High drama and traditional British humour are both a feature of this summer’s double-bill of productions by English Touring Opera at Norwich Theatre Royal.
Their visit begins with one of the world’s best-loved operas, Puccini’s Tosca, on June 1 and 2.
It sees the title character, who is also the Queen’s favourite diva, face a tough choice when her lover Cavaradossi is imprisoned for helping a revolutionary. Does she have to submit to the desires of the sadistic chief of police or see her beloved Cavaradossi executed?
This dilemma is at the heart of the opera which raised eyebrows when it was first presented. The establishment (and some audience members) were shocked at how the Church and state were shown to be corrupt and violent, along with the sexual overtones of the piece.
The ETO creative team is diverse, with the award-winning director Blanche McIntyre tackling her first opera. She has a varied drama pedigree working on the likes of Two Noble Kinsmen for the Royal Shakespeare Company, Welcome Home Captain Fox! for the Donmar Warehouse, The Seagull for Headlong, and productions for Shakespeare’s Globe.
She will be working alongside ETO’s expert Music Director, Michael Rosewell, to bring the production to the stage, and it will also boast an incredible set design matched with some stunning period costumes.
Taking on the lead role of Tosca is Paula Sides who received both the prestigious Tagor Gold Medal and was a finalist for the Young Concert Artists Trust while at the Royal College of Music. She has already taken on a wide range of operatic roles including Norina in Don Pasquale and Gilda in Rigoletto for the Preggio Opera Festival in Italy, and the title role in Atalanta for the Handel Society
In total contrast, ETO will also bring the wit and wordplay of Gilbert and Sullivan to the stage with Patience on June 3. The writing duo aim to poke fun at the quibbles and quirks of Victorian society as they explore the relationship dilemmas facing the dairy maid of the title who is torn between two men. Does she choose the flouncing dandy Bunthorne, or go for the more stolid and safe Grosvenor?
With characters spanning willowy poets, emotional women and burly officers, what is a woman to do?
This production will use an authentic setting to highlight this comedy of manners and behaviour, and is directed by Liam Steel who is no stranger to the company having worked on productions of Magic Flute, Paul Bunyan and Gianni Schicchi for ETO.
The cast includes South Wales-born Aled Hall as the Duke of Dunstable. He has performed in a number of prestigious venues including the Royal Opera House in Manon Lescaut, as Falstaff for Glyndebourne, and Le nozze di Figaro which took him to Aix-en-Provence, Tokyo and Baden Baden.
John Bultitude, of Norwich Theatre Royal, said: “We are delighted to welcome English Touring Opera back to the city. Their summer 2017 offering may feature two very diverse productions but they will share a cast made up of some of the country’s top operatic talent to provide a strong programme for their forthcoming visit.”
English Touring Opera perform Tosca on 1 & 2 June, and perform Patience on 3 June. Tickets are available now.