The BBC has announced its first ever season focused on opera, tying-in with the forthcoming landmark exhibition at the V&A, Opera: Passion, Power and Politics, and aiming to engage and demystify the art-form for audiences both here and overseas.
The highlight of the event is the #OperaPassion festival on Thursday 19 October when eight leading UK opera companies, including Opera North, will come together for a day of live streaming on BBC Arts Digital. Throughout the day, people will be taken on an operatic journey around the UK, with glimpses behind the scenes and live performances from Opera North, the Royal Opera House, English National Opera, English Touring Opera, Glyndebourne, Welsh National Opera, Scottish Opera and Northern Ireland Opera. Tomorrow's World and Manchester's Museum of Science and Industry will also provide snippets exploring the science behind the art form, including investigating whether a soprano's voice can really shatter a wineglass.
At 1pm on #OperaPassion day, Opera North will take opera out into Leeds to entertain people with a ‘pop-up’ Whistle Stop Opera performance which will be broadcast live on BBC Arts Digital and the Company’s Facebook page. Packed with comedy, deceit, love and tragedy, Whistle Stop has been designed to give people a half hour crash course in the emotion, power and variety of the art-form with scenes and songs from a host of popular operas including Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Bizet’s Carmen and Verdi’s La traviata. There will also be lesser-known excerpts from the current season of The Little Greats, including pieces from Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci, Gilbert & Sullivan’s Trial by Jury, Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti and the amazing cat duet from Ravel’s L’enfant et les sortilèges.
Whistle Stop has been written by opera singer and director John Savournin who is also the narrator of the piece. He will be joined by soprano Elin Pritchard, who is singing the part of Nedda in Pagliacci, baritone Milo Harries and accordionist Miloš Milivojević who provides the musical accompaniment.
The #OperaPassion day will conclude on BBC Radio 3, where there will be the chance for listeners to vote for the opera of their choice to be broadcast in full that evening from four Royal Opera House production recordings.
Whistle Stop Opera at Northern Monk. Photo: Tom Arber
Behind the scenes at Opera North's production of Der Rosenkavalier. Photo: Tom Arber
Peter Auty (Canio) and Elin Pritchard (Nedda) in Pagliacci, one of The Little Greats. Photo: Tristram Kenton