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Why ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ ?
Northern Opera Group looks to find and perform the very best rare and neglected operas. With so many great operas to choose from, however, why does Artistic Director, David Ward, feel that now is the time to bring to life Charles Villiers Stanford’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing’?
1) 2016 sees the year-long ‘Shakespeare 400’ celebrations, marking 400 years since the death of the world’s greatest ever dramatist.
Whilst Stanford’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ is well worth reviving in any year, it had particular appeal for us during this year’s ‘Shakespeare 400’ celebrations. Arts and culture organisations of all shapes and sizes have been celebrating the Bard this year, and we wanted to find our own distinctive contribution to the festivities. Shakespeare and his plays have been a tremendous inspiration to opera composers of all nationalities across the past 400 years, and by the end of this year we’ll have seen (among many other productions!) ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ at Glyndebourne, ‘Macbeth’ at Welsh National Opera, and ‘Falstaff’ with the CBSO.
Our production of ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ is a small, but important, element of ‘Shakespeare 400’, bringing another wonderful legacy of Shakespeare’s work to the attention of audiences and artists.
2) Productions are most successful when the right artistic team, singers, and venue come together, and we’ve been able to find a terrific combination for ‘Much Ado About Nothing’
It’s not enough to simply find a great opera if you don’t also have the artistic team, performers, and conditions with which to create a great evening for audiences. We’re so pleased to have Eleanor Taylor and Chris Pelly on board to work with us for the first time, and I’ve been bowled over by not only the talent of our cast, but also with how brilliantly they fit the roles! There’s so much character and wit to Stanford’s music that it was always going to be important to find a cast who could carry off these iconic characters, and I can’t wait for audiences to see them bring the ‘Much Ado’ characters to life next month.
Left Bank is a venue we’ve wanted to work with for a while. It’s an inspiring environment to perform in and watch productions, and offers our creative team seemingly endless possibilities! The team at Left Bank programme a really interesting range of projects across the year, and we’re delighted to be able to bring opera to the venue for the first time.
3) Stanford has extensive links to Leeds, but has been largely neglected as an opera composer
Stanford played a significant role in the promotion of Leeds as a city of national and international renown for its classical and choral music. He was conductor of both the Leeds Philharmonic Society and the Leeds Festival, as well as receiving an honorary doctorate from the University. Whilst his choral works are still performed by choirs in the city (and, indeed, across the world) his operas are very rarely performed. This is a great shame, as along with ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ Stanford wrote a number of really interesting and dramatic works which are well-worth further consideration. We hope that our production of ‘Much Ado’ will help to reignite interest and awareness in Stanford’s operatic career, and, who knows, maybe we’ll see some of his other operas pop-up over the coming years!
4) It’s the right opera for Northern Opera Group’s first professional production
We always start putting together projects by looking at the opera we want to produce, and then working out how best to do it, asking ourselves such questions as
- Is the right creative team available to do the opera justice?
- Would it work well as a community production, or is it better suited to a professional cast?
- Do we have the time, resources and funding to carry the project off to the best of our ability?
Following the success of our community production of ‘Amahl and the Night Visitors’, we were keen to explore options for our first professional production and decided that ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ would be the perfect opportunity to do so. By focusing on extended scenes of the opera we’re able to work in detail on the piece, enabling our brilliant creative team and singers to bring to life these eclectic characters for audiences to enjoy for the first time.
5) It’s always the right time to rediscover an opera if it’s a great opera!
Whilst we focus on projects which will offer audiences the opportunity to experience rare works and neglected composers, our primary consideration is always to find really great operas.
‘Much Ado About Nothing’ is every bit as hilarious, moving, and characterful as Shakespeare’s original comedy, and Stanford has created a piece which from beginning to end is constantly engaging and entertaining. We hope that you all enjoy the opera and we look forward to working with you, our artists and supporters to help us create a full production in a few years time!
Tickets for ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ are £10 and are available from ticketsource.co.uk/northernoperagroup