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What is a concert staging?

Some of our opera productions are billed as a ‘concert staging’. Discover what it’s like to experience opera in this new, dramatically intense way…

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Why do we programme concert stagings?

It all began for a practical reason – when staging particularly large-scale operas, it is not possible to fit the size of orchestra required into most of the orchestra pits Opera North usually performs in. However, we couldn’t let that stop us programming these epic works, so found a new way to do it, and toured to concert halls around the country.*

“Opera North has made a grand success of its concert hall productions of some of the biggest beasts in the operatic zoo” — The Sunday Times

*While Leeds Town Hall is undergoing refurbishment, concert stagings in Leeds will take place at Leeds Grand Theatre.

What are some recent examples?

Over the last few years: Wagner’s monumental Ring cycle (which is available to stream online) and The Flying Dutchman, Puccini’s Turandot, Strauss’ Salome, Verdi’s Aida and in lockdown, Beethoven’s Fidelio.

“Opera North’s ‘concert stagings’ of epic operas have become eagerly awaited annual events” — The Times

Company of Aida © Clive Barda

So where is the orchestra?

The orchestra is on stage, fully visible to the audience, and becomes the landscape of the piece. To be able to see as well as hear the players in these colossal works – which sometimes have extensive percussion and brass – can be truly thrilling! Audiences are also able to hear the orchestra with extra clarity, as concert halls often have even better acoustics.

“…places the orchestra right at the heart of the drama… pure theatre in its own right” — The Guardian

Are there costumes, props and set pieces?

This varies – sometimes there may be full costume, and sometimes cleverly symbolic elements. There is also often imaginative use of video projection and dramatic lighting. Please see the information available for each opera for more details, or call our Box Office on 0113 223 3600.

“The orchestra can become anything. In Turandot, we had to build extra staging for the percussion and it became Peking: the walls and the turrets and the prisons” — Annabel Arden, director

Are the singers in character?

Absolutely – the singers will be inhabiting their roles completely and there might be quite physical staging! There’s certainly no less drama than in a fully-staged opera production.

Das Rheingold, the Ring cycle © Clive Barda

How else is the experience different?

Because there is no proscenium arch or orchestra pit in the way, the audience is much closer to the singers. This means we really get to see the performers’ physicality and the emotions on their faces, making for an intense experience.

The storytelling is also sharpened. Opera narratives can be quite complex, but in this scenario, within such a simple space, we see every move clearly and what characters do and say is somehow amplified.

“…cuts to the bare bones of the drama… viscerally effective” — The Sunday Times

What is the difference between a ‘concert staging’ and ‘concert performance’?

Some operas are billed as a ‘concert performance’ rather than ‘concert staging’. This simply means that there may be less in the way of set and costume design and staging, but the singers will of course still be in character.

The Flying Dutchman © Robert Workman


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