Leeds Grand Theatre 2-19 May; Salford Quays The Lowry 23-26 May; London Barbican Centre 15 Aug-15 Sep. The great musical about love and tragedy includes immortal songs such as “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and “If I Loved You”. After its opening, it goes south in the summer to provide the major London stage attraction during the London Olympics period. Performers include Gillene Herbert, Katherine Manley and Keith Phares. Directed by Jo Davies, designed by Anthony Ward and choreographed by Kim Brandstrup, the show is conducted by James Holmes and Jonathan Gill.

Gilbert and Sullivan's Ruddigore, Sheffield Lyceum Theatre 31 May-2 Jun; Edinburgh Festival Theatre 7-9 Jun; Belfast Grand Opera House 13-16 Jun. The aristocratic dynasty the Murgatroyds are obliged by a witch's curse to commit a crime a day, but this comes up against the opposition of true, innocent love. Grant Doyle and Richard Burkhard are among the Murgatroyds in this pickle, and Sullivan's infectious music is conducted by Timothy.

Wagner's Die Walküre, Leeds Town Hall, 16, 20 & 27 June; The Sage, Gateshead, 23 June; Birmingham Symphony Hall, 30 Jun; The Lowry Salford Quays, 14 July. Concert performances staged with film and lighting effects by the mastermind Peter Mumford to generate a theatrical atmosphere of Wagner's dramatic central section of his Ring cycle, in which the god Wotan punishes his daughter Brünnhilde for falling in love with a mortal. Richard Farnes conducts a stellar cast including Annalena Persson as Brünnhilde, Béla Perencz as Wotan and Katarina Karnéus as Fricka.


Welsh National Opera


Verdi’s La traviata, Cardiff WMC 11, 18 & 29 Feb, 2 March; Birmingham Hippodrome 6 & 9 Mar; Llandudno Venue Cymru 13 & 16 Mar; Milton Keynes Theatre 20 & 23 Mar; Southampton Mayflower 27 & 30 Mar; Plymouth Theatre Royal 5 & 7 Apr; Bristol Hippodrome 10 & 13 Apr; Swansea Taliesin 20 Apr. The doomed courtesan Violetta Valéry is sung by Joyce El-Khoury, her fiery lover Alfredo by Carlos Osuna and his meddling father Giorgio Germont by Jason Howard. Julia Jones conducts and David McVicar directs.

Berlioz’s Beatrice & Benedict, Cardiff WMC, 17 & 26 Feb; Birmingham Hippodrome 7 Mar; Llandudno Venue Cymru 14 Mar; Milton Keynes Theatre 21 Mar; Southampton Mayflower 28 Mar; Plymouth Theatre Royal 4 Apr; Bristol Hippodrome 11 Apr; Swansea Taliesin 19 Apr. A warm, comic romantic opera on Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing with Sara Fulgoni and Robin Trischler as the wittily sparring Beatrice and Benedict who naturally find a match in each other. Directed by Elijah Moshinsky, conducted by Michael Hofstetter, designed by Michael Yeargan and Dona Granata.

Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, Cardiff WMC 25 & 28 Feb, 1 & 3 Mar; Birmingham Hippodrome 8 & 10 Mar; Llandudno Venue Cymru 15 & 17 Mar; Milton Keynes Theatre 22 & 24 Mar; Southampton Mayflower 29 & 31 Mar; Plymouth Theatre Royal 3 Apr; Bristol Hippodrome 12 & 14 Apr; Swansea Taliesin 21 Apr. Mozart’s favourite lovers’ comedy with bride and groom Susanna and Figaro caught between their warring employers, the Count and Countess Almaviva. David Soar is Figaro, Elizabeth Watts Susanna, the Countess is either Rebecca Eans or Camilla Roberts, and Count Almaviva is Dario Solari, with either Cora Burggraaf or Patricia Orr as Cherubino. The conductors are Anthony Negus and Stephen Wood, and the production is directed by Lluis Pasqual, with costumes by Franca Squarciapino. A co-production with Gran Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona.

Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde, Cardiff WMC 19 & 26 May, 2 June; Birmingham Hippodrome 16 June. Wagner’s tragic love story about two people who can never find happiness due to their loyalties to opposing sides demands two magnificent dramatic and vocal performers. Tristan is sung by Jay Hunter Morris and Isolde by Ann Petersen, both singers making their UK debuts, conducted by Lothar Koenigs, and directed and designed by Yannis Kokkos. A co-production with Scottish Opera.

Puccini’s La bohème (NEW PRODUCTION), Cardiff WMC 1, 3, 6, 8 & 9 June; Birmingham Hippodrome 13, 14 & 15 June, returning on tour in the autumn. Former WNO chief Carlo Rizzi returns to conduct a new production by Annabel Arden of the poignant love story about four Parisians living in poverty. Anita Hartig sings Mimi, Alex Vicens or Shaun Dixon plays Rodolfo, with Kate Valentine as Musetta and David Kempster as Marcello. A co-production with Gran Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona.


Welsh National Opera 2012-14


A punchy riposte to financial challenges is Welsh National Opera’s intention as its new chief David Pountney unveiled his first two seasons, from 2012-14. WNB will stage eight new productions over the two years, including a special Donizetti trilogy homing in on the glamour and ruthlessness of the Tudor period of Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth I and Mary Stuart. Pountney, who starts as new chief executive and artistic director 38 years after his first job there, described the future as “an exciting moment” and a time for “artistic quality and ambition” for the Welsh company, which has recently been feeling the squeeze from disappointed critics. He himself will direct a new production of Berg’s Lulu, and his celebrated Cunning Little Vixen staging will be revived.

From 22 September (7pm), Handel’s Jephtha, Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff. A military commander faces a crisis of conscience. Robert Murray and Diana Montague are in the cast. Conductor Paul Goodwin, Original Director Katie Mitchell. Co-production with English National Opera

From 3 October (7pm), Mozart’s Così fan tutte, Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff. Mozart’s opera about feuding lovers is transferred to the setting of an early 1960s British seaside resort. Fiordiligi is Elizabeth Watts, Dorabella Cora Burggraaf, Ferrando Andrew Tortise, Guglielmo Jacques Imbrailo (ex 12 Oct), Don Alfonso Neal Davies. Conductor Mark Wigglesworth (ex 17 & 19 Oct), director Benjamin Davis

From 8 September (7.15pm), Puccini’s La bohème, Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff. Annabel Arden’s production of Puccini’s opera takes places in Paris in 1913. War looms and for one group of poverty-stricken artists life is about to change irrevocably. Singing Mimi and Rodolfo are Giselle Allen/Alex Vicens or Michelle Walton/Shaun Dixon. Conductors Simon Phillippo and Andrew Greenwood.

16 November 2012, Orchestra and Chorus of Welsh National Opera / Christoph Poppen, St David’s Hall, Cardiff. Concert programme to include Henze Movements from the Requiem and Mozart’s Requiem

18 January 2013, Orchestra of Welsh National Opera/ Lothar Koenigs, St David’s Hall, Cardiff. Concert programme to include: Zemlinsky and Mahler Lieder, Berg Violin Concerto and Mahler 10th symphony Adagio.

From 8 February 2013 (7pm), Berg’s Lulu (NEW PRODUCTION), Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff.  Berg’s second and final opera centres on the charismatic Lulu. David Pountney directs his first opera for WNO since taking up post as the company’s Chief Executive and Artistic Director. Lulu is performed by Olga Pasichnyk, Doctor Schön / Jack the Ripper Ashley Holland. Conductor is Lothar Koenigs, set designer Johan Engels, costume designer Marie Jeanne Lecca. Co-Production with The National Theatre in Prague

From 15 February 2013 (7.15pm), Puccini’s Madam Butterfly, Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff. Spring and summer runs of Joachim Herz’s classic, sepia-tinged production with Cheryl Barker and Judith Howarth performing the title role. Conductors are Frédéric Chaslin, Gareth Jones and Simon Phillippo

From 24 February 2013 (4pm), Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen,  Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff.  David Pountney’s magical, classical production designed by the late Maria Bjørnson receives its first performance by WNO for over a decade with Sophie Bevan as the Vixen, Sarah Castle as the Fox and Alan Oke as the Schoolmaster. Conductors are Lothar Koenigs and Simon Phillippo. Co-production with Scottish Opera

26 April 2013, Orchestra of Welsh National Opera/ Lothar Koenigs, St David’s Hall, Cardiff. Concert programme to include Wagner Parsifal and Götterdämmerung extracts & Stravinsky The Rite of Spring.

From 23 May (5.30pm), Wagner’s Lohengrin (NEW PRODUCTION),  Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff. Marking the bicentenary year of Wagner’s birth, WNO assembles an exciting cast of singing actors to perform this most sumptuous and romantic of operas. Lohengrin is Peter Wedd, Elsa is  Emma Bell and Ortrud is Susan Bickley. Lothar Koenigs conducts Antony McDonald’s new production, designed by McDonald. Co-production with Theatr Wielki, Warsaw

From 6 June 2013 (7.15pm), Jonathan Harvey’s Wagner Dream (UK PREMIERE). The UK premiere of the first fully staged version of Jonathan Harvey’s fantasy opera based on Wagner’s final days, with a libretto by Jean-Claude Carrière. Conducted by Nicholas Collon directed by Pierre Audi, designed by Jean Kalman. The cast includes Claire Booth, Dale Duesing and Rebecca de Pont Davies. Original Production: commission and co-production: De Nederlandse Opera, Amsterdam, Grand Théâtre de Luxembourg, Holland Festival and IRCAM-Centre Pompidou, Paris.

Autumn 2013: “The Tudors” trilogy - Donizetti’s Anna Bolena (NEW PRODUCTION by Alessandro Talevi, conducted by Daniele Rustioni); Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda (NEW PRODUCTION by Rudolf Frey, conducted by Graeme Jenkins), Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux (NEW PRODUCTION by Alessandro Talevi, conducted by Daniele Rustioni).  Puccini’s Tosca (Michael Blakemore production)

Spring 2014: “Fallen Women” - Puccini’s Manon Lescaut (NEW PRODUCTION by Mariusz Trelinski, conducted by Lothar Koenigs), Henze’s Boulevard Solitude (NEW PRODUCTION, conducted by Lothar Koenigs), Verdi’s La traviata (David McVicar’s production)

Summer 2014: “Faith” - Schoenberg’s Moses and Aaron (WNO PREMIERE, directed by Serge Moabito & Jossi Weiler, conducted by Lothar Koenigs), Verdi’s Nabucco (NEW PRODUCTION by Rudolf Frey)


Scottish Opera


Prokofiev's Betrothal in a Monastery (NEW PRODUCTION), Glasgow Theatre Royal 20 & 21 Jan; Edinburgh Festival Theatre 26 & 28 Jan. The annual winter collaboration with the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland fields top young singers in a melodious, fast-paced comedy based on Sheridan’s The Duenna, as boys meet girls, a greedy fish merchant and a bevy of dissolute monks. Scottish Opera are mentors for the RCS’s young musicians and stage students in this new production, conducted by Timothy Dean.

Opera Highlights, Scottish Opera’s selection of popular operatic arias sung by four of its soloists goes on a 15-venue tour of Scotland, 31 Jan-3 Mar, opening in Livingston and ending in Musselburgh.

Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel, Glasgow Theatre Royal 4, 8, 10 & 12 Feb; Edinburgh Festival Theatre 14, 16 & 18 Feb. The magical opera of two children’s triumph over adversity is directed by Bill Bankes-Jones with Ailish Tynan as Grete, Kai Rüütel as Hansel, and Leah-Marian Jones as the Witch who threatens to eat them.

Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress (NEW PRODUCTION), Glasgow Theatre Royal 17, 21, 23 & 25 Mar; Edinburgh Festival Theatre 27, 29 & 31 Mar. A new production by the celebrated Scottish director David McVicar in partnership with the Olivier Award-winning designer John Macfarlane. A colourful tale of debauchery with a brilliant verse libretto by WH Auden and Chester Kallman, the story tells how Tom Rakewell abandons his country sweetheart and sets off to seek his fortune in London in the company of the devilish Nick Shadow. Cast includes Edgaras Montvidas, Steven Page and Carolyn Sampson. A co-production with Turin Opera.

Puccini’s Tosca, Glasgow Theatre Royal 4, 6, 8, 10 & 12 May; Inverness Eden Court 17 & 19 May; Edinburgh Festival Theatre 23, 25, 27 & 31 May, 2 Jun; His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen 7 & 9 Jun. Anthony Besch’s celebrated 1980 production has travelled to opera houses around the world since it was first created for Scottish Opera, transporting Puccini’s powerful drama to fascist Italy in the 1930s. Susannah Glanville sings Floria Tosca, a famous diva, whose engagement to the painter Cavaradossi (José Ferrero) is brutally undermined by Scarpia, the sadistic Chief of Police (Robert Poulton).

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