Three treasures in store for Opera North's summer season

First published in What's On

Opera North's summer season opens with an exciting new cast and conductor when La Bohème returns to The Lowry this month.

Director Peter Relton revives Phyllida Lloyd’s highly successful 1993 production, set in the slightly grimy, tumultuous Paris of the 1950s.

The multi award-winning Phyllida Lloyd, whose stage production and film of the musical Mamma Mia! created a global phenomenon, began her operatic directing career at Opera North when she directed Chabrier’s L’Etoile in 1991. Subsequent successes have included Gloriana (1999), and most recently the critically acclaimed Peter Grimes (2006).

La Bohème is a tragic tale of passion, young romance, jealousy and heartbreak, set in 1950s Paris. The young poet Rodolfo falls head over heels in love with his neighbour Mimi, while his friend, Marcello, takes up with good-time girl Musetta. Their love affairs blossom amongst the hustle and bustle of the Paris cafés, until news of Mimi's illness tears their lives apart and the opera ends in tragedy.

The Australian tenor Aldo Di Toro makes his Opera North debut as Rodolfo, a role he has recently sung for Opera Holland Park. Sarah Fox (Musetta 2010) returns to the production to sing the role of Mimi.

The Polish baritone Marcin Bronikowski carries over his role as Marcello from the Winter into the Summer Season. Making their Opera North debuts are bass Tim Mirfin as Colline, a role he has performed with the Hamburg State Opera, and the Norwegian baritone Thorbjørn Gulbrandsøy as Schaunard.

Soprano Jeni Bern (Trixie, Let 'em Eat Cake, 2009) sings Musetta, Opera North favourite, baritone Eric Roberts (Solon, The Fortunes of King Croesus, 2007) is both Benoit and Alcindoro and Paul Rendall is Parpignol.

The Swedish violinist and conductor, Tobias Ringborg will take up the baton.

Olivia Fuchs returns to the company to direct the revival of her 2003 production of Dvořák's only wholly successful opera, Rusalka, which is partly based on Fouqué’s Undine and Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid. Olivia's production team is completed with the original set and costume designer Niki Turner, lighting designer Bruno Poet with Tim Claydon as the revival choreographer.

This lyric fairy-tale opera evokes a sensuous world of moonlit water and dreams and the harsher human world.

It is a spellbinding tale of innocence, yearning, disappointment and the transcendent power of love, as Rusalka, a water nymph, yearns to be part of the human world having fallen in love with a Prince. In order to win his love she enlists the help of a witch. All goes well until he succumbs to the charms of an evil foreign Princess, and Rusalka is forced to make a heartrending sacrifice.

Set in pre-revolutionary Russia, Giselle Allen returns to the title role. Giselle last appeared with the Company as Ellen Orford in the award winning production of Peter Grimes (2007/2008). Richard Berkeley-Steele (title role Siegfried, ENO) makes his Opera North debut as The Prince. Anne-Marie Owens (Dame Hannah, Ruddigore, 2010), one of Britain's most popular mezzo-sopranos, sings the manipulative Ježibaba, a role which brought her great success at Grange Park in 2008.

Bass Richard Angas (Old Adam Goodheart, Ruddigore 2010) reprises his role as the Water Sprite and Susannah Glanville (Elisabeth, Don Carlos, 2009) is the jealous Foreign Princess.

Oliver von Dohnányi conducts, bringing vast experience of this, his native repertoire, to the production.

For Mary Stuart, one of Donizetti's most powerful scores, two exceptional singers return to the Opera North. The distinguished mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly will sing the role of Mary, the Catholic Queen of Scotland. Sarah was last heard as Romeo (I Capuleti e i Montecchi, 2008) in the earlier exploration of bel canto at Opera North. Taking the role of her cousin, the Protestant Queen Elizabeth, the Company is delighted to welcome back the Italian soprano Antonia Cifrone, who received high acclaim for her portrayal of Lady Macbeth (Macbeth 2008).

Mary Stuart is the tale of a titanic struggle for supremacy between two Queens divided by jealousy. A battle for England’s soul takes place when Elizabeth I, protector of the Protestant faith, clashes with her Catholic cousin, Mary Queen of Scots. Intertwined with secrets, deceit and desire Mary Stuart presents a mighty clash of wills between two of the most powerful women ever to have lived.

The Turkish tenor, Bülent Bezdüz (Rodolfo, La Bohème 2010) makes his second appearance this year with the Company, as Leicester, as does the French bass Frédéric Bourreau (Colline, La Bohème 2010) who sings Talbot. The Welsh baritone David Kempster as Cecil, and soprano Michelle Walton as Hannah make their company debuts.

Antony McDonald returns to the Company this season to make his directorial debut, and is also designing the sets and costumes. He previously designed the sets for Pelléas et Mélisande (2001) and One Touch of Venus (2005). His production team is completed with Lucy Carter lighting designer and with movement by Lucy Burge.

Guido Johannes Rumstadt takes up the baton making his operatic debut.

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