This autumn’s Green Season sees a trio of new productions take to the stage. While two have been performed by Opera North before, Masque of Might was put together especially for the occasion.

Here are our top five reasons why we think you should join us for this entertaining battle of wits between a powerful dictator and the natural world around him.

See a World Premiere

It’s not every day you get the chance to see the world premiere of a brand-new operatic work, but that’s exactly what’s on offer with Masque of Might. Created over lockdown by globally-acclaimed theatre director Sir David Pountney, it uses the music of baroque composer Henry Purcell to tell the tale of how a dictator’s actions can have grave consequences for the natural world – until he gets his comeuppance that is!

While the subject matter may be weighty, by cleverly using the format of the 17th Century masque (think modern-day variety show), Sir David has injected a healthy dose of wit into the proceedings, ensuring the fast paced action doesn’t let up from the first note until the last.

Production manager George Johnson-Leigh at Opera North's Scenic Stores with the throne to be used in Masque of Might © James Glossop

Discover Purcell

This is a great chance to hear work by Purcell, some of which is rarely performed and certainly not in the theatre. Take ‘In Guilty Night’ which Conductor Harry Bicket describes as “one of Purcell’s greatest creations”. It’s only usually heard in a church setting, but in Masque of Might, it’s used for a pivotal scene in which the dictator Diktat is shown a vision of Saul, Samuel and the Witch of Endor.

What surprised Sir David as he explored the composer’s work was how much of it referenced the destruction of nature and could, with very few tweaks, easily be incorporated into a piece about threats to the environment. Listen out in particular for ‘Arise ye subterranean winds’, a soul-stirring bass aria which is just one example of the impressive virtuosic singing you’ll hear throughout.

Feast Your Eyes

You might think reusing and repurposing sets and props for the Green Season would lead to things looking a little tired on stage. However, according to Set Designer Leslie Travers, the exact opposite is true: “There’s been no compromise on quality or visual aesthetics at all, thanks to the amazing skills of everyone involved in creating this spectacular, celebratory world from whatever was available to us”.

A favourite element of the Masque of Might set is the repurposed 1970s caravan which the Production team have affectionately named ‘Dolly’. Found languishing in the car park of a local pub, she’s been given a new lease of life and now stars not only in this show but in Falstaff too!

A refurbished caravan in preparation for Opera North's Green season © James Glossop

Hear an Award-winner

Every story needs a baddie, In this show, it’s a political tyrant called Diktat sung by Callum Thorpe who regular opera-goers will recognise from his roles as Sparafucile in Rigoletto in 2022 and Angelotti in Tosca earlier this year. Of course, you also need a force for good and Diktat’s most powerful nemesis is the female spirit of the wild, Elena.

Taking on this key role is soprano Anna Dennis who was the winner of the prestigious 2023 Royal Philharmonic Society’s Singer Award, with the judges praising her “extraordinary technique, musicianship and versatility”. Anna will also be singing the Witch of Endor who appears in a vision to Diktat as his world begins to crumble around him.

Anna Dennis who sings Elena and Witch in Masque of Might © Jet

Play Your Part

Masque of Might entertains while making you think. As a Green Season must-see, it also practices what it preaches with a set, props and costumes either imaginatively reassembled from previous productions or creatively crafted from pre-existing items.

We’d love you to join us on our green journey by choosing e-tickets and a digital programme at the checkout. We’ve also put on more matinee performances and negotiated discounted travel on the buses to make it easier to travel to the theatre by public transport. You can even enjoy a pre-theatre supper at Kino where Head Chef Josh Whitehead is a keen advocate of all things local and sustainable.

Costume design for the Witch of Endor © Marie-Jeanne Lecca

Find out more about Masque of Might and Purcell in our In a nutshell.

Masque of Might opens on Thursday 28 September at Leeds Grand Theatre as part of Opera North’s Green Season alongside Verdi’s Falstaff and Puccini’s La rondine. Following their run in Leeds, all three productions will tour to the Theatre Royal in Newcastle; Theatre Royal, Nottingham; and The Lowry, Salford.

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