The QT

Friday 19 July 2024

Some nights at the opera

David Whetstone looks at some forthcoming attractions from Opera North and Samling Academy
Sir Despard Murgatroyd from Gilbert & Sullivan’s Ruddigore which comes to Newcastle this Autumn © Opera North

Opera North have put a Tyneside spin on the promotion of their autumn season at the Theatre Royal with characters in the forthcoming productions pictured somehow dodging kittiwake poo on the Quayside.

It’s a neat touch although other cities on the tour itinerary are doubtless getting the same attention.

North East fans of opera know to look out for the Leeds-based company’s season announcements but swelling that fan base is always the aim.

And November’s season brings three traditional audience pleasers to the Grey Street theatre — A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Ruddigore and The Magic Flute.

The Queen of the Night from Mozart’s The Magic Flute which arrives in Newcastle this Autumn © Opera North

Benjamin Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, adapted from the Shakespeare comedy, was premiered in 1960 at the Aldeburgh Festival in Suffolk.

Opera North have revived their own production, directed by Martin Duncan, that was first seen in 2008 and then again in 2013 when it got another swathe of enthusiastic reviews.

A single performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream on November 6 opens the autumn week (actually more of a half-week) in Newcastle.

Then comes the Gilbert & Sullivan favourite, Ruddigore, a Gothic send-up which tells of cursed Sir Despard Murgatroyd who must commit a crime a day to dodge an agonising death.

Tytania from Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream which arrives in Newcastle this Autumn © Opera North

Jo Davies’ hilarious production for Opera North has been to the Theatre Royal before and had audiences in stitches. There’s only one performance here in November so grab a ticket while you can.

Mozart’s The Magic Flute was premiered in Vienna in 1791 just two months before he died. Even if that was all he’d done, it would have been a tremendous legacy.

“The ideal introduction to opera for everyone, packed with fantasy, romance and daring,” suggests Opera North with justification. Great music, too.

James Brining’s production is to get two performances at the Theatre Royal, on November 8 and 9, and will return next spring when a shorter, 90-minute  version dubbed ‘The Magic Flute Lite’ will open the spring mini-season at 11am on March 6.

It’s deemed suitable for younger viewers, school groups or indeed anyone who finds a full blown production of anything a bit of a stretch.

That month will also see the one and only North East performance of The Flying Dutchman, Wagner’s opera about a ship cursed to stay at sea until Judgement Day. It’s not a comedy, as you might deduce, and it’s sung in German with English subtitles.

Opera North promise “you’ll be swept away by the thrilling, tempestuous music drama in a new production directed by Annabel Arden and designed by Joanna Parker”.

Opera North will bow out of Newcastle with it on March 8 next year.

Anyone wanting to try opera for the first time is advised to check out Opera North’s Try it ON scheme which enables first-time bookers to get two tickets for £20 each. 

But before any of this happens, some of the North East’s young classical singers will be on stage at The Glasshouse performing Lost & Found, the latest Samling Academy concert of song, opera and poetry.

Ben Ryan and Ava da Costa in last year’s Samling Academy concert. Credit: Mark Pinder

They will, as the billing explains, be sharing “some of the treasures that we find and lose on our journey through life — the exciting discoveries of new love, nostalgia for the places we can never return to and the everyday drama of misplaced objects”.

I’ve seen earlier cohorts of Samling Academy singers in action and they never cease to amaze me.

Invariably they’re a credit to themselves and to the Hexham-based charity which helps young singers realise their potential and, in some cases, go on to make careers in music with the likes of Opera North.

This year’s Samling Academy concert is on Friday, July 12 at 7.30pm with tickets on sale via The Glasshouse website. 

Last year’s Samling Academy concert. Credit: Mark Pinder

And if you want to see the growing influence of the Samling Institute for Young Artists, of which the Academy is part, just look through the casts of the forthcoming Opera North seasons to see how many of its singers have attended Samling masterclasses.

James Newby and Andri Björn Róbertsson (Demetrius and Theseus respectively in A Midsummer Night’s Dream), Dominic Sedgwick and Amy Freston (Robin Oakapple and Rose Maybud in Ruddigore) and Claire Lees (Pamina in The Magic Flute) are all Samling Artists performing here in November.

And you will also catch Andri Björn Róbertsson in The Magic Flute in the role of Speaker.

That’s quite a feather in the region’s cap.

Tickets for the Opera North autumn season are on sale now via the Theatre Royal website. 


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