The Road to 'Much Ado About Nothing' ...
With the Shakespeare 400 celebrations in 2016 I was looking for a suitable opera for us to perform as part of the nationwide festivities.
As we were still only a few months old as a company, we knew that we wouldn’t have the time or resources to carry out a large-scale production, so we decided on either performing a short work, or bringing audiences scenes from something more ambitious.
When I discovered Stanford’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ I was instantly convinced that this was something we needed to stage. From the terrific opening badinage between Benedick, Claudio and Don Pedro, to the triumphant full company close, it is a work that splendidly lifts off the page. What struck me most was Stanford’s vocal writing, which is tremendously characterful. Each member of the colourful cast is brilliantly characterised, whether it be in the longer lyrical sections, or the fast-paced arioso exchanges.
Sadly there was no way in 2016 that we could stage the whole work with full cast, chorus, orchestra, etc.! Instead we took five singers and worked with them over a few days to stage five scenes [above]; providing the audience with an overview of what the opera offered. Being able to get the opera on its feet proved that this was a work that certainly deserved a full production in the future. The main question for us was not ‘if’, but ‘when’!
In 2017 we launched our first Opera Festival, which has enabled us to grow our audiences, reputation and funding, and when it came to finding a theme and headline production for 2019, I knew that it was time for Shakespeare and ‘Much Ado’ to take centre stage!
We’ve assembled a terrific cast for the production which we’re updating to 1950’s small town USA, post-Korean War. It’s a time of great social change where the pillars of the community (the mayor, priest, Chief of Police) still reign supreme, but in Beatrice we see the beginnings of a cultural revolution emerging. We’ve been able to bring back our original Beatrice (Catrin Woodruff) and conductor (Chris Pelly), but otherwise it’s a completely new cast and team this time around.
Before you come to the production, you can listen to the recording of our 2016 scenes to get an idea of what to expect this August. We promise that if you’re able to make the trip to Leeds you won’t be disappointed!
Artistic Director, Northern Opera Group
Director, Much Ado About Nothing