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By contrast, English Touring Opera, doyen of touring companies, is trying out an autumn Bohème in Italian, directed by Annilese Miskimmon and conducted by Philip Walsh, touring it with Felix Barret's production of Janacek's magical cartoon strip opera The Cunning Little Vixen (in English), conducted by Peter Robinson, round ten provincial theatres, starting with Frank Matcham's unmatched Hackney Empire (14-16 October 2004).

If you missed ETO's Midsummer Night's Dream last season, get them on your list quick. Kendal, Canterbury, Runcorn -- English Touring Opera will be there in October. Likewise Cheltenham's Everyman Theatre, the Cambridge Arts Theatre, the High Wycombe Swan, Exeter's Northcott Theatre, and the Snape Maltings at Aldeburgh, all during November. The tour ends at Lincoln's Theatre Royale on Wednesday 1 December. Cosi fan tutte and Mary, Queen of Scots (conducted by Noel Davies) follow next spring.

English Touring Opera's vital production of Janácek's 'The Cunning Little Vixen'.
English Touring Opera's vital production of Janácek's 'The Cunning Little Vixen'.

Not satisfied with that, English Touring Opera are also staging a brand new production of Jonathan Dove's Tobias and the Angel -- a community project with a large cast, and a definite treat for the family -- at churches from Exeter to Ulverston, Gloucester to St Albans, starting with the home of the Southbank Sinfonia, St John's, Waterloo. The last staging is at Alderton Church (also near Snape) on 3 and 4 December 2004.

'Tobias is a community opera with three choirs: we knew it was going to be a big and contentious undertaking -- and testing, too!' says ETO's Canadian-born General Director James Conway, who grew up in Ireland and made his name directing the highly successful Opera Theatre Company in Dublin. 'The first choir parts are quite tricky, they require people who are good sightreaders; then there's a community choir, which is more open to enthusiastic amateur singers; the children's choir is a mix of those who are already members of local choirs and youngsters who want to give it a go.

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Copyright © 26 September 2004 Roderic Dunnett, Coventry UK

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