One of the things I love most about Leeds is its impressive arts and culture scene. The city is home to Opera North – “England’s national opera company in the North and one of Europe’s leading arts organisations.”
“…Opera North is a vibrant, lively organisation which actively challenges conventional perceptions of opera. Breathing new life into the classics, the Company is also a strong advocate of lesser-known works and a champion of musical theatre.”
As part of the company’s DARE initiative – a collaboration between Opera North and the University of Leeds – I was lucky enough to attend the opening night of Andrea Chénier yesterday with my friend Chloe. I’ve only been to two opera performances before (both a long time ago.) One was to see Orfeo ed Eurydice at the Lowry – which I did not get and thought was completely bonkers – and the other was Carmen at the Royal Opera House – which I found captivating and an incredible experience.
I’m a big fan of musicals and have been to a number of plays, but I’m not au fait with opera. Luckily, the Opera North website has a handy guide about what to expect. I’d never even heard of Andrea Chénier before, but never one to turn down a free ticket, decided to give it a try. Again, the Opera North website is really useful and has a “…In a Nutshell” section which gives an overview of the storyline and background of the performance. The website also has snippets of the music via Soundcloud, which is a really nice addition.
As the performance started, sung in Italian, I was glad to see that there were subtitles on screens on either side of the stage. You quickly get used to them and I was grateful for the translation, as I must admit, I wouldn’t have had a clue what was going on without them! My first thought was how fabulous the costumes were – particularly the (wide!) dress worn by Contessa di Coigny, the mother and an aristocrat. The scenery was also fantastic, with chain walls and tricolore projections. The music was beautiful and I was just amazed that human beings could produce such a sound! Andrea Chénier is a pretty intense love story, and I ended up singing (made-up) songs about death and love at home for the rest of the evening, which felt a bit dramatic for a Tuesday.
I would definitely recommend giving an Opera North production a try, even if you have no idea what the performance is about. The company is also running an Under 30s Membership Scheme, so if you’re aged 19-29 or a full-time student, you can get free or £10 tickets to select performances, as well as other discounts. For the cost of a cinema ticket (or perhaps even a free ticket!) I think this is a great way to try something new if you’re not sure whether you’ll enjoy the opera or not (bearing in mind that each production will be very different and I don’t think you can just make a general statement about whether you do or don’t like a whole genre or art form!)
We’re lucky to have such impressive talent on our doorstep – another reason why I love Leeds.