Opera North

Opera North
This is about the British organisation; for the unrelated American one, see Opera North (U.S.A.).

Opera North is an English opera company based in Leeds. The company's home theatre is the Leeds Grand Theatre, but it also presents regular seasons in several other cities, at the Theatre Royal, Nottingham, the Lowry Centre, Salford Quays and the Theatre Royal, Newcastle. It has also visited Sadler's Wells Theatre, London and, less regularly, the Bradford Alhambra, the Lyceum Theatre in Sheffield, and other venues. The Company's orchestra, the Orchestra of Opera North, regularly performs and records in its own right. Operas are performed either in English or in the original language of the libretto, in the latter case usually with surtitles.



Establishment as English National Opera North

Opera North was established in 1977 as English National Opera North, and its first performance (of Saint-Saëns's Samson and Delilah) was given on 15 November 1978. It started life as an offshoot of English National Opera and had the specific intention of delivering high-quality opera to the northern areas of England which, up to that point, had had no permanently established opera company. The founding Music Director of the company was David Lloyd-Jones.

Opera North: the Lloyd-Jones years

In 1981, the company's name was changed to Opera North, and the official ties with English National Opera ceased to exist. Lloyd-Jones continued as Music Director until 1990.

Opera North: the Paul Daniel years

The combination of Music Director Paul Daniel with General Administrators Nicholas Payne and, later, Ian Ritchie and Richard Mantle continued to bring operatic novelties, as well as a wide selection of familiar works, to its audience in the North of England and further afield.

Opera North: Steven Sloane and two interregnums

Paul Daniel's departure was followed by a period during which Elgar Howarth held the temporary post of Music Advisor until Steven Sloane was appointed Music Director in 1999. He left the company in 2002 and another interregnum ensued.

Opera North: the Richard Farnes years

Richard Farnes has held the position of Music Director from 2004 until the present day.


As well as presenting the bread-and-butter operas of the standard repertory, the company has performed a number of operas that are rarely seen in Britain. Examples include:

In 2011, the company will be performing The Portrait by Mieczysław Weinberg and will initiate an annual series of semi-staged concert performances of the four operas in Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen by performing Das Rheingold in Leeds Town Hall. Beached, a community opera by composer Harvey Brough with a libretto by Lee Hall co-commisioned by Opera North and the sea-side resort of Bridlington premieres on 15 July 2011. The company, at the request of the Bridlington primary school whose 300 children are to perform in the opera, had asked for the removal of an explicit reference to a gay character's sexuality from one of the scenes. Hall initially refused, and the opera was withdrawn.[1] However, following negotiations the matter was resolved when the character's contentious line "Of course I'm queer" was changed to "Of course I'm gay".[2]

Opera North has given world premières of the following operas: Rebecca by Wilfred Josephs (1983), Caritas by Robert Saxton (1991), Baa, Baa, Black Sheep by Michael Berkeley (1993), Playing Away by Benedict Mason (1994), The Nightingale's to Blame by Simon Holt (1998), Jonathan Dove's The Adventures of Pinocchio (2007) and Swanhunter (2009), and Skin Deep by David Sawer and Armando Iannucci (2009). In July 2009, Opera North premièred Prima Donna, a new opera by Rufus Wainwright, at the Manchester International Festival.[3].

Opera North has also given performances of musical theatre works. The first was Jerome Kern's Show Boat (in collaboration with the Royal Shakespeare Company) in 1989, and productions of Gershwin's Of Thee I Sing and Sondheim's Sweeney Todd followed in 1998. Latterly, the works of Kurt Weill have become something of a speciality, with productions of Love Life (1996), One Touch of Venus and The Seven Deadly Sins in 2004 and Arms and the Cow in 2006. In 2009, Let 'Em Eat Cake, the sequel to Of Thee I Sing, was produced.

Opera North has worked extensively with electronic composer Mira Calix, commissioning Dead Wedding (for the Manchester International Festival 2007) Onibus (2008) and the installation Chorus (2009) for the opening of the Howard Assembly Rooms with visual artist UVA.


  • Winner of the TMA Theatre Award for Outstanding Achievement in Opera 2007 (for Peter Grimes, directed by Phyllida Lloyd),[4] and in 2004
  • Winner of the Royal Philharmonic Society Award for Opera & Music Theatre 2007 (for Peter Grimes)[5] and in 2005
  • Winner of the South Bank Show Award for Opera 2007 (for Peter Grimes)[6] and 2005 (for its Eight Little Greats season of one-act operas)[7]
  • Winner of the Manchester Evening News Theatre Awards for Opera 2004
  • Winner of the Audiences Yorkshire Award for Best Overall Marketing and Audience Development Campaign 2004


Major funders of Opera North include:[8]


  1. ^ Brown, Mark (4 July 2011). "Opera pulled after school protests over gay character". The Guardian.
  2. ^ BBC News (7 July 2001). "Homophobia row opera to go ahead"
  3. ^ Higgins, Charlotte (2008-10-09). "From pop to opera: petrified Rufus Wainwright embraces 'the dark religion'". The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2008/oct/09/rufuswainwright.folk. Retrieved 2009-02-22. 
  4. ^ TMA press release
  5. ^ RPS Music Awards site
  6. ^ Metro report
  7. ^ Arts Council press release
  8. ^ "An Introduction to the Company". Opera North. 2008. http://www.operanorth.co.uk/aboutus/aboutus.aspx. Retrieved 2008-04-21. 

External links

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