Music Box: Larger number of operas in production

Lesley Garrett
Lesley Garrett
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LEAVING aside the community opera Noye’s Fludde, going by the Britten100 website, there is a larger number of the composer’s operas receiving productions around the world this year than may have been thought.

The ultimate surprise, though, are the three that crop up most regularly: The Turn of the Screw (which is reasonable to expect), but Albert Herring and Owen Wingrave?

Celebrated masterpieces such as Billy Budd and Peter Grimes hardly figure, only one production of the former, in St Petersburg!

Grimes does a little better: Germany, Sweden, America and concert performances involving Opera North personnel at the Snape Maltings to open this year’s Aldeburgh Festival, followed by acted-out performances directed by Tim Albery on the beach at Aldeburgh.

Cue another surprise.

If Sheffield is top of the tree generally for events based on information on the Britten100 website, the Leeds-based opera company leads the way among the UK’s national opera companies in stagings of his operas.

Even an operatic backwater like Sheffield can muster two, but English National Opera has only one scheduled this year, a revival of a Deborah Warner production of Death in Venice; as does the Royal Opera House, a new production of Gloriana marking the 60th anniversary of its premiere in 1953.

Written for the Queen’s Coronation, the performance of it on June 24 is due to relayed live in cinemas, including the Odeon on Arundel Gate.

Opera North, meanwhile, is putting on Albert Herring as part of its spring season in the intimate surroundings of the Howard Assembly Room at the Grand Theatre in Leeds before devoting the whole of its autumn 2013 season to Britten with revivals of the company’s acclaimed productions in recent years of Peter Grimes and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

A third opera, new to the company, Death in Venice, is seen in a Yoshi Oida production that has already attracted favourable international plaudits.

Before all this, though, Opera North embarks on its winter season next Wednesday with its first-ever staging of Verdi’s Otello, a brilliant reduction of Shakespeare’s play by Arrigo Boito, with Ronald Samm as the Moor, Elena Kelessidi as Desdemona and David Kempster as a blacker Iago than the Bard’s.

Tim Albery is the director, Richard Farnes the conductor and the production is sung in the opera’s original Italian, as is Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito directed by John Fulljames, another company first opening of January 31 with Paul Nilon in the title role up against some strong female voices.

An Aletta Collins-directed double bill of Poulenc’s La Voix Humane (in English – a one-way telephone conversation) with Lesley Garrett returning to the opera stage as the protagonist and Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas with Pamela Helen Stephen as the doomed queen opens on February 14.