Explore the thrilling world of opera and its component parts in our new series of podcasts, produced as part of the DARE partnership between Opera North and the University of Leeds.

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Episode 7: Paul Mason and Frank Finlay on Parsifal

“What is the tension between this ugly ideology, the beauty of the music, and the agony of the man producing it?”

The final podcast of our trilogy focusing on Wagner’s epic last opera is a wide-ranging, unflinching discussion between the journalist, writer and filmmaker Paul Mason and Professor Frank Finlay of the University of Leeds.

Paul and Frank trace the composer’s changing philosophical viewpoints, and his antisemitism is discussed in the context of his works and the problems it presents for their audiences. Another tension – between the composer’s anti-modernist, proto-fascist sympathies, and the radicalism in his music – is identified.

Excerpts of the cast, Chorus and Orchestra of Opera North in rehearsals for the 2022 concert staging of Parsifal are heard throughout.

Episode 6: Alex Ross and Dr Áine Sheil on Parsifal

In the second of three episodes focusing on Wagner’s epic final opera, New Yorker critic and author of Wagnerism and The Rest is Noise Alex Ross and Dr. Áine Sheil of the University of York discuss gender, sexuality and ritual in Parsifal, and in Richard Wagner’s work as a whole.

Close readings of the music itself are illustrated with excerpts from rehearsals for our 2022 concert staging.

Introduced and chaired by Professor Frank Finlay of the University of Leeds.

Episode 5: Richard Farnes and Gillian Moore on Parsifal

In the first episode of three focusing on Wagner’s epic final opera, conductor Richard Farnes takes time out of rehearsals in Leeds for an in-depth discussion of the music and narrative of Parsifal with Southbank Centre’s Gillian Moore.

They place this monumental work within Wagner’s oeuvre, describe its huge influence on his peers and his heirs, and look forward to role debuts from Toby Spence in the title role, Brindley Sherratt as Gurnemanz, and Katarina Karnéus as Kundry.

Richard breaks down some of the leitmotifs contained within the opera’s miraculous Prelude, illustrated with clips of the cast, Chorus and Orchestra of Opera North in rehearsals.

Episode 4: Simon Armitage and Gavin Bryars on Words and Music

Poet Laureate and Professor of Poetry at the University of Leeds Simon Armitage and composer Gavin Bryars consider what happens when their respective art forms are brought together.

They each discuss their lifelong engagement with words and music, and the pleasures and perils of bridging the two disciplines as artists. Excerpts from their work are woven throughout, including tracks by Armitage’s post rock/ambient outfit LYR, and Bryars’ influential 1971 work Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet.

Chaired by Dr Kimberly Campanello of the University of Leeds.

Episode 3: Thomas Adès and Operas of Confinement

Professor Edward Venn and Aletta Collins

How do music, plot, staging, action, dance and performance combine to produce meaning for an opera audience?

Taking a close look at Thomas Adès’s The Tempest, Professor Edward Venn of the University of Leeds and choreographer and director Aletta Collins – who choreographed the opera’s premiere in 2004 – explore the conversation between different elements in opera.

They also consider the notions of confinement and restricted movement in all three of Adès’s operas: The Tempest, Powder Her Face (1995), and The Exterminating Angel (2016), which take on a new significance in the COVID-era.

Episode 2: Carnivalesque

Professor Alan O’Leary and Daniel Norman

“The licence to misbehave.”

From Monteverdi to Monty Python, cross-dressing, gross-out humour and a preoccupation with the grotesque seems to offer a release from the constraints of morality and social conventions.

Warning: this podcast features frank discussion of bodily functions!

Episode 1: Performing Violence

Professor Griselda Pollock

“In cinema you are a spectator; in opera you are present. I’m fascinated by the notion that we witness in opera: we have to endure.”

Ranging from Ancient Greece to The Godfather, and focusing on the operas of Puccini and Verdi, the 2020 Holberg Prize Laureate Professor Griselda Pollock discusses with Opera North Projects Director, Dominic Gray, how violence is represented in painting, sculpture, film and literature, how it is performed in opera, and its implications.

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