From celestial electronica to the further reaches of the Underworld, Autumn season at the Howard Assembly Room converges around the theme of ‘Operatic’, with world music, electronics, chamber recitals, film and more to complement The Little Greats festival on our main stage.
This season the venue’s celebrated world music programme traverses India, Africa, Europe and the Middle East. A new collaboration between Opera North and South Asian Arts-uk, India’s Children conjures a lost world in music, images, words and archive voices to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Partition of India and Pakistan. Mediterranean Gypsies crosses borders with a thrilling musical conversation between flamenco legend David Peña Dorantes’ group and Istanbul’s Taksim Trio, exploring the journey of Romani music across Europe and the Ottoman Empire. Cuban pianist Omar Sosa and Senegalese kora maestro Seckou Keita’s sublime new musical encounter Transparent Water weaves together jazz, Latin and traditional African influences.
Expect the unexpected (although soft toys and cognac are a given) when a very different duo, New York Minimalist/No Wave giants Charlemagne Palestine and Rhys Chatham reconvene for an unmissable one-off live show, with support from Astral Social Club. Another one-off show from another genius from the fringes of American music, guitarist’s guitarist Bill Frisell makes an overdue return to the venue with Music for Strings, the first appearance in the North of his very own all-star string quartet.
Moving further out, Canadian electronic musician Tim Hecker’s latest album Love Streams fuses mangled renaissance choral music with his customary white noise, woodwind and “reverse Latin” chants courtesy of Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson. More used to recitals of his 15th century source material, the Howard Assembly Room’s renowned acoustic will provide the perfect setting for Hecker’s immense, immersive new sounds. Support comes from uncompromising Chinese-born, Berlin-based electronic/performance artist Pan Daijing.
Similarly haunted by the Western classical tradition, Icelandic composer Valgeir Sigurðsson numbers Björk, Brian Eno and Bonnie 'Prince' Billy among his collaborators. Joined by Liam Byrne on strings, with visuals by the ANTIVJ collective, he layers and distorts the sounds of traditional instruments to mesmerising effect on works from his latest release, Dissonance.
The ghosts of music past will be raised again for this year’s Light Night, when Opera North presents Underworld, an audio-visual installation based on Monteverdi’s 1607 opera L’Orfeo. In answer to Orpheus – sung by baritone Simon Keenlyside in an Opera North archive recording – soprano Paula Sides sings lines from H.D.’s modernist poem Eurydice, as well as fragments of the original libretto, across a Howard Assembly Room transformed into a haunted wood. As with all Light Night events, entry is free. Commissioned by Opera North and the Royal Shakespeare Company, Gavin Bryars’ Nothing Like the Sun comes ‘home’ to the venue for the first time, threading his beautiful music through and around eight of Shakespeare’s most meditative sonnets, performed by an ensemble including Gavin Friday and tenor John Potter.
In a rare UK solo concert, Grammy-nominated jazz pianist and composer Uri Caine returns to his ingenious deconstructions of Bach’s Goldberg Variations and works by Mozart and Mahler, mixed up with jazz standards and his own original compositions. Reinventing folk from roots in traditional melody and virtuosic playing, Lau look back on a decade of live performances with two sets of their best-loved tunes.
As Christmas approaches, the halls will be decked for an inspired festive programme offering something out of the ordinary for everyone. Misfits, deviants and cynics are well catered for with The Tiger Lillies’ Cold Night in Soho, a Christmas show with a difference looking back on the Brechtian punk-cabaret trio’s misspent youth in London’s seedy West End. Romanian singer Oana Cǎtǎlina Chiţu performs a festive programme of tango and songs sung by her country’s national diva, Maria Tănase, her rich, smoky voice accompanied by the evocative sounds of the cimbalom.
Christmas pieces from the classical and folk canons are performed by a specially assembled chamber group led by violinist David Le Page in Wishing on Stars, and the tradition of a seasonal choral concert is continued this year by the Choir of Clare College Cambridge, with a radiant programme taking in Renaissance masterpieces, 20th century works by Britten and Tavener, and two world premieres. For younger audiences and their families, Babushka and the Russian Doll offers atmospheric folk tales, live music and a Christmas decorations workshop.
The FILMusic series returns with the world premiere of a new soundtrack for Eisenstein’s 1925 Soviet classic Battleship Potemkin by Norwegian electronic musician and producer Jan Bang, commissioned by Opera North. GoGo Penguin perform their powerful new score to Godfrey Reggio’s wordless documentary masterpiece Koyaanisqatsi, echoing the film’s concern with the relationship between nature and technology in a visceral meeting of jazz and electronics.
A mini-season of films, Only You, takes a look at the dark side of the post-war American dream alongside Opera North’s mainstage production of Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti. Two acclaimed recent adaptations of period novels, Revolutionary Road (Richard Yates) and Carol (Patricia Highsmith) are complemented by a 1950s gem, Roberto Rossellini’s hugely influential but rarely screened Journey to Italy.
There are notable venue debuts from world-class classical musicians, including American-Canadian violinist Leila Josefowicz with an intense programme including pieces by Sibelius, Mahler and Prokofiev, and pianist Imogen Cooper, who ranges from the classical poise of early Beethoven to the contemporary experimentation of Thomas Adès. Soprano Gweneth-Ann Rand gives her revelatory reading of Messiaen’s Harawi, and the exceptional young baritone Benjamin Appl is accompanied by Leeds Lieder’s Joseph Middleton on songs by Schumann, Beethoven and more.
For more information and to book tickets, click on the links above or call Box Office on 0844 848 2727.
Image: Oana Cǎtǎlina Chiţu