Opera North returns to the North East

Published: 22 April 2021
Reporter: Peter Lathan

Opera North
Chrystal E Williams
Femi Elufowoju Jr Credit: Tyler Fayose

Opera North will return to the North East in November 2021 and March and June 2022, with their regular seasons at the Theatre Royal and a one-off performance at The Sage Gateshead.

November 2021

In November there will be productions of Carmen (Wednesday 3 and Friday 5 November) and a Bernstein Double Bill on Thursday 4 and Saturday 6 November.

The production of Bizet’s Carmen, conducted by Garry Walker in his first production as Opera North’s new Music Director, is the company’s first Carmen in over a decade. Directed by Edward Dick, it features American mezzo-soprano Chrystal E Williams in the title role and Canadian tenor Antoine Bélanger as Don José.

The double bill of works by Leonard Bernstein consists of a revival of his one-act opera Trouble in Tahiti paired with a new co-production of West Side Story Symphonic Dances in collaboration with Phoenix Dance Theatre. Conducted by Antony Hermus, Opera North’s Principal Guest Conductor, and choreographed by Phoenix Dance Theatre’s recently appointed Artistic Director Dane Hurst, Symphonic Dances will be an entirely new dance work, interpreting Bernstein’s music in an exploration of identity and conflict.

Baritone Quirijn de Lang (Count Almaviva, The Marriage of Figaro; Fred Graham in Kiss Me, Kate) returns as Sam, joined as Dinah for this revival by American mezzo Sandra Piques Eddy, whose previous roles at Opera North have included the title roles in Carmen (2011) and The Coronation of Poppea (2014).

March 2022

Carmen returns to the Theatre Royal on 25 March, along with Rigoletto (23 and 26) and Alcina (24).

The production of Rigoletto is new and is conducted by Opera North’s Music Director Garry Walker and directed by theatre artist Femi Elufowoju Jr., who makes his opera directing debut. American baritone Eric Greene, whose previous work for Opera North includes Amonasro in Aida and Billy Bigelow in Carousel, sings the title role. Russian tenor Roman Arndt and American soprano Jasmine Habersham make Opera North debuts as the Duke and Gilda, while Jamaican-born British bass-baritone Sir Willard White returns to the company as Monterone.

Opera North’s production of Alcina, one of Handel’s most popular operas, is directed by Tim Albery. It reunites Albery and designer Hannah Clark with Baroque specialist Laurence Cummings conducting. It will also be Opera North’s first main stage production to be created from recycled, reused and second-hand sources, as part of its commitment to environmental responsibility.

June 2022

The company returns to the North East on 18 June when it brings Parsifal to the Sage Gateshead.

A story of suffering, compassion and, ultimately, redemption, Parsifal centres on the community of knights who guard the Holy Grail. Wagner said it was his "farewell to the world", and so it proved. It was his final opera.

Opera North’s first Parsifal is conducted by the company’s former Music Director Richard Farnes, whose performances of the Opera North Ring cycle in 2016 met with acclaim. P J Harris (Salome) directs this new dramatic concert staging.

The cast is headed by Toby Spence, returning to Opera North following Fidelio (2020–21), with Katarina Karnéus as Kundry, Brindley Sherratt as Gurnemanz, Robert Hayward as Amfortas and Eric Greene as Klingsor.