It’s the first time it’s been performed professionally in the UK for 60 years, but that’s just one reason why you need to see The Snow Maiden…
This January, Opera North are kicking off their Season of Deliciously Dark Fairy Tales with a rare performance of The Snow Maiden. It’s a daring new production that combines beautiful singing, lively dancing and captivating video projections to bring the Russian fairy tale to life through Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s incredible folksy score. As far as we’re concerned, it’s absolutely unmissable and here’s why…
It’s a coming of age tale with a magical twist
The Snow Maiden is a fantastical coming of age tale. This magical creature is the daughter of Spring Beauty and Old Man Frost (the Russian equivalent of Father Christmas), but she’s fascinated by the mortals in the nearby village and yearns to feel love as they do. There’s one problem – her heart is frozen and if she falls in love, it will melt. Will she risk everything, and if she does, can she have her happy ending? This is your chance to find out.
It hasn’t been performed professionally in the UK in 60 years
The Snow Maiden is akin to The Nutcracker in Russia, but in the UK, it’s rarely ever performed. In fact, this will be the first professional production here for 60 years – so you may never get another chance to see it on our home turf.
You’ll see the Opera North chorus dance like never before
When you think of the opera, you probably don’t imagine dancing, but that’s exactly what you’re going to get in The Snow Maiden. It’s filled with Russian folk music, and the chorus will dance like they’ve never danced before, so this really is a one-off, all singing, all dancing production.
It’s a first for everyone, except the director
Because The Snow Maiden is so rarely performed in the UK, it will be a first for almost everyone, whether in the cast or the audience. In fact, Director John Fulljames is the only person involved in the production who has actually worked on it before.
The way they’ve used video is absolutely spectacular
This is a really daring, modern production of The Snow Maiden – and the way they’ve used video to bring the production to life is really exciting, creating a hallucination that the audience is part of.
For Fulljames, it’s a natural progression, “I think it will allow us to create a show that’s really spectacular, really visually engaging and really magical which is full of transformations. This is the sort of show that’s a fantastic spectacle, you can imagine the 1950s production in Moscow. I think we need to find a way for the 21st century of creating that same sort of visual spectacle.”
It’s really easy to follow, even if you’re new to opera
Although The Snow Maiden is a Russian opera, this one will be sung in English. Even better, they’re going to have English subtitles waiting in the wings, to help you catch every word of what is, in Fulljames’ words, “a fantastically direct, comic translation.”
It blurs the line between reality and fantasy
One of the things that makes The Snow Maiden so interesting is the way that it brings magical characters like Old Man Frost and Spring Beauty together with normal, everyday people. It makes magic seem possible, but to make it work on stage, Fulljames had to get creative, “One of the challenges is how you put those very different worlds on a stage next to each other. The way we’ve done that is with video, with lots of little animations which will enable us to create the fantasy elements which are so important to bring the piece to life.”
It’s been 3 years in the making, but it only really started coming together a month ago
You’d be amazed at the work that goes into a production like this. The creative team started working on it three years ago, and the singers have spent the last year learning their lines – but it’s not until they all come together in the rehearsal room, mere months before opening night that it all comes together.
“Theatre isn’t a literary art form and it isn’t something that exists on the page, it’s very physical and it’s only when you begin to explore it in the room that you work out how to make the story clear in this performance and in this design in Leeds in 2017,” Fulljames told us.
It’s usually four hours long, but they’re doing it in three
The Snow Maiden is usually a mammoth 4 hour production, but Opera North have trimmed it down to give you the same fantastic experience in just three hours, with an interval in between. “The biggest challenge has been editing the piece,” Fulljames explained. “We’ve had to make some tough choices, but it means that what we’ve ended up with is a very focussed piece, a piece that’s very fast-paced and a piece which I hope audiences will enjoy.”
You’ll leave The Grand humming it
The music in The Snow Maiden is absolutely brilliant. Composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov took inspiration from Russian folk songs, melding them into the score with his own original creations, and that means the music is both unusual and incredibly catchy – expect to leave The Grand singing it.
It’s bright, colourful and impossible to take your eyes away from
If you’ve got a vision of flowing blue Frozen-style dresses in your head, think again – The Snow Maiden is a bright, colourful production that takes inspiration from traditional Russian folk costumes. It will transport you between two worlds, with mesmerising visuals, beautiful dresses and innovative projections – the result is stunning.
The orchestra will be led by award-winning conductor, Leo McFall
The orchestration in The Snow Maiden is brilliant. As you’d expect, it sounds distinctively Russian, but it’s also richly orchestrated to give you a truly unforgettable opera experience – and with Leo McFall, winner of the 2015 German Conductor Prize, leading the Orchestra of Opera North, you know you’re in good hands.
If you like Frozen and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, you’ll love it
The parallels between The Snow Maiden and Frozen are all too clear. They’re both set in a magical winter, and explore how love can melt a frozen heart – but that’s not the only well known story that the opera will remind you of. It’s also reminiscent of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, as two worlds collide.
It’s something Fulljames is acutely aware of, “It’s a play that has different worlds; the fairies, the Athenian lovers that get lost in the woods, the mechanics – the people who put on that play in the forest, and in the real world none of those worlds meet but Shakespeare brings them together, and it’s exactly the same in this piece.”
It’s full of surprising twists and magical transformations
They have lots of surprises in store for you, with love triangles and devastating secrets, but the biggest twist is the way they’ve set the scene – we’re not giving anything away though, so if you want to find out why it’s so special, you’ll have to go and see it.
It’s an old Slavic fairy tale, reimagined
The Snow Maiden is based on an old Slavic fairy tale called Snegurochka. Like most fairy tales, there are many different versions, including one where she’s a snow doll come to life, but it’s the tale of the Spring Beauty’s daughter that’s most famous. It rose to popularity in 1783 when it was adapted into a play, with music by Tchaikovsky, and the tale was later transformed into the opera you can see today.
Opera North will perform The Snow Maiden at Leeds Grand Theatre from Saturday 21st January to Friday 24th February 2017. With our exclusive offer, you can get some of the best seats in the house with a cocktail and 50% off food at Manahatta – book your tickets now.