Opera North: history and repertoire, seasons 2004–

Opera North: history and repertoire, seasons 2004–

Opera North is an opera company based at The Grand Theatre, Leeds, England. This article covers the period during which the Music Director has been Richard Farnes.



Unusually, the 2004-5 season opened with five new productions. One of them, Orfeo ed Euridice, premiered at the Edinburgh International Festival and was subsequently seen at the Monaco Dance Centre in Monte Carlo as well as in Leeds, Newcastle, Nottingham and Salford. It was the company's first collaborative production with a dance company (Emio Greco | PC).

After the Grand Theatre's closure in June 2005 for the commencement of the Leeds Grand Theatre Transformation project, the final three productions in the theatre toured to Hull New Theatre, the Theatre Royal, Norwich, the Lyceum Theatre (Sheffield) and the Grand Opera House (Belfast) as well as the company's regular venues in the North of England. One of these productions was One Touch of Venus, with a libretto by S. J. Perelman and Ogden Nash and music by Kurt Weill, another of the company's trademark performances of musical theatre works.

During the Transformation project, Opera North presented a number of semi-staged and concert performances in venues such as Leeds Town Hall, the Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, Nottingham Royal Concert Hall, The Sage Gateshead and Symphony Hall, Birmingham, as well as performances at the Bradford Alhambra and other theatres, including, for the first time, His Majesty's Theatre, Aberdeen.

Phase 1 of Transformation was completed in the autumn of 2006. As well as much-needed renovations to the Grand Theatre itself, it created a permanent home and Opera Centre for Opera North, with two large rehearsal spaces that are the same size as the theatre's stage. The company returned to the theatre in October of that year with new productions of Rigoletto and Peter Grimes. The latter production, directed by Phyllida Lloyd, was garlanded with awards from The South Bank Show, the Royal Philharmonic Society and the Theatre Management Association.

During 2007-8, a mini-festival of operas inspired by William Shakespeare was presented by Opera North. It comprised Verdi's Falstaff and Macbeth, Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream, Gounod's Roméo et Juliette and Bellini's I Capuleti e i Montecchi. The latter saw the first appearance with the company by Sarah Connolly, who returned in 2010 for Donizetti's Maria Stuarda.

A second phase of Transformation, completed in 2009, focused on restoring the former Assembly Rooms, which originally opened in 1879, as a small-scale performance space managed by Opera North. Now called the Howard Assembly Room, it hosts a variety of musical and other events, one of which was the world premiere performance by Opera North in late 2009 of Jonathan Dove's chamber opera Swanhunter, based on the Lemminkäinen legend.

Opera North's collaborations with other opera companies and festivals during this period included:

Company visits abroad included taking Julietta and One Touch of Venus to the Ravenna Festival and Skin Deep, Of Thee I Sing and Moscow, Cheryomushki to Bregenz.


Below is a list of main stage[1] operas performed by the company during this period.

Season Opera[2] Composer Principal cast Conductor Director Designer[3]
2004–05 Orfeo ed Euridice Gluck Daniel Taylor (Orfeo), Isabel Monar (Euridice), Claire Ormshaw (Amor) Nicholas Kok Emio Greco Pieter C Sholten
/Clifford Portier
2004–05 Manon Lescaut Puccini Natalia Dercho (Manon), Hugh Smith (Des Grieux), Christopher Purves (Lescaut) Richard Farnes Daniel Slater Robert Innes
2004–05 Così fan tutte Mozart Malin Byström (Fiordiligi), Ann Taylor (Dorabella), Iain Paton (Ferrando), Roderick Williams (Guglielmo), Claire Wild (Despina), Peter Savidge (Don Alfonso) Yves Abel Tim Albery Tobias Hoheisel
2004–05 One Touch of Venus Weill Karen Coker (Venus), Loren Geeting (Rodney Hatch), Christianne Tisdale (Molly), Ron Li-Paz (Whitelaw Savory) James Holmes Tim Albery Antony McDonald
/Emma Ryott
2004–05 Don Giovanni Mozart Roderick Williams (Don Giovanni), Susannah Glanville (Donna Anna), Giselle Allen (Donna Elvira), Andrew Foster-Williams (Leporello), Iain Paton (Don Ottavio) Richard Farnes Olivia Fuchs Niki Turner
/Emma Ryott
2004–05 La gazza ladra Rossini Mary Hegarty (Ninetta), Ashley Catling (Giannetto), Robert Poulton (Podestà), Jonathan Best (Fernando), Anne-Marie Gibbons (Pippo) David Parry Revival of 1991-2 production
2004–05 Bluebeard's Castle[4] Bartók John Tomlinson (Bluebeard), Sally Burgess (Judith) Richard Farnes Giles Havergal Adam Wiltshire
2005–06 Saul[5] Handel Robert Hayward (Saul), Tim Mead (David), Lucy Crowe (Michal), Sarah Fox (Merab), Mark Wilde (Jonathan) Christian Curnyn John Fulljames Soutra Gilmour
2005–06 Hänsel und Gretel[6] Humperdinck Julianne Young (Hansel), Jeni Bern (Gretel), Peter Hoare (Witch), Christopher Purves (Peter) Richard Farnes John Fulljames Soutra Gilmour
2005–06 The Marriage of Figaro Mozart Wyn Pencarreg (Figaro), Jenni Bern/Lucy Crowe (Susanna), Howard Reddy/James McOran-Campbell (Count), Linda Richardson (Countess), Julianne Young (Cherubino) Christian Gansch Revival of 1995-6 production
2005–06 La rondine Puccini Janis Kelly (Magda), Rafael Rojas (Ruggero), Alan Oke (Prunier), Gail Pearson (Lisette), Peter Savidge/Jonathan Best (Rambaldo) Richard Farnes Revival of 1993-4 production
2005–06 Der Kuhhandel Weill Leonardo Capalbo (Juan), Mary Plazas/Deborah Norman (Juanita), Jeffrey Lawton (Mendez), Adrian Clarke (Jones), Robert Burt (Ximenes), Donald Maxwell (Conchas) James Holmes David Pountney Duncan Hayler
2006–07 Rigoletto Verdi Alan Opie/Jonathan Summers (Rigoletto), Rafael Rojas (Duke), Henriette Bonde-Hansen/Linda Richardson (Gilda) Martin André/
Mark Shanahan
Charles Edwards Charles Edwards
2006–07 Peter Grimes Britten Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts (Grimes), Giselle Allen (Ellen Orford), Christopher Purves (Balstrode) Richard Farnes Phyllida Lloyd Anthony Ward
2006–07 La voix humaine Poulenc Joan Rodgers (Elle) Paul Watkins Tom Pye Tom Pye
2006–07 The Magic Flute Mozart Ed Lyon/Peter Wedd (Tamino), Noriko Urata (Pamina), Roderick Williams/Riccardo Simonetti (Papageno), Chester Patton (Sarastro), Penelope Randall-Davis (Queen of the Night) Paul McGrath Revival of 2002-3 production
2006–07 L'elisir d'amore Donizetti Anna Ryberg (Adina), Andrew Kennedy (Nemorino), Peter Savidge (Dulcamara), Riccardo Simonetti (Belcore) Tecwyn Evans Revival of 2000-1 production
2006–07 L'Orfeo Monteverdi Paul Nilon (Orfeo) Christopher
Christopher Alden Paul Steinberg
/Doey Lüethi
2006–07 Káťa Kabanová Janáček Giselle Allen (Katya), Peter Wedd (Boris), Ashley Catling (Kudryash), Wendy Dawn Thompson (Varvara), Sally Burgess (Kabanicha) Richard Farnes Tim Albery Hildegard Bechtler
2006–07 Dido and Aeneas[7] Purcell Susan Bickley (Dido), Amy Freston (Belinda), Adam Green (Aeneas) Nicholas Kok Aletta Collins Giles Cadle/
Gabriella Dalton
2007–08 Falstaff Verdi Robert Hayward (Falstaff), Susannah Glanville (Alice Ford), Olafur Sigurdarson (Ford), Ashley Catling (Fenton), Valérie Condoluci (Nanetta), Susan Bickley (Mistress Quickly), Deanne Meek (Meg Page) Richard Farnes Revival of 1996-7 production
2007–08 Croesus Keiser Paul Nilon (Croesus), Michael Maniaci (Atis), Gillian Keith (Elmira), Henry Waddington (Cyrus), William Dazeley (Orsanes), Fflur Wyn (Clerida) Harry Bicket Tim Albery Leslie Travers
2007–08 The Adventures of

(world premiere)
Dove Victoria Simmonds (Pinocchio), Jonathan Summers (Geppetto), Mary Plazas (Blue Fairy), Mark Wilde (Cat), James Laing (Fox) David Parry Martin Duncan Francis O’Connor
2007–08 Peter Grimes Britten Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts (Grimes), Giselle Allen (Ellen Orford), Christopher Purves (Balstrode) Richard Farnes Revival of 2006-7 production
2007–08 Macbeth Verdi Robert Hayward (Macbeth), Antonia Cifrone/Yvonne Howard (Lady Macbeth), Peter Auty (Macduff) Richard Farnes/
Martin Pickard
Tim Albery

Johan Engels/
Brigitte Reiffenstuel

2007–08 A Midsummer
Night's Dream
Britten James Laing (Oberon), Jeni Bern (Tytania), Henry Waddington (Bottom), Peter Wedd (Lysander), Elizabeth Atherton (Helena), Frances Bourne (Hermia), Mark Stone (Demetrius) Stuart Stratford Martin Duncan Johan Engels
2007–08 Roméo et Juliette Gounod Leonardo Capalbo (Roméo), Bernarda Bobro (Juliette), Frances Bourne (Stéphano), Stephan Loges (Mercutio), Henry Waddington (Frère Laurent) Martin André/
Peter Selwyn
John Fulljames Johan Engels/
Adam Wiltshire
2008–09 Of Thee I Sing Gershwin William Dazeley (Wintergreen), Bibi Heal (Mary), Heather Shipp (Diana Devereux), Steven Beard (Alexander Throttlebottom) Mark W Dorrell Revival of 1997-8 production
2008–09 Tosca Puccini Takesha Meshé Kizart (Tosca), Rafael Rojas (Cavaradossi), Robert Hayward (Scarpia) Andrea Licata/
Martin Pickard
Revival of 2002-3 production
2008–09 I Capuleti e
i Montecchi
Bellini Sarah Connolly (Romeo), Marie Arnett (Giulietta), Edgaras Montvidas (Tebaldo) Manlio Benzi Orpha Phelan Leslie Travers
2008–09 Skin Deep
(world premiere)
Sawer Geoffrey Dolton (Needlemeier), Janis Kelly (Lania), Heather Shipp (Donna), Amy Freston (Elsa), Andrew Tortise (Robert), Mark Stone/Riccardo Simonetti (Luke), Gwendoline Christie (Susannah) Richard Farnes Richard Jones Stewart Laing
2008–09 Let 'Em Eat Cake Gershwin William Dazeley (Wintergreen), Bibi Heal (Mary), Steven Beard (Alexander Throttlebottom), Richard Burkhard (Kruger), Richard Suart (General Snookfield) Wyn Davies/
Mark W Dorrell
Caroline Gawn Tim Hopkins/
Gabrielle Dalton
2008–09 Moscow,
Shostakovich Philip O’Brien (Sergei), Claire Pascoe (Lusya), Summer Strallen (Lidochka), Eaton James (Boris), Grant Doyle (Sasha), Bibi Heal (Masha) James Holmes Revival of 2000-1 production
2008–09 Don Carlos Verdi Julian Gavin (Carlos), Janice Watson (Elisabetta), William Dazeley (Posa), Brindley Sherratt/Alastair Miles (Philip II), Jane Dutton (Eboli) Richard Farnes Revival of 1992-3 production
2008–09 Die Entführung
aus dem Serail
Mozart Kate Valentine (Konstanze), Allan Clayton/Joshua Ellicott (Belmonte), Clive Bayley (Osmin), Elena Xanthoudakis (Blonde), Nicholas Sharratt (Pedrillo) Rory Macdonald Tim Hopkins Tim Hopkins/
Gideon Davey
2009–10 Così fan tutte Mozart Elizabeth Atherton (Fiordiligi), Victoria Simmonds (Dorabella), Allan Clayton (Ferrando), Quirijn de Lang (Guglielmo), Amy Freston (Despina), Geoffrey Dolton (Don Alfonso) Andrew Parrott/
Justin Doyle
Revival of 2004-5 production
2009–10 Werther Massenet Paul Nilon (Werther), Alice Coote/Ann Taylor (Charlotte), Fflur Wyn (Sophie) Richard Farnes Tom Cairns Hildegard Bechtler
/Amy Roberts
2009–10 The Excursions of
Mr. Brouček to the
Moon and to the
15th Century
Janáček John Graham-Hall (Brouček), Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts (Mazal), Anne Sophie Duprels (Málinka), Donald Maxwell (Würfl), Jonathan Best (Sacristan) Martin André John Fulljames Alex Lowde
2009–10 La bohème Puccini Bülent Bezdüz (Rodolfo), Anne Sophie Duprels (Mimi), Marcin Bronikowski (Marcello), Sarah Fox (Musetta) Richard Farnes/
Geoffrey Paterson
Revival of 1992-3 production
2009–10 Ruddigore Sullivan Grant Doyle (Robin/Ruthven), Amy Freston (Rose), Hal Cazalet (Richard), Richard Burkhardt (Despard), Heather Shipp (Mad Margaret), Steven Page (Sir Roderick), Anne-Marie Owens (Dame Hannah) John Wilson/
Anthony Kraus
Jo Davies Richard Hudson/

Gabrielle Dalton

2009–10 Rusalka Dvořák Giselle Allen (Rusalka), Richard Berkeley-Steele (Prince), Richard Angas (Water Sprite), Susannah Glanville (Foreign Princess), Anne-Marie Owens (Jezibaba) Oliver
von Dohnanyi
Revival of 2003-4 production
2009–10 Maria Stuarda Donizetti Sarah Connolly (Maria), Antonia Cifrone (Elisabetta), Bülent Bezdüz (Leicester), David Kempster (Cecil), Frédéric Bourreau (Talbot) Guido Johannes
Antony McDonald Antony McDonald
2010-11 The Adventures of Pinocchio Dove Victoria Simmonds/Karina Lucas (Pinocchio), Jonathan Summers (Geppetto), Mary Plazas/Fflur Wyn (Blue Fairy), Mark Wilde (Cat), James Laing (Fox) David Parry/Robert Houssart Revival of 2007-8 production
2010-11 The Turn of the Screw Britten Elizabeth Atherton (Governess), Benjamin Hulett (Prologue/Quint), Giselle Allen (Miss Jessel), James Micklethwaite (Miles), Fflur Wyn (Flora), Yvonne Howard (Mrs Grose) Richard Farnes Alessandro Talevi Madeleine Boyd
2010-11 The Merry Widow Lehár Stephanie Corley (Hanna Glawari), William Dazeley (Danilo), Amy Freston (Valencienne), Allan Clayton/Nicholas Sharratt (Camille), Geoffrey Dolton (Baron Zeta) Wyn Davies/Andrea Quinn Giles Havergal Leslie Travers
2010-11 Carmen Bizet Heather Shipp (Carmen), Peter Auty (Don José), Kostas Smoriginas (Escamillo), Anne Sophie Duprels (Micaela) Andreas Delfs Daniel Kramer Soutra Gilmour/Gabrielle Dalton
2010-11 From the House of the Dead Janáček Jeffrey Lloyd Roberts (Luka), Roderick Williams (Goryanchikov), Alan Oke (Skuratov), Claire Wild (Alyeya), Mark le Brocq (Shapkin), Robert Hayward (Shishkov) Richard Farnes John Fulljames Dick Bird
2011–12 Madama Butterfly Puccini Anne Sophie Duprels (Butterfly), Noah Stewart (Pinkerton),


  • Opera North annual review 2004-2005
  • Opera North annual review 2006-2007
  • Opera North programmes 2008-11


  1. ^ "Main stage" means operas performed at Leeds Grand Theatre and a number of touring venues; small-scale productions performed only in spaces such as the Howard Assembly Room are not included. Semi-staged concert performances at Leeds Town Hall and other similar venues are included, but concert performances without any staging are not.
  2. ^ Titles in Bold are new productions. Opera titles are those used in Wikipedia and not necessarily those used by Opera North.
  3. ^ Where two designers are credited, the first-named designed the set and the second designed the costumes
  4. ^ Semi-staged production, performed as a double-bill with concert performances of Daphnis et Chloé.
  5. ^ Semi-staged concert performances
  6. ^ Semi-staged concert performances
  7. ^ Performed as a double-bill with Les noces

See also

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