YORK Opera will return to York Theatre Royal after a pandemic-enforced two-year gap with Mozart’s The Magic Flute next week.
Sung in English to orchestral accompaniment, Mozart’s last great operatic masterpiece will be performed on November 2, 3 and 5 at 7.15pm and on November 6 at 4pm.
The story follows Prince Tamino and his quest to rescue his beloved Pamina from the grasp of her mother, the evil Queen of the Night, and return with her to the world of light presided over by Sarastro, the High Priest of Isis and Osiris.
Premiered in 1791, the year of Mozart’s death, The Magic Flute has a deep and serious theme: the ultimate triumph of light and enlightenment over the powers of darkness and superstition. Yet the story of a Prince finding his true love in a world of dragons, magic bells and magic flute serves as an operatic pantomime too, making it the perfect introduction to opera.
York Opera’s stage director for The Magic Flute is John Soper, a long-serving member, baritone soloist and publicity designer, who has designed the sets too. Musical direction is in the hands of Derek Chivers, whose last appearance with the company was as musical director and conductor for Carmen in 2018.
Among the many soloists will be Mark Simmonds as High Priest Sarastro, Heather Watts as Queen of the Night, Hamish Brown as Prince Tamino and Alexandra Mather as Pamina, while bass David Valsamidis makes his York Opera debut as Papageno, the Queen of the Night’s bird catcher.
To complement these five major roles, a dozen more named solo parts ensure York Opera’s wide-ranging vocal talent will be on display.
Tickets are on sale on 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.
Meanwhile, a note from York Opera…
OPERA is possibly the most demanding of all the arts, especially for any young singers dreaming of becoming established performers.
Those setting out on such a road need reliable opportunities to learn and develop their craft both as singers and actors. Where are they to receive the support that they need?
Look at how York Opera responds to this need. This amateur opera group prides itself on its high standards and its determination to employ York and district orchestral musicians to accompany the productions of grand opera and other works, staged twice a year for more than 50 years.
Latterly too, York Opera has welcomed an influx of younger singers, who have complemented and extended the range of expertise within the group.
In addition, plans were in place to try out a handful of new stage directors and musical directors, moving on from their roles as assistants or repetiteurs. They were to have the support of an overall production manager, Clive Marshall, one of York Opera’s most experienced producers, and would have taken charge of four fully staged operatic excerpts to be performed at York’s National Centre for Early Music.
Unfortunately, the Covid pandemic brought everything to an abrupt halt. Now, nearly two years later, York Opera is almost back on track.
All these developments came under the umbrella of York Opera’s Stepping Stones project, one that received a boost from Australian soprano Danielle de Niese, whose home at Glyndebourne, in Sussex, has its own springboard: the Glyndebourne Academy.
This operatic development project aims to support gifted and talented young singers, and so far, two York Opera members, Andrew Powis and Alexandra Mather, have taken part, with hopes that others will do so in future.
Learning of this involvement, Danielle de Niese has provided a letter of support. “I was approached by the president of York Opera, Clive Goodhead, after a performance of Massenet’s Cendrillon at Glyndebourne Opera House. He explained that York Opera has a proud and firm reputation as a long-standing, highly successful amateur group up in Yorkshire.
“One of York Opera’s charitable aims is to provide opportunities for young singers, especially those who might entertain the idea of becoming future professionals. In this respect, its aims have much in common with those of Glyndebourne’s Academy programme.
“The latter is widely recognised as an amazing opportunity for young singers. Always massively oversubscribed, it represents a real achievement and outstanding opportunity for anyone who passes its auditions.
“York Opera, I am told, is delighted to have seen two of its younger members, Andrew Powis and Alexandra Mather, joining the project in recent times. I am most happy to offer both of these singers my best wishes for their operatic futures.
“I am also more than pleased to offer my sincere appreciation to York Opera. It has my whole-hearted support as a vital early stepping stone for younger opera singers aspiring to be professionals one day.”
Alexandra Mather will be playing Pamina in The Magic Flute and around a dozen other principals and chorus members in next week’s production at York Theatre Royal are younger singers.
“Opportunities of this sort are vital if the United Kingdom is to provide reliable home-grown experiences as stepping stones for the next generation of professional opera performers,” says Clive Goodhead.
“Amateur groups of the quality and stability of York Opera deserve greater recognition and support themselves. The group is a registered charity (No. 700279), one of our aims being to educate in the art of opera. We are self-supporting, actively welcoming of new members and always seeking sponsorship.”
More information can be found at yorkopera.co.uk.