This Winter, the intensity of Opera North’s productions of Andrea Chénier and Wagner’s epic Ring Cycle is echoed on the Howard Assembly Room stage - and finds a contrast in celebrations of harmony and romance.
A 3 Generations series celebrates the richness of African music across the width of the continent. Most venerable among the inspirational musicians appearing is the founding father of Ethio-jazz, vibraphonist and Éthiopiques legend Mulatu Astatke (10 Feb). Shot through with Astatke’s music, Jim Jarmusch’s deadpan comedy Broken Flowers is screened in honour of the musician.
Now an elder statesman of West African music, Cheikh Lô combines his sweet, soulful voice with funk and Senegalese styles (30 Jan), while there’s more musical alchemy from West Africa on 4 February with the Malian blues of “Hendrix of the Sahara” Vieux Farka Touré.
FILMusic continues with Asian Dub Foundation’s searing live soundtrack to La Haine. Colin Stetson’s extraordinary horn playing soundtracked a French classic of more recent years, 2012’s Rust and Bone, as well as the Oscar-winning 12 Years A Slave, and his performance (11 March) is sure to be unmissable.
The rugged mountains of the Georgian Caucasus are the setting for the remarkable 1930 Soviet film Salt for Svanetia, presented with a live score from the great Moishe’s Bagel. Martinique forms the backdrop to French pianist, composer and filmmaker Christophe Chassol’s dazzling fourth album Big Sun, his tribute to his parents’ homeland in film and music (1 Feb).
The venue continues to provide a stage for innovative new takes on the folk tradition, as multi-instrumentalists and festival favourites The Shee celebrate their tenth anniversary, and singer and intrepid song-collector Sam Lee stops off on 12 March to give his stunning latest album The Fade in Time an airing.
The distinctive influence of British folk music is felt in Britten’s arrangements of Henry Purcell’s songs included in Lucy Crowe and Joseph Middleton's survey of English song, the latest collaboration with Leeds Lieder on 18 February. The timeless power of the voice is the focus for Gothic Voices, whose unaccompanied medieval harmonies have been world-renowned for three decades.
Acclaimed for its profound musical insight and rare tonal beauty, New York’s Escher String Quartet performs Mendelssohn, Bartók and Beethoven (11 Feb), and the great British pianist John Lill makes a welcome return visit on 10 March.
To coincide with Opera North’s monumental staging of Wagner’s Ring Cycle, visions of the apocalypse in film and music are visited on the Howard Assembly Room; and Conductor Richard Farnes lets light in on magic with an Open Rehearsal of Das Rheingold on 9 April.
Conflict again takes centre stage in Opera North’s new production of Andrea Chénier, Giordano’s opera set during the French Revolution. The latest Liberty Lecture in association with the University of Leeds, Revolution! gives an insight into the social and artistic background to the story, and a rare screening of Andrzej Wajda’s Danton brings alive the deadly personal and political battles in which the real Chenier found himself ensnared.
April sees the world premiere of Pleasure, the first opera by BBC Young Composer of the Year Mark Simpson, starring Lesley Garrett as an attendant in the toilets of a hedonistic northern gay club.
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