On the eve of the EU referendum in 2016, Richard Mantle, the general director of Opera North, warned of the detrimental effect a no vote would have on the “enormous talent pool which is Europe”. So far, there has been no noticeable decline in the talent displayed on the opera stages of Britain, but who knows what will happen during the transition period? I suspect there will be stories of visas denied, work permits revoked and settled status questioned for talented opera workers from outside these ever-shrinking shores. But, for the time being, we at OperaWatch will continue to look forward to what that enormous pool brings us in 2020 and beyond.
My trainee opera critics and I are greatly looking forward to the forthcoming season of productions. Following on from last season’s brilliant The Greek Passion, Opera North continues its exploration of exile and immigration with Kurt Weill’s jazz-tinged New York odyssey Street Scene. Set during two days of a blistering hot summer in an East Side tenement in 1946, it tells the troubled story of the marriage of Frank and Anna Maurrant, played by Giselle Allen and Robert Hayward. The opera is conducted by James Holmes, an acknowledged expert in Weill’s work, and directed by Matthew Eberhardt. His 2017 direction of Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti showed just how well he can handle this musical hybrid.
Jo Davies’ lively production of The Marriage of Figaro by Mozart gives opera-goers with more of a traditional taste a bit of what they want. This complex and rich farce delivers everything you would expect from the genius of Mozart. Phillip Rhodes sings the role of Figaro with Fflur Wyn as his betrothed Susanna. Quirijn de Lang and Máire Flavin play the Count and Countess of Almaviva. Antony Hermus, Opera North’s principal guest conductor, takes charge of the baton.
Opera North’s season at The Lowry finishes with Benjamin Britten’s Turn of the Screw. I love Britten and I hope that our patriots who have been parading their edifying sentiments on social media do not read that the wrong way and take me for one of them. Britten was a towering great of British opera, beloved in Europe as one of their own and fated all over the world. This is a revival of Alessandro Talevi’s 2010 production with Nicholas Watts as Peter Quint and Sarah Tynan as the Governess. Leo McFall conducts. It will surely remind us of what a talent Britten was.
Finally, the Royal Northern College of Music stages Jonathan Dove’s modern interpretation of Mansfield Park. Based on the novel by Jane Austen with a libretto by Alasdair Middleton, Dove’s composition is billed as “an enjoyably eclectic mix of styles from classical pastiche to Philip Glass”.
All in all, it is a wide and varied season that promises to wow the sensations and warm the hearts of opera fans in the north. It will also continue to use that enormous talent pool which is forever Europe.
By Robert Hamilton, Opera Correspondent
Images courtesy of Opera North