Opera North's new broadcast and digital projects

Published: 19 March 2021
Reporter: Vera Liber

Testament performs Orpheus in the Record Shop Credit: Anthony Robling
Paula Murrihy as Orfeo in Opera North's concert recording of Orfeo ed Euridice 2021 Credit: Justin Slee

Opera North's new projects will include a co-production with Leeds Playhouse of writer and beatboxer Testament’s Orpheus in the Record Shop, which will be broadcast on BBC Four and BBC iPlayer this spring as part of #BBCLightsUp.

Inspired by the Ancient Greek myth, rapper and playwright Testament fuses spoken word and beatboxing with a score performed by the Orchestra and Chorus of Opera North at Leeds Playhouse’s Quarry Theatre.

Orpheus is alone, playing tunes in his record shop, when a visit from an enigmatic stranger sets his fragile reality into a spin. Driven by an original soundtrack of hip hop, soul and funk, he ventures back into the past to confront some painful truths.

Orpheus in the Record Shop premièred to a socially-distanced audience in October 2020 and was originally directed and designed for the stage by Aletta Collins. The filmed version is directed by James Brining and Alex Ramseyer-Bache, with cast including Testament as Orpheus and Helen Évoraas Justine.

Two newly recorded concerts will also be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 this spring. Richard Farnes, Opera North’s former Music Director, will conduct the Orchestra of Opera North in a concert featuring Sibelius’s Pelléas and Mélisande suite, Janáček’s Katya Kabanova suite and Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel suite.

A concert recording of Gluck’s opera Orfeo ed Euridice will be conducted from the harpsichord by Laurence Cummings, with guest soloists Paula Murrihy (Orfeo), Fflur Wyn (Euridice) and Daisy Brown (Amore).

The broadcast of Orfeo ed Euridice on BBC Radio 3 will be accompanied by a specially commissioned 90-minute behind-the-scenes film, directed by Andrew Quick.

Jonty Claypole, BBC Director of Arts, described BBC Lights Up as, "that seemingly impossible thing: a theatre festival in the midst of a pandemic, consisting of eighteen original productions from theatres and producers right across the UK" and called Testament's play, "an entertaining, poetic and deeply moving show written and performed by one of the most exciting creative voices working anywhere in the UK right now.”