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Preview: Little Greats at Newcastle Theatre Royal

Little Greats
Newcastle Theatre Royal
Wednesday 8th - Saturday 11thNovember 2017

Autumn 2017 – The Little Greats: Short operas with huge emotions
Wed 8 Nov                 Pagliacci / Cavalleria rusticana       7.15pm
Thu 9 Nov                   L’enfant et les sortilèges / Osud      7.15pm
Fri 10 Nov                  Trouble in Tahiti / Trial by Jury         7.15pm
Sat 11 Nov                 L’enfant et les sortilèges                  2.15pm
Sat 11 Nov                 Pagliacci / Cavalleria rusticana       7.15pm

Opera North is bringing six short operas to Newcastle Theatre Royal in November, brief in length but breathtakingly big on emotion and perfect for the uninitiated.  Catch the Little Greats season and be swept away.

Award-winning Opera North’s season of brand new productions offers six powerful operatic experiences in miniature. Love and hate, joy and sadness, courage and fear, trust and jealousy, kindness and cruelty – this is an opera season like no other.

Opera North’s production of Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana,
Katie Bray as Lola, Phillip Rhodes as Alfio and
Giselle Allen as Santuzza with the Chorus of Opera North
Photo: Robert Workman
Celebrating the amazing variety that can be found in even the shortest operas, The Little Greats gives people the opportunity to experience a double dose of Italian passion and tragic revenge one evening, and to opt for 1950s glamour and style followed by hilarious courtroom antics the next. There is also a magical childhood fantasy from Ravel, which can be watched either as a stand-alone matinee or paired with a rarely-performed gem by Czech composer, Janáček. With choices to appeal to both opera lovers and newcomers, every production is either sung in English or has an English translation displayed on surtitle screens. 

Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana,
Jonathan Stoughton as Turridù,
Giselle Allen as Santuzza and
Rosalind Plowright as Lucia
Photo: Robert Workman
The raw, hot-blooded passion of Italy is celebrated with Leoncavallo’s Pagliacciand Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana while Gilbert and Sullivan’s operetta Trial by Jury offers up populist charm and comedy. The inventive musical modernism of the early 20th century is championed in Ravel’s L’enfant et les sortilèges and Janáček’s Osud (Destiny), while a dazzlingly witty fusion of opera and American jazz is found in Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti.

Opera North’s production of Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci
Elin Pritchard as Nedda, Richard Burkhard
as Tonio and Peter Auty as Canio
Photo: Tristram Kenton

Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci (The Clowns) is the curtain-raiser for the season and offers a shot of pure operatic adrenaline. It encapsulates the thrilling drama, raw passion and gritty realism of Italian opera.   
Leoncavallo carves a ‘bleeding slice of life’ out of the tale of a touring theatre troupe preparing for a show. Canio is eaten up with jealous suspicion of his wife Nedda, the leading lady. When he learns the truth, the stage is set for a violent reckoning, but as his celebrated aria ‘Vesti la giubba’ (‘Put on the costume’) says, the show must go on.

Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana
Katie Bray as Lola and Phillip Rhodes as Alfio
Photo: Robert Workman
This is paired on the same night (8 & 11 Nov) with Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana, a red-blooded tale of jealousy and revenge. A soldier, Turiddù has returned from the army to find his lover has married another man. He consoles himself by seducing another girl, Santuzza, even though he is still consumed by his obsessive desire for his first love.  Polish director Karolina Sofulak puts an innovative slant on a classic, in which a powder keg of passions is primed to ignite at Easter, in the midst of a small community where the church maintains an iron grip on the souls of its people.

Opera North’s production of Ravel’s L'enfant et les sortilèges
John Graham-Hall as Arithmetic and Wallis Giunta
as the Child with members of the Chorus of Opera North
Photo: Tristram Kenton
Ravel’s L’enfant et les sortilèges (The Child and the Magic Spells) is a bewitching childhood fantasy which is dazzling, witty and surreal, appealing to adults and children in equal measure. A young boy refuses to do his homework and flies into a tantrum. But in this childhood fable of enchantment, everything around the boy comes magically to life.  The exquisite, innovative score is filled with jewel-like surprises, deftly characterising talking animals and magical nursery furniture alike. Renowned Canadian mezzo-soprano Wallis Giunta heads the cast.

Ravel’s playful work is paired in stark contrast with Janáček’s Osud (Destiny) on 9 November.  A universal tale of the anguish of love, Míla and the composer Živný are in love but Míla’s mother forces her to take a rich suitor. Four years later they are reunited and living together but as Živný wrestles with the opera he is writing, a tragedy occurs that changes everything.  Osud contains some of Janáček’s most glorious music, which swings from the heights of romantic ecstasy to the depths of despair and back again. A real operatic gem, this is a chance to see a rarity brought to life.

Presented in Leonard Bernstein’s centenary year, Trouble in Tahiti offers a satire on the American Dream and is heavily influenced by jazz and the distinctive sounds of Hollywood and Broadway. In 1950s suburbia, Sam and Dinah appear to have the perfect life in their little white house. But their growing detachment exposes a mutual feeling that they are trapped in a life that has turned into a lie. Sam escapes to the hyper-masculine, win-or-lose world of work and the gym, while Dinah loses herself in the movies, where the hit picture of the day is the ominously-titled Trouble in Tahiti.

Opera North’s production of Gilbert & Sullivan’s Trial by Jury,
Richard Mosley-Evans as the Usher with members
of the Chorus of Opera North
Photo: Robert Workman
Bernstein’s piece is paired with a lighter offering in the form of Gilbert and Sullivan’s operetta Trial by Jury, a hilarious courtroom farce cast entirely from the Chorus of Opera North. The glamorous Angelina brings a court case against her intended husband Edwin, who jilts her when he comes to the ghastly realisation that she bores him intensely. With its brilliantly witty comedy numbers, catchy tunes and a superb mock-operatic ensemble, Trial by Jury was Gilbert & Sullivan’s first operetta and launched a partnership that took British musical theatre by storm. 

Opera North’s production of Ravel’s L'enfant et les sortilèges,
Quirijn de Lang as Tom Cat, Wallis Giunta as the
Child and Katie Bray as Female Cat
Photo: Tristram Kenton
Alongside the main-stage events, Opera North is also presenting a series of educational workshops and activities across the region to deepen understanding and enrich the experience of performance.  There will be an in-school workshop led by Opera North in partnership with Théâtre Sans Frontières, a sixth form seminar with Professor Diana Holmes from the University of Leeds, and for the very youngest pupils, Opera Tales will be performed in local primary schools. There will also be adedicated schools’ matinee of Ravel’s L’enfant et les sortilèges on 9 November and a family matinee on 11 November to give young people a chance to see the show with their parents and attend an exclusive pre-show workshop first.

In addition Opera North will be leaving the stage and heading out into the community with a Whistle Stop Opera at the city’s Lit & Phil for audiences of all ages at 4pm on Monday 6 November.

Annabel Arden (Director, L’enfant et les sortilègesand Osud) said: “The Little Greats aren't stuffy or about big sets and costumes; what they are about is telling a story with music and moving our audience to tears — and laughter.”

The Little Greats season is at Newcastle Theatre Royal from Wed 8 until Sat 11 November 2017, playing evenings at 7.15pm and matinee on Saturday at 2.15pm. Tickets from only £12.50 (Matinee from £10, under 30s pay £10).  Tickets can be purchased from the Theatre Royal Box Office on 08448 11 21 21 (Calls cost 7ppm plus your phone company’s access charge) or book online at

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