Rite stuff with froth on top

The Rite of Spring/Gianni Schicchi, Opera North

The Rite of Spring/Gianni Schicchi, Opera North

It seems an unlikely double bill: Stravinsky's earthy, ground-breaking ballet which sparked a riot when first performed in Paris in 1913, and Puccini's comic opera which, though written five years later, seems to belong to a vanished age.

Yet the combination works well: a meaty first course followed by a light dessert.

The Rite is 40 minutes of driving, rhythmic, ceaseless movement, starting with the year's rebirth and ending with the ritual death of a young girl to propitiate the pagan gods.

Stravinsky's music moves from the tenderly wistful to the violently shocking, and is here energetically and imaginatively interpreted by the Haitian choreographer Jeanguy Saintus.

And it is performed with precision by eight dancers from the multinational, Yorkshire-based Phoenix Dance Theatre.

The staging is simple - predominantly white costumes against a plain black backdrop, the performers with bloodied hands.

Stravinsky's mesmerising score is interpreted with equal energy and sensitivity by the orchestra of Opera North under Garry Walker.

If the performers were not exhausted at the end, the audience certainly were, so it was a relief to wind down with a bit of musical froth.

Gianni Schacchi is a conman who tricks a grasping family out of an inheritance from a rich uncle. The plot is corny but the score is pleasantly undemanding and Christopher Alden's entertaining production for Opera North keeps the laughter flowing.

                  Philip Andrews