Live Music Switched On as Opera North Announces New Autumn Events

2nd October 2020

New events have been added to Switch ON; Opera North’s programme of new indoor performance, outdoor events and digital projects to take place this Autumn. Despite the ever-changing landscape for live performance, Opera North re-affirms its commitment to share music with communities across the North, live or digitally, in theatres, concert halls or projected onto buildings in city centres. The Company is determined to make music with and for audiences in communities across the North of England.

More than 14,000 tickets will be available for events in the Switch ON season, at over 40 different venues, with 79% of tickets either free, pay-as-you-feel, or priced at under £15.

A live streamed concert from Leeds Town Hall, Switch ON: Live from Leeds, celebrating the start of this season and previewing upcoming highlights, will be available to watch live on Opera North’s website and YouTube channel at 7pm on Wed 30 September.

New indoor performances added to the season’s line up include a double-bill of Handel’s pastoral opera Acis and Galatea and Brecht and Weill’s acerbic ‘sung ballet’, Seven Deadly Sins, which will be performed at Leeds Playhouse from 11-21 November, following on from Opera North’s co-production of work with Leeds Playhouse in the Connecting Voices festival during October.

Opera North. whistle stop opera, credit Tom arber

One of the UK’s most exciting choreographers and contemporary dance artists, Gary Clarke directs and choreographs Seven Deadly Sins, returning to Opera North following his work on Weill’s Street Scene earlier this year. James Holmes conducts a cast including Canadian mezzo Wallis Giunta (Dinah, Trouble in Tahiti, 2017) as Anna, and dancer Shelley Eva Haden, a graduate of the Northern School of Contemporary Dance who recently co-choreographed and performed in Swan Lake Bath Ballet, filmed in lockdown for BBC Arts ‘Culture in Quarantine’, as her alter ego.

Acis and Galatea is directed by rising young British theatre director Anna Pool and conducted by Anthony Kraus, with a cast including Nicholas Watts (Peter Quint, The Turn of the Screw, 2020) as Acis, Amy Freston (Valencienne, The Merry Widow, 2018) as Galatea, Warren Gillespie as Damon and Matthew Stiff as Polyphemus. The young Leeds-based designer George Johnson-Leigh (Associate Designer, The Little Greats, 2017) designs both productions in the double-bill to reuse elements from existing Opera North productions.

In December we plan to mount a concert tour of Beethoven’s only opera, Fidelio, to open at Leeds Town Hall with four performances in our home city before touring to other venues in the North. At this time we are unable to confirm on sale dates for these performances as we work with our partners at Leeds City Council and on tour to ensure we can mount work of this scale and ambition safely for audiences and artists, but as the Company strives to build back from the impact of the Covid-19 crisis, we believe it important to set a milestone that will see the large scale forces of the Orchestra and Chorus of Opera North performing together for the first time since March.

Conducted by Mark Wigglesworth and promising to be one of this year’s musical highlights, Fidelio will be performed by an outstanding British cast including Rachel Nicholls as Leonore and Toby Spence as Florestan, both making their Opera North debuts. Returning to the Company are Fflur Wyn as Marzelline, Oliver Johnston as Jaquino, Robert Hayward as Don Pizarro, and Brindley Sherratt as Rocco. Confirmed dates and venues will be announced in October.

Touring to smaller scale venues in villages, towns and cities across the North, a newly devised Whistle Stop Opera: Cinderella offers a relaxed and fun introduction to opera through the music of different composers’ takes on the same fairy tale. Devised and directed by John Savournin for three singers and accordion, these versatile and hugely enjoyable pop-up style performances will bring live performance back indoors in community settings across the region once again, following an outdoor tour of Whistle Stop Opera: Hansel and Gretel in August and September 2020 attended by more than 1000 people across 23 outdoor performances at different venues, schools and community spaces. This production will tour to venues including the City Varieties and Slung Low at The Holbeck in Leeds, The Lowry, Salford Quays, Rosehill Theatre in Whitehaven, Otley Courthouse and the National Centre for Early Music in York with more to be announced.

Gradually returning to a symphonic concert programme, the Orchestra of Opera North will also perform a concert at Leeds Town Hall as part of the Leeds International Concert Season. Violinist / soloist Chloe Hanslip directs a programme of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and their twentieth century tango counterparts, Piazzolla’s Four Seasons of Buenos Aires, on Saturday 3 October. Ensembles drawn from the Orchestra of Opera North will also perform six lunchtime chamber concerts at Leeds Town Hall on Fridays from 16 October, and the Company additionally hopes to restart concert performances in Huddersfield and Dewsbury as part of the Kirklees Concert Season in the New Year.

Previously announced events for the Switch ON season include two innovative digital projects designed to be experienced outdoors by audiences using headphones. As You Are, a new soundwalk for Leeds by South African cellist and composer Abel Selaocoe, will open on Sat 14 November and run until 9 January. Following the huge success of Opera North’s inspirational soundwalks as part of Hull 2017 City of Culture and the 2018 Great Exhibition of the North in Newcastle, the new soundwalk will track a journey through the heart of Leeds city centre.

Artist and filmmaker Matthew Robins’ new animation re-interpreting Act III of Puccini’s La bohème will be projected in found spaces in cities across the North in the run up to Christmas. This dramatic and intensely moving 20 minute short film features a soundtrack newly recorded by the Orchestra and Chorus of Opera North and guest soloists Katie Bird (Mimì), Thomas Atkins (Rodolfo), James Kryshak (singing Musetto as a tenor role) and Tim Nelson (Marcello), conducted by Matthew Kofi Waldren. In Leeds, audiences will be able to experience the film projected at the Corn Exchange, on campus at The University of Leeds, and at outdoor locations across Leeds city centre, with details of screenings in Manchester, Salford, Hull, Newcastle, Gateshead and Nottingham to follow.

Richard Mantle, General Director, Opera North, comments:
“Opera North is determined to keep performing and sharing incredible music with communities in our home city of Leeds, in villages, towns and cities across the North, and with audiences digitally beyond geographical limits. There is no doubt in my mind that arts venues are exemplary in providing a safe and secure environment in which to enjoy live performance and we can contribute to enlivening and building back city centres. Although all our current planning is against the unpredictable background of Covid-19, meaning that some venues or dates may shift to reflect changing circumstances, our commitment to sharing great opera and music is unwavering.

“Today’s announcement including the new double-bill of Acis and Galatea & Seven Deadly Sins and Fidelio, completes the line-up for our Switch ON season this Autumn, designed to reintroduce performances safely and innovatively in a wide range of contexts and venues, from live events in theatres and concert halls, to new recordings to be experienced outdoors through headphones in As You Are and La petite bohème.

“As the furlough scheme comes to an end, we also hope that members of the Orchestra and Chorus of Opera North will be able to give additional small scale performances in as many different venues and spaces as possible, working around the recordings, concerts and operas already announced.

“Beyond Switch ON, we are planning to be back in Leeds Grand Theatre early in the New Year, and hope to announce operatic repertoire for early 2021 very soon. We are working closely with our partners at Leeds Grand Theatre to ensure that we are able to return to the theatre safely and in accordance with social distancing for all audiences, performers, backstage and front of house staff.”

Tickets for As You Are: A Leeds soundwalk, and La petite bohème, will go on general sale on Friday 9 October. On sale dates for Acis and Galatea & Seven Deadly Sins and Fidelio will be announced soon. The latest information will be available at