Thursday, 2 March 2017

Manchester Evening News article 3rd March 2017

OPERA NORTH are in town again next week, with three very different shows, all based on fairytales.

Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hansel And Gretel opens the series at The Lowry on Wednesday (repeated on Saturday March 11). Yes, the composer really is Engelbert Humperdinck – one of the late 19th century’s most gifted Romantic masters, not the 1960s crooner whose name was Gerry Dorsey before he borrowed the German monicker …

Humperdinck tells the traditional story with all the richness of Wagnerian drama, in one of the most enchanting takes on a children’s story ever written. It includes at least two numbers you may know already – one, as ‘Brother, come and dance with me’, was sung by the Manchester Schoolchildren’s Choir on the B-side of their 1929 hit record, Nymphs And Shepherds; and the other is the famous Evening Prayer (‘When at night I go to sleep’).

Top north west-born opera soprano Susan Bullock CBE is singing the roles of the Witch and the children’s Mother, and the young ones themselves are Opera North favourites Katie Bray and Fflur Wyn.

Rossini’s Cinderella – at The Lowry on Thursday and repeated as a matinee on Saturday March 11) – is the most traditional of the operas, if bel canto singing is what you go for. It’s not quite the panto story as we know it these days, but closer to the tale which has existed in most European cultures for centuries.

And it’s definitely a comedy in this version., which opens with Cinderella scrubbing the floor of a ballroom dancing school. Directed by multi-talented director and choreographer, Aletta Collins, it features Canadian mezzo-soprano Wallis Giunta as Cinderella and South African tenor Sunnyboy Dladla as her prince, Don Ramiro. Manchester-trained favourite Henry Waddington is Don Magnifico.

The third opera is The Snow Maiden, by Rimsky-Korsakov – getting its first professional English production for over 60 years and in Salford on March 10. Directed by John Fulljames, the poignant Russian folk tale has Irish soprano Aoife Miskelly making her Opera North debut in the title role.

There’s a parallel to Andersen’s The Snow Queen and, of course, to Disney’s Frozen in the story – the heroine wants nothing more than to live amongst humans, but she hides a tragic secret: her heart is made of ice and, if she falls in love, it will melt.

The music includes one of Rimsky-Korsakov’s most famous orchestral pieces, the Dance Of The Clowns.

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