Don Giovanni | Opera North

Don Giovanni 01_credit Bill Cooper

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Reviewed by Michelle Ewen

Scandalously entertaining, Don Giovanni is a five-star romp through the ages which left us both wooed and wowed at The Lowry!

Presented by Opera North, Don Giovanni tells the story of a time-travelling lothario who leaves a trail of broken hearts – and even a corpse – in his wake before finally facing retribution.

With the Time’s Up movement empowering victims of sexual harassment and violence, Mozart’s work circa 1787 remains as relevant today as it did in the eighteenth century and, thanks to its stunning staging and raucous puppetry, this production feels thoroughly modern and provocative.

DON GIOVANNI_OPERA NORTH Don Giovanni; William Dazeley, Leporello; John Savournin, Donna Anna; Jennifer Davis, Don Ottavio; Nicholas Watts, Donna Elvira; Elizabeth Atherton, Zerlina Kathryn Rudge, Masetto; Ross McInroy, Co

Mozart presents us with three female leads: Donna Anna (Jennifer Davis), who Don Giovanni molests before killing her father Il Commendatore (James Platt); Donna Elvira (Elizabeth Atherton), who Don Giovanni has previously seduced and promised to marry; and Zerlina (Kathryn Rudge), whom he is intent on bedding on her wedding day to Masetto (Ross McInroy).

Slipping back and forth in time, Don Giovanni manages to stay one step ahead of all three women with the help of his long-suffering servant Leporello; indeed, it is only when Don Giovanni defiantly asks the statue of the murdered Il Commendatore to dine with him that his past transgressions look set to finally catch up with him…

William Dazeley has all the prerequisite charisma and acting chops to carry the title role of Don Giovanni, yet it is his partnering with John Savournin as Leporello that delivers the greatest satisfaction. Fully indulging in Mozart’s brand of nudge-nudge wink-wink bawdy comedy, Dazeley and Savournin are a riot, as well as bona fide masters of gesticulating rudely with their canes.

DON GIOVANNI_OPERA NORTH Don Giovanni; William Dazeley, Leporello; John Savournin, Donna Anna; Jennifer Davis, Don Ottavio; Nicholas Watts, Donna Elvira; Elizabeth Atherton, Zerlina Kathryn Rudge, Masetto; Ross McInroy, Co

The black, lowbrow comedy they indulge in offers the perfect counterbalance to Donna Anna’s palpable grief, which the brilliant Jennifer Davis portrays so believably. Whether she’s being roughly molested, lying prostrate on the floor or flopping in anguish against her ever-patient fiancé Don Ottavio (Nicholas Watts), Davis’ vocals never falter – making this a stunning Opera North debut for the graduate of DIT Conservatory of Music and Drama in Dublin.

As the flirtatious Zerlina, Kathryn Rudge is delicious – simultaneously reassuring her husband-to-be Masetto, while actively encouraging Don Giovanni’s panting advances. Her vocal theatrics during a simulated sex scene had the audience in stitches!

Praise too for James Platt, who lends just the right amount of gravitas to the role of Il Commendatore – making for a sensational last act.

DON GIOVANNI_OPERA NORTH Don Giovanni; William Dazeley, Leporello; John Savournin, Donna Anna; Jennifer Davis, Don Ottavio; Nicholas Watts, Donna Elvira; Elizabeth Atherton, Zerlina Kathryn Rudge, Masetto; Ross McInroy, Co

While the Opera North cast and chorus are to be congratulated on their first-class performances, it is Alessandro Talevi’s direction, Madeleine Boyd’s set and costume design, Matthew Haskins’ lighting and Victoria Newlyn’s choreography that takes the staging to a whole other level.

The device of inserting a Punch and Judy-style stage ‘window’ into the curtain was ingenious – especially when the actors’ lower bodies were replaced with identical miniature puppets. These were, without doubt, some of my very favourite scenes in the whole production.

And what is an opera without music? Hearty congratulations to the Opera North orchestra, which was expertly led by Christoph Altstaedt – breathing new life into the familiar and seducing us with every note.

Don Giovanni has one final performance at The Lowry on Friday 9th March at 7pm with a bookable free pre-show talk at 6pm, tickets available here.

MTA Nominations 2018

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Nominations for this year’s Manchester Theatre Awards have been announced, celebrating the best work on stage and off within the city in over 20 categories, with winners being announced at a red carpet event at the Lowry theatre on Friday 9th March which will be hosted by local funny man Justin Moorhouse.

With some interesting choices and some considerable omissions, our personal pick and who Opening Night will be backing when we head to the ceremony will be;

Performance in a Fringe Production – Amie Giselle-Ward, Little Women – The Musical,

Best NewcomerHope Mill Theatre, Scott Hunter, Yank!, Hope Mill Theatre,

Best Opera La Cenerentola , Opera North, The Lowry,

Studio Production – From Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads, The Lowry

Best Performance in a Studio Production – Alex Walton, From Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads, The Lowry

Target Live Award for Best Visiting Production The Lowry, La Strada, The Lowry

With four incredible selections for Best Musical it will be a hotly contested category, we adored each production but would loved to have seen additional nominations for Hope Mill Theatre’s spectacular Pippin and Tim Firth and Gary Barlow’s uplifting audience favourite The Band.

 

The nominations are as follows;

Actress in a Leading Role

Karen Henthorn, Spring and Port Wine, Oldham Coliseum

Lisa Dwyer Hogg, People, Places & Things, HOME

Nina Hoss, Returning to Reims, Manchester International Festival

Janet Suzman, Rose, HOME

 

Actor in a Leading Role

Cliff Burnett, Hard Times, Oldham Coliseum

Jason Merrells, Uncle Vanya, HOME

Kenneth Alan Taylor, The Father, Oldham Coliseum

Ashley Zhangazha, Guys And Dolls, Royal Exchange

 

Actress in a Supporting Role

Alison Halstead, The House of Bernarda Alba, Royal Exchange

Kate Kennedy, Twelfth Night, Royal Exchange

Kerry Peers, The Father, Oldham Coliseum

Katie West, Uncle Vanya, HOME

 

Actor in a Supporting Role

Tom Michael Blyth, Hard Times, Oldham Coliseum

David Fleeshman, Uncle Vanya, HOME

Andrew Sheridan, People, Places & Things, HOME

 

Actress in a Visiting Production

Ria Jones, Sunset Boulevard, Palace Theatre

Laura Pitt-Pulford, Nell Gwynn, The Lowry

Natalie Radmall-Quirke, The Weir, Oldham Coliseum

Sheridan Smith, Funny Girl, Palace Theatre

 

Actor in a Visiting Production

Danny Mac, Sunset Boulevard, Palace Theatre

Graham McDuff, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Palace Theatre

Sean Murray, The Weir, Oldham Coliseum

 

Ensemble

Oh What A Lovely War, Oldham Coliseum

Operation Black Antler, HOME

The Suppliant Women, Royal Exchange

 

Performance in a Fringe Production

Rosie Fleeshman, Narcissist in the Mirror, Greater Manchester Fringe

Amie Giselle-Ward, Little Women – The Musical, Hope Mill Theatre

Alexandra Maxwell, The Loves of Others / Freak, Greater Manchester Fringe

Danny Solomon, Days Of Wine And Roses, 53TWO

 

Performance in a Studio Production

Rhodri Meilir How My Light Is Spent, Royal Exchange

Lucy Jane Parkinson, Joan, Contact

Keisha Thompson, Man On The Moon, Contact

Alex Walton, From Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads, The Lowry

 

Robert Robson Award for Dance

Debut, Acosta Danza, The Lowry

English National Ballet double bill, Palace Theatre

Ghost Dances, Rambert Dance, The Lowry

Leviathan, James Wilton Dance, Contact

 

Design

Jenny Melville (set) and Lysander Ashton (video), Paul Auster’s City of Glass, HOME

Bunny Christie, People, Places & Things, HOME

Alex Lowde, Persuasion, Royal Exchange

Yael Bartana, What If Women Ruled the World?, Manchester International Festival

 

Fringe Production

Bad Advice, Greater Manchester Fringe

Gypsy Queen, Hope Mill Theatre

The Marriage of Kim K, Greater Manchester Fringe

Moth, Hope Mill Theatre

 

Musical

Funny Girl, Palace Theatre

Jim Steinman’s Bat out of Hell the Musical, Opera House

Sunset Boulevard, Palace Theatre

Yank!, Hope Mill Theatre

 

New Play

Gypsy Queen, writer Rob Ward, Hope Mill Theatre

How My Light Is Spent, writer Alan Harris, Royal Exchange

Narcissist in the Mirror, writer Rosie Fleeshman, Greater Manchester Fringe

Narvik, writer Lizzie Nunnery, HOME

 

Newcomer

Gemma Dobson, Rita, Sue and Bob Too, Octagon Theatre Bolton

Scott Hunter, Yank!, Hope Mill Theatre

Vinay Lad, The Railway Children, The Lowry

 

Opera

Cendrillon, Royal Northern College of Music, RNCM

La Cenerentola, Opera North, The Lowry

Opera North Little Greats, Opera North, The Lowry

The Snow Maiden, Opera North, The Lowry

 

Production

The Father, Oldham Coliseum

People, Places & Things, HOME

Rose, HOME

The Suppliant Women, Royal Exchange

 

Special Entertainment

Dick Whittington, Opera House

Running Wild, The Lowry

The Toad Knew, The Lowry

Under Glass, Clod Ensemble,The Lowry

 

Studio Production

From Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads, The Lowry

Joan, Contact

Man On The Moon, Contact

Swansong, The Lowry

 

Target Live Award for Best Visiting Production

La Strada, The Lowry

My Country; a Work in Progress, HOME

Nell Gwynn, The Lowry

The Weir, Oldham Coliseum

 

Youth Panel Award

There is a Light/BRIGHTLIGHT, Contact Young Company

Singin’ in the Rain, RNCM Young Company

Tis Written in the Stars, Oldham Theatre Workshop, Oldham Coliseum

The Little Greats – Pagliacci & Cavalleria

ON 1

A double helping of duplicitous drama made for a dazzling debut at Opera North’s festival of ‘The Little Greats’ at The Lowry last night.

Back-to-back performances of Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci and Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana captivated the crowd, who – having taken the rare opportunity to see two short operas in one evening – were rewarded with virtuoso vocals by sopranos Elin Pritchard and Giselle Allen respectively.

With each opera revisiting the timeless themes of sexual jealousy and vengeance, they made for a perfect pairing – featuring illicit couplings, spurned lovers and culminations in shocking acts of violence.

Pagliacci begins with company director Canio (Peter Auty) briefing his assembled cast at the first rehearsal of a new production; his wife Nedda (Elin Pritchard) is lead vocalist and Canio is cast as her cuckolded husband.

ON

When Nedda later rejects the unwanted advances of company designer Tonio (Richard Buckhard), he tells Canio that Nedda is cheating on him in a fit of spite. As the final run-through begins, Canio breaks from character – demanding to know the identity of Nedda’s lover…

An accomplished veteran of Opera North’s La bohème, La traviata, Macbeth, Faust and Osud, Peter Auty is commanding in the role of Canio – deftly walking the fine line between bombastic company talisman and wrathful, wronged husband – yet the show is Elin Pritchard’s; she chirps prettily through Act One’s ‘Bird Song’ before displaying her full vocal range while mocking Tonio mercilessly, and emoting her desire to run away with her lover Silvio (Phillip Rhodes).

Full marks to director and set designer Charles Edwards for creating a contemporary setting that makes Leoncavallo’s late-nineteenth century offering totally accessible to modern audiences, while remaining true to the integrity of the Italian artistic movement ‘Verismo’.

ON 2

After a mere 20-minute break (after which Phillip Rhodes impressively returned to the stage in yet another lead role), Cavalleria rusticana commences…

At once, we are transported to post-Second World War Poland – a substitute for the opera’s original setting of Sicily – where we find Turiddu (Jonathan Stoughton) in the midst of a love triangle… caught between the woman he loves, Lola (Katie Bray), who is married to Alfio (Phillip Rhodes), and Santuzza (Giselle Allen), the woman he seduced, but then cast aside.

Lola, disillusioned as she is with married life, is indulging in adulterous trysts with Turiddu – much to the agony of the deeply religious Santuzza. When Easter Sunday dawns, Santuzza decides to tell Alfio exactly what unholy acts his wife and Turiddu have been up to…

This is an opera that is going to put your through the emotional wringer. Santuzza’s articulation of her despair takes up more than half of the allotted running time – making it more character-led than story-driven; however, as a demonstration of sheer talent, Giselle Allen’s performance is exemplary.

ON 3

Once again, Charles Edwards’ set design is impeccable – pared back, stark and as raw as the emotions the principals and chorus paint it with.

Praise too for costume designer Gabrielle Dalton, who gets the period detail spot on; finally, a special shout out for the vintage taxi, which makes a reoccurring – and crowd-pleasing – appearance on stage!

None of the above would be possible without the stupendous orchestra of Opera North – led throughout both operas by Tobias Ringborg – as well as the chorus, who combined to offer an Italian extravaganza both for opera aficionados and newcomers to delight in.

‘The Little Greats’ Festival continues at The Lowry with works by Ravel and Janáček, as well as by Gilbert & Sullivan and Leonard Bernstein.

For more details, click here: https://www.thelowry.com/events/little-greats

 

Manchester Theatre Awards 2017

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The Royal Exchange will be celebrating tonight after taking home an impressive 10 awards, including best actress for Julie Hesmondhalgh for her role in Wit and best actor for Daniel Rigby in Breaking the Code which also won best production. There was an impressive three awards for Wish List including best studio production, and best actress and actor in a studio production, won by Erin Doherty and Joseph Quinn. Sweet Charity also saw success with Daniel Crossley winning best actor in a supporting role and the production winning best musical.

It was double celebrations for Julie Hesmondhalgh as collectivly with Rebakah Harrison & Grant Archer they won The Stage Door Foundation Award for Excellence for their political theatre collective, Take Back Theatre.

There was success for the Lowry with five productions taking awards including Rufus Hound winning best actor in a visiting production for The Wind In The Willows, best special entertainment going to The Peony Pavillion, Aoife Duffin took best actress in a visiting producion for A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing, best opera went to Opera North’s Andrea Cheinier and best visiting production was won by The James Plays.

Home, where the awards were held won two awards including best new play and best newcomer for Norah Lopez Holden in Ghosts.

There were two awards for Hope Mill Theatre, The Trail which won best fringe production plus a hugely popular special recognition award for Joseph Houston and William Whelton, founders of Hope Mill Theatre.

Another popular winner was the Octagon theatre Bolton whose production of Singin’ in the Rain took home the awards for best design and best ensemble plus the young “Scout” cast were joint young newcomers along with the young “Michael” cast from Billy Elliot at the Palace Theatre, the latter providing one of the greatest speeches of the afternoon.

The 2017 winners in full

Best fringe performance
Joyce Branagh, Boomtown Gals

Best fringe production
The Trial, Hope Mill Theatre

Best musical
Sweet Charity, Royal Exchange

Best special entertainment
The Peony Pavilion, the Lowry

Best Dance
Akram Khan’s Giselle, Palace Theatre

Best actor in a studio production
Joseph Quinn for Wish List, Royal Exchange Studio

Best actress in a studio production
Erin Doherty for Wish List, Royal Exchange Studio

The Stage Door Foundation award for excellence
Take Back Theatre Collective

Best visiting production
The James Plays, the Lowry

Youth panel award
Nothing, Royal Exchange Theatre Young Company

Best opera
Andrea Chenier, Opera North at the Lowry

Best newcomer
Norah Lopez Holden for Ghosts, Home

Best young newcomers
Samuel Torpey, Henry Harmer and Elliot Stiff for Billy Elliot
Jasmine de Goede and Lucy Doyle Ryder for To Kill a Mockingbird

Best new play
The Emperor, Home

Best supporting actress
Natalie Dew for Breaking the Code, Royal Exchange

Best supporting actor
Daniel Crossley for Sweet Charity, Royal Exchange

Best actor in a visiting production
Rufus Hound for Wind in the Willows, the Lowry

Best actress in a visiting production
Aoife Duffin for A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing, the Lowry

Best design
Singin’ in the Rain, Octagon Theatre

Best studio production
Wish List, Royal Exchange

Best ensemble
Singin’ in the Rain, Octagon Theatre

Best actress
Julie Hesmondhalgh for Wit, Royal Exchange

Best actor
Daniel Rigby for Breaking the Code, Royal Exchange

Best production
Breaking the Code, Royal Exchange

Special achievement award
Joseph Houston and William Whelton, founders of Hope Mill Theatre
Philip Radcliffe, critic and founder member of the Manchester Theatre Awards

Cinderella- La Cenerentola

'La Cenerentola' Opera performed by Opera North at the New Theatre, Leeds, UK

As part of their fairy-tale season which also includes Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel and Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Snow Maiden, Opera North brings Rossini’s delightful Cinderella to the Lowry stage. Playing around with the traditional, Rossini replaces the wicked step-mother with a hugely comedic yet down right unpleasant step-father (Henry Waddington), in place of a Fairy Godmother we see the Prince’s tutor Alidoro (John Savournin) who instead of waving a magical wand uses his skills of observation and disguise to best get to know the true hearts of our characters, also gone are the glass slippers, replaced by a simple but effective pair of friendship bracelets.

'La Cenerentola' Opera performed by Opera North at the New Theatre, Leeds, UK

Director/Choreographer Aletta Collins’ combined skills perfectly match this production which is based in wicked step-father Don Magnifico’s school of dance, where poor Cinderella (Wallis Giunta) remains kind of heart despite being bullied and bossed about by her ghastly (but oh so funny) step-sisters, Clorinda (Sky Ingram) and Tisbe (Amy J. Payne). The course of true love never did run smooth so why not mix things up a little more with a swapping of roles as Dandini (Quirijn de Lang) the Princes’ Valet dresses up as the Prince in order to discover which of the ladies truly deserve the Princes’ hand.

'La Cenerentola' Opera performed by Opera North at the New Theatre, Leeds, UK

Giles Cadle’s inventive set which is used by all three operas is wonderfully adaptable with the addition of some highly inventive digital technology which allows Cinderella during her lowest moments; see herself in happier times, a hint of what is to come? Of course!

Opera North have succeeded again in creating a bold and enormously fun Opera, their commitment to making Opera more accessible and inclusive is clear and wonderfully reflected by the wide variety of audience members. Cinderella offers something for everyone; it’s incredibly witty with fabulously comedic performances from ugly sisters Sky Ingram and Amy J. Payne, they thrill the audience with their tantrums and vulgar behaviour, over indulged by Father Don Magnifico, performed spectacularly by Henry Waddington. The trio are fabulous fun, uncouth and deliciously unpleasant.

'La Cenerentola' Opera performed by Opera North at the New Theatre, Leeds, UK

South African tenor Sunnyboy Dladla makes a stunning Company debut as the Prince; he delivers each note effortlessness and has a delightfully warm tone plus all the charm you would wish for from a fairy-tale Prince. Also making her debut is Canadian mezzo-soprano Wallis Giunta, she is utterly mesmerising, her goose-bump inducing aria’s are worth the ticket price alone. The chemistry between the two is wonderful and their duets sublime. Add to this John Savournin and Quirijn de Lang giving strong performances as both Alidoro and Dandini, plus the wonderful Chorus of Opera North frequently arriving en masse as the Courtiers and you have one seriously stellar line up.

'La Cenerentola' Opera performed by Opera North at the New Theatre, Leeds, UK

Opera North’s revamp of Rossini’s comedy-opera is a joy, full of fun, laughter and superb performances and although Rossini’s version is traditionally enchantment free, the magic of Opera North is here for all to see.

Next and final Lowry performance Saturday 11th March 2pm, tickets available here https://www.thelowry.com/events/cinderella

Hansel and Gretel

Hansel and Gretel - Engelbert Humperdinck - Opera North - 2nd February 2017

Hansel - Katie Bray
Gretel - Fflur Wyn
Gertrud/Witch - Susan Bullock
Peter - Stephen Gadd
Sandman - Rachel J. Mosley
Dew Fairy - Amy Freston

Conductor - Christoph Altstaedt
Dire

A STELLA Artois-swigging father, a confectionary house made of Nestlé Caramac and a witch with a Rupaul’s Drag Race-inspired wardrobe… It’s clear that Opera North’s production of Hansel and Gretel has two feet firmly planted in the 21st century rather than The Brothers Grimm’s latter-day Germany.

A scrumptious opera that totally satisfies our appetite for entertainment, Opera North are to be congratulated on a stupendously inventive production of the Engelbert Humperdinck classic. Hansel and Gretel, The Snow Maiden and Cinderella are part of a grand experiment that sees three ‘Deliciously Dark Fairy Tales’ from contrasting European traditions brought together in a single season – all of which are on at The Lowry this week.

Hansel and Gretel - Engelbert Humperdinck - Opera North - 2nd February 2017

Hansel - Katie Bray
Gretel - Fflur Wyn
Gertrud/Witch - Susan Bullock
Peter - Stephen Gadd
Sandman - Rachel J. Mosley
Dew Fairy - Amy Freston

Conductor - Christoph Altstaedt
Dire

The action begins in suitably ‘Grimm’ surroundings, a kitchen-sink high-rise occupied by an empty fridge, two hungry children, the eponymous Hansel (Katie Bray) and Gretel (Fflur Wyn) and their despairing mother, Gertrud. When their chaotic play sends the contents of a milk jug flying, Gertrud sends Hansel and Gretel out into the woods to pick wild berries for the family supper. Their father, Peter (Stephen Gadd, who plays a wonderfully reeling drunken broom seller), is aghast when he returns home – revealing that the forest is home to an evil witch with ‘Satan’s eye and a heart of stone’. The two children awake the following day to find a magical house has appeared in the woods, constructed from Bird’s Custard and BN Biscuits. While they gorge from the fridge, the witch returns and fires up her oven… ready for a very special bake!

Hansel and Gretel - Engelbert Humperdinck - Opera North - 2nd February 2017

Hansel - Katie Bray
Gretel - Fflur Wyn
Gertrud/Witch - Susan Bullock
Peter - Stephen Gadd
Sandman - Rachel J. Mosley
Dew Fairy - Amy Freston

Conductor - Christoph Altstaedt
Dire

Opera North veteran Fflur Wyn, and Katie Bray, of the company’s Albert Herring and The Barber of Seville, are delightful together – playful, charming and utterly believable as children. Their deftness with a video camera adds to the production’s signature special effect: freestyle camera footage – captured by the actors in real-time – which is livestreamed and magnified onto the walls of Giles Cadle’s pared-down set (that also features in The Snow Maiden and Cinderella). A masterful stroke by video designer Ian William Galloway, the hand-held camera acts as a supporting cast member in its own right; it boasts two particular ‘wow’ moments: the children’s journey through the forest and the big reveal of the witch’s house, which solicited audible gasps of delight.

Hansel and Gretel - Engelbert Humperdinck - Opera North - 2nd February 2017

Hansel - Katie Bray
Gretel - Fflur Wyn
Gertrud/Witch - Susan Bullock
Peter - Stephen Gadd
Sandman - Rachel J. Mosley
Dew Fairy - Amy Freston

Conductor - Christoph Altstaedt
Dire

When not doubling up as Gertrud, Susan Bullock plays the witch with a pantomime villain’s relish, brandishing her whisk as a wand and spooning her fattening concoction into Hansel, all with a wicked twinkle in her eye. Costume designer Christina Cunningham’s and wigs and makeup supervisor Kim Freeland’s choices for this role are perfect, complementing Bullock’s characterisation and adding to the overall comedic effect.

Both conductor Christoph Altstaedt and director Edward Dick have made their company debut this season; their energy, inventiveness and commitment to making opera more accessible to a modern audience shows. There is so much to love about this enchanting production, which marries a lively score, sparkling duets and trios, characterful performances and cutting-edge video technology with a well-loved, timeless fairy tale.

Tickets for Opera North’s productions of Hansel and Gretel, Cinderella and The Snow Maiden are available for purchase at http://www.thelowry.com/events/category/Opera

Reviewer: Michelle Ewen