Archive | October 2019

Rich Pickings on La boheme


Photo: Richard H. Smith

Michael Barker-Craven again directs Phyllida Lloyd’s radical 1993 creation, and the setting is still Paris in the 1950s.

Lauren Fagan’s Mimì depicts the poor girl’s desperate illness as the result of her decadent lifestyle and most of the second half is spent rallying round her seekimg to find the fees for a doctor, although perhaps we really know it has all come too late.

But it is not all doom and gloom as we see the streets packed with last-minute Christmas shoppers and this has a delightful musical accompaniment.Renato Balsadonna conducted the Orchestra of Opera North with masterful skill, taking as through tender intimate moments to more powerful and brash sequences.

La boheme ranges from jovial frivolity to heart-felt tragedy and perhaps the moral of the tale that dissolute living comes at a cost. Anush Hovhannisyan as Musetta is totally outrageous and seems to enjoy playing and teasing both her sugar daddy and ex-lover in equal amounts.

The four bohemians Rodolfo (Eleazar Rodriguez), Marcello (Yuriy Yurchuk), Colline (Emyr Wyn Jones) and Schaunard (Henry Neill) are utterly endearing and passionate about their cultural creations, destitute or not.

Anthony Ward’s design is incredibly effective at conjuring up the Parisian scene and capable of drab foreboding darkness to colourful moments too. This concludes a very fine season for Opera North, a company who pull out all the stops to take on their radically eclectic repertoire.

Reviewed by Rich Jevons at Leeds Grand Theatre. See for tour dates.

Rich Pickings on Opera North’s Giulio Cesare

'Giulio Cesare' Opera performed by Opera North Company

Photo: Alastair Muir

Libretto: Nicola Francesco, after Giacomo Francesco

Music: George Frideric Handel

Conductor: Christian Curnyn

Director: Tim Albery

Reviewer: Rich Jevons

Set in the war between Rome and Egypt Handel’s classic opera is revived from Opera North’s 2012 production with immense success by Tim Albery. The ensemble are simply superb with Maria Sanner crossing genders as Giulio Cesare with perfect pitch and some great acting too.

His adversary Tolomeo, King of Egypt, is played with suitable malice and brutality by James Laing. While his sister Cleopatra (the seductive Lucie Chartin) simply steals the show. She woos Cesare posing as her own servant Lydia, and in a particularly sensual scene carefully removes her stockings leaving them for Cesare to cease as a lover’s treasure.

Following the murder of Pompeo (a brief scene for Jem Dobbs) his wife Cornelia (a fine performance by Catherine Hopper) and son Sesto vow revenge. At first it seems as if Tolomeo is going to get his wicked way with the help of Achilla, general of the Egyptian army. But fate rescues Cesare from the waves and Cleopatra from prison so the perfect ending transpires.

The Orchestra of Opera North are particularly in fine form matching the on-stage passionate drama. Leslie Travers’ set and costume design are equally excellent with a revolving stage pushed by Egyptian servants which then opens up into palatial splendour. Being cut down from over four hours to three gives the work more intensity and focus in another Opera North tour de force, following the outstanding Greek Passion.

Reviewed by Rich Jevons for Rich Pickings on 28 September 2019 at Leeds Grand Theatre, see Opera North website for tour dates.