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Meet our Orfeo

With the Orfeo ed Euridice company in the building we spoke to leading British mezzo-soprano Alice Coote about her return to Opera North in the lead role …

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How does it feel to be returning to Opera North?

I began my opera career with Opera North way back in 1994 in a small part in Puccini’s La rondine. I was so excited to be on stage in such beautiful costumes and such amazingly hot bright lights (!) with the orchestra playing sublimely and the wonderful principal singers up so close. I nearly passed out, goosebumps all over. I saw up close what it takes physically to sing a larger demanding role to a theatre with no microphones… exhilarating!

Alice Coote as Charlotte in Werther by Massenet, 2009 © Clive Barda

Tell us a bit about Orfeo ed Euridice.

This is the opera everyone should see and hear at least once. It has such incredibly beautiful music of such power and soul from the chorus, orchestra, and singers.

It is a very simple story, moving, and uplifting. It proves that love really can triumph over all if you fight for it. My character is one of the most famous in history and opera, mythic but very, very human. He makes mistakes and is punished for it but stays true to himself and those he loves.

Do you have a favourite moment?

There are so many goosebumps moments in this music it’s impossible to choose, but I would reserve an ear for the overwhelming choruses that hit you in the chest with their power and beauty.

And of course the most famous aria perhaps ever written ‘Che farò senza Eurydice?’ or ’Where will I go without my love?’

Orfeo ed Euridice is billed as a concert performance, meaning there will be less in the way of costume design and staging. Do you approach these performances differently?

In many ways this can be the most powerful way to witness an opera, without a lot of complex staging you get to be really up close with the singers and what they are feeling, and the emotion and power of the story and music.

I feel I can more directly “speak” to the audience and hope they go with me on my journey. Even though just as grand it feels more intimate…

Orfeo ed Euridice was the first of Gluck’s reform operas. What reforms would you like to make to opera in 2022?

I would love everyone to stop calling opera “classical music“, a label that just isn’t correct. I would like to forget any music being called classical unless it factually is, written between 1730 and 1820 which was the classical period.

The rest of it just isn’t. New operas and music are being written now, and as ever, only the best survives. So I wish we would just stop calling good slightly older music “classical“, it’s just GREAT music that has stood the test of time.

In Act II Orfeo convinces the Furies to let him into Hades with the beauty of his singing, have you ever got your way by using your voice (roles aside…)?

Who actually gets their way in life?! (Laughter!) But I have a close friend who sings opera and sometimes busks on the street. The reaction she gets is so powerful with even people who are busy or late for something stopping, listening and often crying.

I believe singing transcends all barriers and touches our soul in a way we cannot express but deeply need… I hope when I sing I just try to tell the truth with all my heart.

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