How to save an opera? Work with the local theatre

Interesting joint venture from Opera North and West Yorksihre Playhouse in Leeds, England.

The result of the first major collaboration between two of the North’s leading arts organisations, the West Yorkshire Playhouse and Opera North, premieres this June as a sparkling new production of Into the Woods opens in Leeds. Directed by West Yorkshire Playhouse Artistic Director James Brining and with a cast drawn from the Chorus of Opera North, this darkly comic fable explores what happens when the characters from several well-known fairy tales collide. The result is often startling, always entertaining – and with some classic Sondheim lyrics along the way.

The press night is at the West Yorkshire Playhouse on Wednesday 8 June.



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  • Opera North didn’t particularly need saving, last thing I heard: somehow managing to balance its books and do world-class work on £2 million a year less public funding than certain companies one might mention, even without a prime West End venue and access to London levels of philanthropic giving…

  • Glad there’s some related work for performers in their off-time, but what does this story actually have to do with opera?

    Can’t say I know much of Sondheim’s score for Into the Woods. I tried to watch the film but gave it up after about 20 minutes as utterly unwatchable.

    • Quite aside from the opera vs musical question… the resources which Sondheim’s pieces require to perform them are identical to opera theatres – large symphonic orchestra, chorus able to sing difficult material, wardrobe, costume, lighting and tech requirements all identical too.

      It makes sense for opera companies (or sections of them) to perform Sondheim – provided they can make it work financially.

      • not quite the same as opera, and only one of his musicals requires a large orchestra (60 players): Sweeny Todd.

        Into the woods requires 2 violins, 2 violas, a cello, a bass, a flute, a clarinet, a bassoon, 2 horns, and 2 trumpets, along with one keyboardist on piano, and a second one on a synth. far from “symphonic” in size, but the sound his orchestrator gets out of those forces is astounding. I was lucky enough to conduct one of the very first performances of Into the Woods in Canada. It’s an absolutely phenomenal score, full of strawinskian subtlety.

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