With both dancers and singers poised for the opening of Requiem: Journeys of the Soul later this month, here are our top five reasons why this exciting new production should be top of everyone’s cultural wishlist for May.

1. Two Composers

How often do you get the chance to hear a classic work alongside the premiere of a contemporary composition? Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s choral masterpiece Requiem was written as the composer neared the end of his own life – in fact, he died before completing it – making it a very personal exploration of loss and longing.

Set against this will be After Tears: After a Requiem, written by South African composer Neo Muyanga in response to Mozart’s piece. In his work, Muyanga explores how mourning and remembrance are marked in his home country before inviting the audience to join him in celebrating life and the living.

South African composer and musician Neo Muyanga © Junicker

2. Two Places

While Requiem is the third collaboration between Opera North and fellow Leeds-based arts organisation Phoenix Dance Theatre, this double bill also brings on board two South African partners, Jazzart Dance Theatre and Cape Town Opera.

With all four companies performing together, the double bill gives a global perspective on what it is like to grieve the departed, with the audience encouraged to reflect on what life across the world means for those left behind after the collective loss of the COVID-19 pandemic. The result is a hopeful expression of the beauty, brutality and brevity of life.

Dancers of Phoenix Dance and Jazzart Dance Theatre and the Chorus of Opera North in rehearsal for Requiem © Tom Arber

3. Two Art-forms

Requiem is the perfect opportunity to enjoy the physicality of dance alongside the emotional power of the voice.

Ensembles from Phoenix Dance Theatre and Jazzart Dance Theatre will be joined on stage throughout both pieces by the members of the Chorus of Opera North in a celebration of the two art-forms. Add to that the incredible sound of the Orchestra of Opera North in the pit, and you have a double bill that will literally take your breath away.


4. Two Creatives

Choreographer Dane Hurst has been working with the dancers in both Leeds and South Africa, travelling between the two locations. He is looking forward to both ensembles working together with the Orchestra and Chorus: “We’ve all worked mostly remotely, so it will be good for us all to be in one room where we can come together, make magic, and truly bring the work to life.”

It is a moment which is also keenly anticipated by Garry Walker, Opera North Music Director, who will be conducting both pieces: “It will be truly special for everyone involved to see and hear the two works taking shape as we all gather for the first time in Leeds.”

5. Two Cultures

This cross-cultural collaboration invites everyone to take a moment to consider the universality of human experience. While rituals around death are rooted in specific societies, grieving transcends all borders.

As Dane says: “This will be a deeply moving event that honours and elevates the immense beauty, strength and fragility of life after a prolonged period of loss and darkness experienced by all since the start of the pandemic in 2020. It is a humble and sacred offering, a coming together in acknowledgement and celebration of the illuminating light of the souls who have passed onto the next journey of life and a ceremony in preparation for our continuing journey ahead.”

In the Requiem rehearsal studio © Tom Arber

Requiem runs at Leeds Grand Theatre from Friday 26 May until Sunday 4 June. The production is being performed as part of LEEDS 2023 Year of Culture with generous support from The Linbury Trust. 

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