An iconic ballet reworked as a contemporary dance piece and a classic opera brought into the modern day – this double bill is a must-see.
Opera North has a reputation for challenging perceptions and nowhere is that more true than their latest collaboration. They’ve teamed up with Phoenix Dance Theatre to broaden your cultural horizons by presenting opera and dance side by side in a short, snappy double bill. This rare treat will open your eyes to new possibilities and show you there’s so much more to the theatre than you ever realised…
1. Hear two of the greatest pieces of music ever written
At first glance, opera and dance feel worlds apart, but they both have one thing in common – the music. It’s the thread that ties them together, and here, we have two of the most iconic scores of the twentieth century.
Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring was the score that changed the world. This revolutionary piece didn’t just push boundaries, it redefined them, and as such, it’s shaped the music of the last 100 years, inspiring composers all over the world. Weird and unworldly, it appeals to us on a primitive level, defying expectation from the very first chord – the score begins with a disturbing bassoon solo that leads you into a complex 14-part masterpiece you’ll never forget.
Gianni Schicchi is a whole different beast. This is the work of Puccini, one of the best composers of his generation. He’s the man behind Madama Butterfly, Tosca and La Bohème, so it’s only natural to expect soaring arias, and indeed, you’ll get one – ‘O mio babbino caro’ is the crowning glory of the opera and it’s a song we all know, but it’s set within a score that’s almost unrecognisable. Strange, chromatic and dissonant, it marked a turning point in Puccini’s career, as he began to experiment with style in his own inimitable way.
2. Watch two totally different shows in one night
They may be perfectly paired, but you’re in for two completely different experiences. One is a dynamic contemporary dance piece, the other a wickedly funny opera.
When The Rite of Spring first premiered, Vaslav Nijinsky’s choreography was so controversial that the audience rioted in the theatre, but this new production will raise eyebrows for different reasons – internationally-acclaimed choreographer Jeanguy Saintus has thrown out the rule book with an all-new vision that will take you into a world of spirits, priestesses and Haitian ritual. It’s cool, it’s abstract and it’s completely open to interpretation, so you’ll see what you want to see.
From intense and ethereal to lighthearted and fun, Gianni Schicchi is a cultural palate cleanser that will pull you back from the depths with a far-fetched ruse. This is a simple, easy to follow opera with a killer plot – when Buoso Donati dies, his family expects to get rich quick, but instead, he gives all his money to the local monastery. Luckily, famous conman Gianni Schicchi is on hand to impersonate the dead man and change the will. What could possibly go wrong?
3. See Phoenix Dance Theatre perform as never before
Over the last 38 years, Phoenix Dance Theatre has teamed up with a string of critically acclaimed choreographers, but this is their first collaboration with Jeanguy Saintus and he’s brought a whole new language of movement to the company. From the line of the body to the articulation of the hands, it’s unlike anything they’ve done before, and that makes it a must-see.
But that’s not the only thing that makes this production special, because you’ll also have a rare opportunity to see Phoenix Dance Theatre perform with a live orchestra. “For a contemporary dance company of our size, it’s very rare,” Sharon Watson, Artistic Director of Phoenix Dance Theatre, explained. “For us, it’s a significant moment, and we have to use those moments wisely because they’re few and far between.”
4. Catch Opera North at their death-defying best
Traditional, old fashioned, even dull. Pah! Opera isn’t any of those things and you need only watch Gianni Schicchi to prove it. This is a fast-paced, off-the-wall opera that will keep you on your toes – and it has a few surprises in store.
Puccini’s only outright comedy was written over 100 years ago, but Opera North has brought it bang up to date. In an all-too-familiar world of tablets and mobile phones, the cast are climbing the walls, the bed spins out of control and Dante performs all manner of unbelievable stunts, thanks to dancer and aerial artist Tim Claydon. Needless to say, the vocal acrobatics are just as good.
5. Get tickets for just £15
Everyone thinks that going to the theatre is really expensive, but it’s not. In fact, you can see this double bill of opera and dance for just £15. It’s the perfect taster, a chance to dip your toe in the water without digging too deep, and because it’s two shows in one, you’ll have twice as much fun. But you’ll have to be quick, because there are just 4 shows in Leeds and they’re selling out fast.
The Rite of Spring and Gianni Schicchi come to Leeds Grand Theatre from Saturday 16th February to Saturday 2nd March 2019.