Hilarity and mayhem are coming to The Little Greats with a brand new production of Trial by Jury, the second operetta written by Gilbert and Sullivan and the one which marked the start of their prolific and hugely-successful partnership.
Having showcased their versatility in last year's musical hit, Into the Woods, at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, Trial by Jury is being cast entirely from the Chorus of Opera North with Oliver Rundell, Opera North Chorus Master, conducting.
We went behind-the-scenes at a recent rehearsal to get a flavour of what the new production will be like.
In Trial by Jury, the British legal system comes under the spotlight, resulting in a hilarious exposé of the social manners and mores of the day. Jeremy Peaker takes on the role of The Learned Judge who is required to decide the rights and wrongs of a case brought by The Plaintiff, Angelina (Amy Freston), against her intended husband. He no longer wishes to marry her as he has come to the awful realisation that she bores him intensely and he prefers someone else.
Jeremy is a keen advocate for Gilbert and Sullivan, having been a founder member of the New D’Oyly Carte Opera Company:
"Gilbert and Sullivan is so easily accessible by everyone. W.S. Gilbert wrote about the Establishment – the police, the peers, the justice system – in a satirical way, so these pieces have never been more apt! Trial by Jury itself is about a breach of promise, which in those days, was an actual crime. It’s light-hearted and incredibly funny."
Nicholas Watts sings The Defendant, Edwin, who very quickly realises that the Jury have already been won over by his glamorous ex. Nicholas last appeared for Opera North as Pong in the critically-acclaimed production of Turandot earlier this year, and has previously played Count Almaviva in The Barber of Seville (2015), Jack in Into the Woods (2016), and Ferrando in Così fan tutte (2016).
Making his mainstage directorial debut with the Company is John Savournin who is the Artistic Director of Charles Court Opera and also an opera singer in his own right, appearing as Alidoro in Cinderella (La Cenerentola) during this year's Fairy Tale Season. Charles Edwards has designed the set and lighting for all six Little Greats, while Gabrielle Dalton is the Costume Designer for Pagliacci and Cavalleria rusticana as well as Trial by Jury.
The Little Greats opens at Leeds Grand Theatre on Saturday 16 September with Pagliacci and L'enfant et les sortilèges. Trial by Jury premieres on Wednesday 27 September. During the opening run in Leeds, people will be able to 'mix and match', booking for just one opera in an evening and creating their own path through the season. After Leeds, the operas will tour in fixed pairings to Hull New Theatre, Nottingham Theatre Royal, Newcastle Theatre Royal and The Lowry, Salford Quays.
Photo credit: Tom Arber