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RODERIC DUNNETT previews this autumn's
touring operas in the UK


Whether you're a dyed-in-the-wool opera buff or tend to fight shy of grand opera, The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and English National Opera in St Martin's Lane are by no means the only venues where you can sample this opium of the elite.

Even though Raymond Gubbay's attempt at giving London a third opera house, at the Savoy Theatre, crumbled in its infancy, there are many energetic touring opera companies, such as the ubiquitous Garden Opera, which are prowling every nook and chink and cranny of Britain, vying to build an audience, boost your spirits, surprise, delight, entertain and uplift you.

Heading the list are the three major provincial opera companies, based in Leeds, Cardiff and Glasgow, all of whom tour to one extent or another.

Opera North, whose eight spirited one-act operas including Zemlinsky's The Dwarf and Bizet's Djamileh were seen at the Grand Theatre, Leeds and beyond as far as London's Sadler's Wells Theatre, reaches out to venues from Manchester to Hull, Newcastle to Nottingham. Welsh National Opera will be taking its wonderful new Ariadne auf Naxos and revived Turandot -- and later a new Wozzeck -- on its circuit from Birmingham and Bristol to Oxford and Southampton.

Scottish Opera, which recently contributed to the 2004 Edinburgh Festival's Weberfest (Oberon, with a magnificent cast of Elizabeth Whitehouse (Reiza), Barry Banks (Oberon), Jane Irwin (Fatima), Peter Bronder (Huon of Bordeaux) and Garry Magee (Sherasmin), is now poised to launch its new double bill of Bluebeard's Castle and Schoenberg's Erwartung (conducted by Sir Richard Armstrong, designed by Nick Rieti and directed by Andre Engel) in Glasgow on Friday 8 October 2004. Not only does the company sometimes branch out with its main house productions to several larger Scottish cities, but its vigorous touring offshoot, formerly Scottish Opera-Go-Round, has reached as far as Dumfries and Galloway and the Highlands and Islands with its rip-roaring shows (Figaro, Don Giovanni, Onegin) featuring a handful of singers with piano, or tiny ensemble. In April this year, the financially troubled company confirmed that it aims to spend more than a third of any future budget on education and 'outreach' programmes aimed at Primary Schools and other educational outlets. Last season the north of the border company laid out some 250,000 pounds on its first opera created especially for children, The Minotaur, which toured beyond Glasgow and Edinburgh to Dundee, Inverness, and Aberdeen.

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Copyright © 26 September 2004 Roderic Dunnett, Coventry UK


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