English Touring Opera visits Buxton

cosi-fan-tutte-eto-023-bARTSBEAT OPERA: The UK’s leading touring opera company returns to Buxton this month with three new productions of operas by Mozart, Verdi and Donizetti.

English Touring Opera’s spring 2013 touring season is at Buxton Opera House from Thursday 25 April – Saturday 27 April. The season focuses on storytelling through ‘bel canto’, beautiful singing, with new productions of Mozart’s Così fan tutte, Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra and Donizetti’s The Siege of Calais. All three operas are performed in full costume and with a full orchestra.

Così fan tutte (Thursday 25 April) is in many ways Mozart’s most perfect opera score. In one day fiancés are parted, and new fiancés found – or so it seems. Discovering they are not at all the people they thought they were is strange, exciting, and very embarrassing.

Mozart’s opera, directed by Paul Higgins and conducted by James Burton, is sung in English by a remarkable cast, including Laura Mitchell and Kitty Whately (Rosina in ETO’s The Barber of Seville in Spring 2012) as the two fiancées, and Richard Mosley-Evans as Don Alfonso.

Sung in period costume and with an elegant, pastoral set, Così fan tutte also stars Anthony Gregory and Toby Girling as the pair of soldiers persuaded by Don Alfonso to test their fiancées’ fidelity, and Paula Sides as the cynical maid Despina.

One of Verdi’s greatest operas, Simon Boccanegra (Friday 26 April) has a score inspired by the sea. It is the master’s most intimate opera, revised with care at the end of his life – but it also calls for the largest company ETO has fielded to date, in its first new Verdi production for several years. Directed by James Conway and conducted by Michael Rosewell, the outstanding cast features Craig Smith in the title role, who made his professional debut at Buxton 20 years ago.

Rising star Elizabeth Llewellyn, hailed as ‘Best Newcomer in Opera’ by The Telegraph in 2010, and winner of the inaugural Voice of Black Opera competition, sings the role of Boccanegra’s lost daughter Amelia, whilst young tenor Charne Rochford plays her lover Gabriele Adorno. ETO’s production is sung in Italian with English surtitles, with designs inspired by the Anni di piombo or ‘Years of Lead’- a period of political turmoil in Italy in the 1960s and 1970s.

Donizetti’s rarely performed epic The Siege of Calais (Saturday 27 April) is the story of the burghers of Calais, the heroic figures depicted in Rodin’s famous sculpture outside the Houses of Parliament. ETO’s production, sung in Italian with English surtitles, is the first ever UK professional tour of Donizetti’s opera, and features designs by Faroese artist Samal Blak, inspired by the siege of Stalingrad.

In the opera, six of the burghers of Calais must offer up their lives to save their city from ruin by the forces of Edward III, King of England (sung by young baritone Cozmin Sime). Their sacrifice culminates in one of the most moving ensembles in all of opera, O Sacre Polve (‘O Sacred Earth’). The opera also includes  poignant, intimate scenes between the young couple at the heart of the drama, played by soprano Paula Sides and mezzo Helen Sherman in a role originally written for a musico, a female singer singing a male role.

James Conway, ETO’s General Director, said: ‘In terms of imagery there is a theme running through our season of people in cities governed by the sea – Genoa, Naples, Calais. Mostly, though, our season reflects the diversity and richness of opera, and I really think we’ve got a season where there’s something for everybody.’

He added: ‘Così fan tutte is a profound piece psychologically and a perfect music score: it’s about romantic passion that flares up in a moment and might not last. Simon Boccanegra has tremendous, highly emotive music and a mysterious, passionate narrative. The Siege of Calais is an absolutely amazing firecracker of a piece. It’s only two hours long but packs in every intense emotion into those two hours.’

Così fan tutte comes to Buxton Opera House on Thursday 25 April,  Simon Boccanegra is performed on Friday 26 April, and The Siege of Calais is on Saturday 27 April. All performances start at 7.30pm, with tickets ranging from £18-£34 (concessions and group discounts available). Tickets and further information: 0845 127 2190 http://www.buxtonoperahouse.org.uk