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Full cast of Opera North's Tosca on stage in costumes

The year to try Opera

Opera North returns to Leeds Grand Theatre this month with a trio of performances: Puccini’s Tosca, which explodes with passion and power, Janáček’s extraordinary take on the cycle of life The Cunning Little Vixen, and Ariadne auf Naxos, where comedy and tragedy collide on a 1950s film set.

Even if you think opera isn’t your bag, this could definitely be the year to give it a go with the Try it ON ticket offer, giving first-timers the chance to sit in some of the best seats in the house for just £20!

Still need convincing? We asked our friends at Opera North to answer some of the most frequently asked questions about a night at the opera.

Written by Elizabeth Simmonds, Press Officer, Opera North


What music can I expect?

The music depends on the composer and the tale being told. In Tosca, Puccini proves himself the master of the emotional rollercoaster, taking you from a rousing chorus one moment to a heartrending solo aria the next. If Vissi d’arte’ (I lived for love) sung by Floria Tosca in Act II tugs at your heartstrings, just wait until you hear her lover Cavaradossi singing ‘E lucevan le stelle’ (The stars were shining brightly) in Act III! Are folk-infused melodies more to your taste? If so, Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen could be the one for you.

As you listen to an opera, you may be surprised at how many tunes you recognise as so many have been used in films and adverts over the years.

Robert Hayward as Baron Scarpia and Giselle Allen as Tosca in Opera North's Tosca

Robert Hayward as Baron Scarpia and Giselle Allen as Tosca in Opera North's Tosca © Richard H Smith

Do the singers use microphones?

One of the most amazing things about opera is the power of singing. Opera singers are trained to project their voices so that what they sing literally reaches every corner of the auditorium over the sound of the orchestra and without a microphone in sight.

Even if you’re right at the back of the Gods, we guarantee a soprano hitting the high notes will send shivers down your spine and just wait until you hear the massed voices of the Chorus of Opera North. Combined with the playing of the Orchestra of Opera North in the pit, the sound must be heard to be believed.

Is it still relevant today?

When you watch opera, you get drawn into another world and viewpoint, whether that’s seeing everything through the eyes of a fox in The Cunning Little Vixen or entering the mind of a political tyrant in Tosca. This is why the art form has remained so popular. It is through these different perspectives, the composers touch on feelings that still resonate today e.g. jealousy, desire, anger, obsession and grief.

One of the most universal emotions is, of course, love. In Ariadne auf Naxos, the goddess Ariadne is heartbroken after being deserted by her lover Theseus and longs only for death, while Zerbinetta, leader of a comedy troupe, regards each of her partners as easily replaceable. What Strauss shows us is how each of these extremes can learn from the other – a lesson that remains all too relevant today.

Ariadne auf Naxos at Göteborgs Opera

Ariadne auf Naxos at GöteborgsOpera 2018 © Mats Bäcker

Aoife Miskelly as Vixen, Michael Clifton Thompson as Cockerel, The Cunning Little Vixen

Aoife Miskelly as Vixen, Michael Clifton Thompson as Cockerel, The Cunning Little Vixen (WNO, 2019) © Richard H Smith

Is it good for a special night out?

Opera is the perfect night out with its compelling mix of unbelievable music, high drama, stunning costumes and eye-catching sets. Some people dress for the occasion but if you feel more comfortable in jeans and a jumper, that’s totally fine. Fancy a pre-theatre supper? Kino is right by the theatre and offers sharing plates inspired by the varied cuisines found in the eastern Mediterranean, North Africa and the Middle East.

Most operas are around two and half hours in length with an interval (sometimes two), during which you can visit one of the theatre bars or treat yourself to an ice cream.

Isn’t it expensive?

People often believe that going to the opera is an expensive night out. With seats starting at £15, depending on where you want to sit, an Under 30s scheme offering tickets for just £10 (free for 16 to 20-year-olds) and Try it ON which offers £20 seats for opera, it’s not nearly as pricey as you might think. It is always worth booking early though as the cheaper tickets tend to sell-out fast!

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