As I look out of the window of the OperaWatch offices, housed on the 43rd floor of Northern Soul Towers, I can see snow-covered lands as far as the Lakes.

Winter has finally arrived and with it an exiting new opera season. There is much to see and enjoy in the coming months including three Opera North productions at The Lowry, more streaming gems from HOME, and a glittering new production of an old favourite at the Royal Northern College of Music. Yes, there is much to gladden the heart of this old opera correspondent at the start of another operatastic year.

Weather permitting, I’m heading t’other side of the Pennines on Tuesday (January 19) to Leeds Grand Theatre, home of Opera North, to see Umberto Giordano’s Andrea ChenierAnnabel Arden’s new production of the tragic tale of the Romantic poet, Chenier, and his love for the young aristocrat, Maddalena. This being the French Revolution, it was not a good time to fall for aristos and poor old Andrea duly loses his head (à la guillotine). What with last season’s body count, I’m beginning to feel like a crime correspondent, but the guillotine is a bit of a novelty and I’m looking forward to seeing how it’s staged. Andrea Chenier is also famous for containing the aria that Tom Hanks metaphorically rogers Denzel Washington with in Philadelphia. I’m catching this one early as in mid March I’m off on my annual pilgrimage to the Hong Kong Film Festival and so will miss the season at The Lowry. The other productions include Cosi Fan Tutte by Mozart (March 16 and 18) and Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore (March 17), both lovely romantic tales and no bodies.

Cosi fan tutteIf you miss Cosi Fan Tutte, don’t worry as there is another production in town at the RNCM (March 9, 11, 15, and 17, matinee 3.00pm, March 13 and 19). The college is proud to welcome back alumnus, Thomas Guthrie, to direct his first RNCM Opera production. I always enjoy RNCM operas and I’m looking forward to seeing this. I love this story of the intrigue of the heart as two young women of Naples have their fidelity tested to the limit for the sake of a cruel wager. Mozart at his mischievous best.

Finally, two classics at HOME. Turandot by Puccini (5.40pm, January 30) is being streamed live from the Metropolitan Opera House in New York. It is a revival of Franco Zeffirelli’s ‘golden’ production and conducted by Paolo Carignani. It should be a sumptuous affair. For my ‘pop cult’ readers, it contains the aria Nessun dorma, made popular by Pavarotti as the theme to the BBC’s coverage of the 1990 World Cup and for making Gazza cry. I am apoplectic with childlike anticipation. It is followed by La traviata (6.30pm, February 4) from the Royal Opera House. Verdi’s outstanding story of the love and death of Violetta, a 19th century courtesan, is one of the true greats of opera. Bring a box of hankies.

Reviews, of course, to follow and I hope you get to see as many as you can. From all of us in the OperaWatch offices at Northern Soul Towers, have a great opera-going 2016.

By Robert Hamilton, Opera Correspondent


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