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Continuing Our Commitment

An update from Richard Mantle, General Director

In the weeks following the first national lockdown last Spring, we pledged Opera North’s commitment to keep making music with people in communities across the north.

As the Company was buffeted by the continued changes that have affected us all, we adapted our plans, sharing music with audiences at live performances, creating new work digitally and supporting our education and community partners through teaching and participatory activity.

Often, the ways forward that we had decided on were thwarted by new restrictions, but we have remained indefatigable in adapting to the circumstances, driven at all times by our core purpose to make and share music with people. For Opera North, 2020 ended on a high:

The company of Fidelio © Richard H Smith

Our acclaimed production of Fidelio streamed live from Leeds Town Hall on the new ONDemand platform, receiving rave reviews in the national press.

The Festive Edition of our vocal workshop, From Couch to Chorus, was open to singers of all levels, from beginners to experienced choir-goers. 2,000 people joined, learning from a professional choral director and singing alongside members of the Chorus of Opera North.

Cellist and composer Abel Selaocoe in the Corn Exchange, Leeds © Matt Davis

A major new commission featuring our Orchestra and Chorus, Abel Selaocoe’s As You Are: A Soundwalk for Leeds gave delighted audiences the opportunity to discover our city anew.

Recorded by our Orchestra and Chorus in Leeds Town Hall, Carols for Care Homes was a special digital event designed to reach residents and staff at care homes and hospices who have been greatly affected by the pandemic, helping spark memories and lift spirits with a touch of festive magic.

Opera North's General Director Richard Mantle at rehearsals for Switch ON: Live at Leeds Town Hall, September 2020 © Justin Slee

In these uncertain and difficult times for us all, it is so clear that music has a role to play. For reflection, inspiration, to bring joy and reassurance; more than ever the work we do matters and impacts on people’s lives.

None of this would have been possible without the steadfast understanding and support of you, our audiences, Patrons, Friends and funders, who have stood by us throughout this challenging period, and I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

We had hoped that after Christmas we could announce a programme that would see the Company building back up to live performances in Leeds Grand Theatre, Leeds Town Hall and Leeds Playhouse in January and February, before touring to our partner venues in Newcastle/Gateshead, Nottingham and Salford from March. The announcement of a third national lockdown has once again required us to change course. What does not change is the clarity of our ambition.  We may not be able to make and share music in the way we had hoped only a week ago, but it will take a greater setback than this to cause Opera North to fall silent.

Our work with schools and community partners does not stop. More than ever, our partner schools need us to stand by them and we continue to teach online and in some cases in primary care settings alongside teachers.

We are now re-assessing what activity and performances we can realistically deliver in the coming weeks. We will find a way to share performances with people, but in the meantime I want to highlight two projects we will be launching very soon.

  • In February, we will deliver a third edition of From Couch to Chorus. Whether you have never sung before or are a confident singer, we invite you to sign up for this extraordinary online programme that has seen people from around the globe come together from their own homes to sing with members of our Chorus. Whatever inhibitions you may harbour, the act of singing with others has an unparalleled capacity to lift the soul, and now more than ever we encourage you to join us.
  • At the same time, for younger people and families, our Education team will launch new online resources to help those isolating at home to discover the joy of making music.

I hope very soon to share plans for a return to public performance, no doubt at first digitally, but as soon as we are able we will welcome audiences back to share live music.

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At this challenging time, you can help us use music to bring people together, now and in the future.


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