You are invited to the wedding party of the season this autumn as our new production of Orpheus opens in an innovative collaboration with South Asian Arts-uk.

Join the happy couple as they celebrate at a special garden get-together – and share in Orpheus’ heartbreak when Eurydice dies and is whisked away to the underworld. Here are our top five reasons why this is an invitation everybody should accept!

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1. A Modern Day Myth

The story of the musician Orpheus attempting to retrieve his dead wife from the underworld, only to lose her again when he looks back, is one of the best-known Greek myths. To this day, it remains a heart-breaking exploration of the heights of love and the depths of grief which will speak to anyone who has lost someone dear to them.

“This is a very special collaboration, and it presents us with unique opportunities to express the themes of the story: the joy of love, the pain of loss, and what happens when the underworld comes to you. We are able to draw from multiple traditions, disciplines and aesthetics to tell a story which has a universal experience at its heart.”

– Anna Himali Howard, Director

Tabla in the Orpheus rehearsal studio © Tom Arber

2. Compelling Characters

The opera is named Orpheus for good reason – he hardly ever leaves the stage! The original myth is a gift for composers (including Monteverdi, of course) as it’s Orpheus’ musical prowess that gains him entry to the underworld and the chance to retrieve Eurydice.

In this production, opera tenor Nicholas Watts takes on the title role alongside Carnatic singer Ashnaa Sasikaran as his wife, bringing two musical traditions together in their love for one another. Other characters include the Greek gods and goddesses Apollo, Pluto and Proserpine, together with spirits, nymphs and shepherds.

Watch carefully and you may spot some of the wedding guests from the opening scene in a very different guise!

Nicholas Watts as Orpheus and Yarlinie Thanabalasingam as Hope in the Orpheus rehearsal studio © Tom Arber

3. Incredible Music

The music will be like nothing you’ve ever heard before, but we guarantee it will bring you out in goosebumps! This is a unique opportunity to see and hear top Indian classical and western baroque musicians in the same space – and to marvel at the sound and appearance of their exquisite instruments.

“As well as acting as joint Music Director on the opera with the brilliant Laurence Cummings, I have been fortunate to compose new music alongside Monteverdi’s masterpiece. I’m very excited to be bringing such a stellar cast of Indian classical musicians and vocalists to Leeds – these are, quite literally, the best of the best Indian classical musicians in the UK!”

– Jasdeep Singh Degun, Co-Music Director

Jasdeep Singh Degun, co-Music Director, on the sitar in the Orpheus rehearsal studio © Tom Arber

4. Two Worlds, One Stage

In this contemporary take on both the ancient myth and Monteverdi’s original opera, the action has been moved to a modern British garden. In the opening scene, a wedding party is taking place, with people showing off their finest outfits, whether that’s a colourful saree, a salwar kameez or a sharp suit. When Orpheus embarks on his spiritual journey to the underworld, the backdrop goes dark and things take on a slightly less familiar appearance, but still with echoes of the material world he’s left behind.

“East and West; ancient and modern; the material and the spiritual; this is a production which explores the interconnection between dualities. Everything feels familiar and also thrillingly different.”

– Leslie Travers, Set & Costume Designer

5. The Language of Love

Orpheus will be sung in both Italian and Urdu and will also feature excerpts in Malayalam, Bengali, Panjabi, Hindi and Tamil. While there will be English surtitles throughout, what this show proves is that, like love, music is a language which transcends all difference.

“I imagine that when Monteverdi composed L’Orfeo, he would have met with diverse musicians who influenced him creatively. Now, through this collaboration, we have the opportunity to bring together a cast who can break down boundaries and cross borders through music to touch our hearts and minds. Ultimately, they remind us that we are all humans with lots of shared similarities and particularities that deserve to be celebrated unapologetically.”

– Keranjeet Kaur Virdee, Chief Executive, SAA-uk


Sanchita Pal as Nypmh with Dean Robinson as Pluto, Chandra Chakraborty as Proserpine and Kezia Bienek as Messenger in the Orpheus rehearsal studio © Tom Arber

Orpheus – Monteverdi reimagined opens at Leeds Grand Theatre on Friday 14 October with a matinee performance on Saturday 22 October, before touring to Theatre Royal Newcastle, Theatre Royal Nottingham and The Lowry, Salford Quays. There will be an audio described performance at every venue.

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