James Conway nominated for UK Theatre Award

25th September 2014

James Conway in rehearsal for ETO’s Spring 2014 production of King Priam. Photo by Bill Knight.

ETO’s General Director James Conway has been nominated for a 2014 UK Theatre Award, in the ‘Achievement in Opera’ category.

Run by industry body UK Theatre, the awards are intended to recognise outstanding achievements by regional companies.

The other nominees in the ‘Achievement in Opera’ category are Richard Farnes, Opera North’s Music Director, for his conducting of three of ON’s recent productions, and Welsh National Opera’s Chorus for their performance in Moses und Aron.

The full list of nominees in all categories can be viewed on UK Theatre’s site here.

The 2014 UK Theatre Awards ceremony takes place on Sunday 19 October at the Guildhall in London.

James Conway is directing a new production of Handel’s Ottone as part of ETO’s Autumn 2014 season. The production is currently in rehearsal and opens on Saturday 18 October at Hackney Empire, before touring across England until late November.

James is also directing two operas for ETO in Spring 2015 – a new production of Puccini’s La bohème and a revival of ETO’s acclaimed 2013 production of Donizetti’s The Siege of Calais. Both shows tour the UK from March to May 2015.

Remember a Charity week

5th September 2014

This September, English Touring Opera is proudly supporting the fifth annual Remember A Charity Week. Running from 8th –14th September 2014, the week aims to inspire people in the UK to think about leaving a charitable gift in their Will.

During the week we will be talking about the different ways legacy donations can help ensure that ETO can continue to create high quality live opera for generations to come.

Legends aren’t just fictional characters. There’s a legend in all of us

A number of people have already pledged to leave a gift to ETO in their Will. One such person is Chris Ball. You can read more about Chris and the reasons he has decided to leave a legacy to ETO in the “Remember A Charity” supplement in this weekend’s Daily Telegraph.

If you would like to read more about how legacies benefit our work, and for more information on leaving a legacy to ETO, please visit our Leaving a Legacy page

Olivier Award-winning opera returns to Blackpool in Spring 2015

5th August 2014

Interior of The Grand Theatre, Blackpool. Photo credit: Sean Conboy

We are pleased to announce that in May 2015, English Touring Opera will return to The Grand Theatre, Blackpool for our first performances at the theatre in ten years.

We are performing our new Italian-language production one of the most popular operas in the repertoire, Puccini’s La bohème (Mon 11 May). This is paired with a revival of our 2013 hit, Donizetti’s The Siege of Calais, a thrilling and heartbreaking opera based on a story from the reign of Edward III and the Hundred Years’ War (Tue 12 May).

ETO has not visited the North West region since 2009, and Blackpool since 2005. Recognising a need to address this as part of our mission to offer a varied repertoire of high-quality productions to audiences across the whole country, the return to Blackpool comes after several years of searching for an appropriate partner venue.

ETO’s Head of Marketing, John Holmes, who was born and raised in Lancashire, said,
“In the years we’ve not been coming to the North West, we’ve always felt it was a big gap in our touring schedule, especially as several of the ETO team are from the North West, and dearly wanted to bring our operas back to the region. The Grand is as beautiful theatre as we’ll ever get to play, and it’s a perfect environment for all the thrills, sensations and intensity of a top class opera performance.”

Ruth Eastwood, Chief Executive of The Grand Theatre, Blackpool, said,
“It’s our mission to give audiences a wide range of experiences to enjoy in the theatre, and opera is very much part of that. I’m delighted to welcome English Touring Opera, so that people from Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre can enjoy Olivier Award-winning opera without having to go all the way to Manchester or London to see it.”

New research suggests work needs to be done before cinema broadcasts bring in new audiences for opera

27th May 2014

The emerging trend for large opera companies to broadcast their work in cinemas is not yet creating a new generation of opera-goers, according to new research commissioned by English Touring Opera (ETO) into audiences for opera cinema broadcasts.

However, existing opera audiences highly value the opportunity to see productions that are geographically and financially out of reach, often enjoying a sense of participation and shared experience similar to live events.

The research, conducted by ETO and the Guildhall School of Music & Drama and funded by Creativeworks London, surveyed 234 people attending live broadcasts of opera in cinemas in London from October and December, 2013.

(Click here to download a copy of the research working paper.)

The research gives an insight into what audiences think of many aspects of opera in cinema, including what attracts them to attend and what they like or dislike about the experience.

It found that 81% of cinema opera attendees were over 60 years old, with an age profile slightly older than that typically found at live opera.

In addition, the study indicates that attending a cinema broadcast of opera does not regularly inspire cinema-goers to attend live opera in a theatre, with 85% of respondents reporting no increased motivation to attend live after their cinema experience.

Views are split among audiences, with three main positions: there is nothing like live opera; cinema is a good alternative to live opera; and that cinema opera is a new art form in itself, offering something new and equally valuable as the live experience.

In further interviews, some respondents expressed a belief that cinema had the potential to create new opera audiences, but do not believe this is happening yet.

ETO’s general director James Conway said: “A lot has been speculated about the potential for cinema relays to create new audiences for live opera. I would love that to be the case but, as this research indicates, it may be wishful thinking.

“What is sure is that access to digital opera performance has changed quickly, and producers of opera will need to respond with some intelligence to an environment that has not transformed, but has certainly shifted.

“This partnership with the Guildhall School and Creativeworks London has been vital as ETO starts to formulate its response to these changes and our future business development.”

Funder Creativeworks London brings together creative businesses and academic institutions based in London to increase growth in the creative economy.

The lead researcher is Professor John Sloboda, director of the Guildhall School’s Understanding Audiences research programme, and the report is by Dr Karen Wise, research associate at the Guildhall School.

Inside Opera: Live - On tour with English Touring Opera

12th May 2014

On Saturday, 10 May Inside Opera: Live broadcast from the Grand Opera House in Leeds, giving exclusive behind the scenes access to seven of the UK’s biggest opera companies.

If you’ve ever wondered how we put an ETO show on the road, watch our Opera that Moves film, which was specially-commissioned for the day. It follows a week of ETO performances at the Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham with soprano Abigail Kelly, production manager Marius Ronning and staff director Dafydd Hall Williams.

Find out more about what people thought of Inside Opera: Live on Twitter: click here.

Live streaming day to offer unprecedented access to seven UK opera companies on 10 May

29th April 2014

Inside Opera: Live, four hours of live-streaming, will see seven of the UK’s opera companies join forces to offer unprecedented behind the scenes access on Saturday 10 May.

The number of participating organizations means that the event is a first for the arts, with English National Opera, English Touring Opera, Northern Ireland Opera, Opera North, The Royal Opera, Scottish Opera and Welsh National Opera coming together to celebrate the art form as part of the annual European Opera Days weekend. The event is particularly designed to reach anyone who is new to opera.

The day will be hosted from the Grand Theatre in Leeds as Opera North prepares for performances of Puccini’s La bohème. The packed afternoon will feature behind-the-scenes footage from all participating companies, live interviews with singers and directors, live links to rehearsals and community-based activities.

Inside Opera: Live will be streamed on YouTube at www.youtube.com/insideopera from 14:00-18:00 BST on 10 May 2014.

ETO wins Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Opera

14th April 2014

English Touring Opera has won the 2014 Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Opera.

Revealed at yesterday’s ceremony at the Royal Opera House, the award was given for ETO’s ‘brave and challenging’ productions of Michael Tippett’s King Priam and Benjamin Britten’s Paul Bunyan, which are halfway through a nationwide tour.

This is the first time ETO has ever won an Olivier Award. The other nominees in ETO’s category were Joyce DiDonato and Juan Diego Flórez for their performances in La Donna Del Lago at the Royal Opera House, and Placido Domingo for his performance in Nabucco, again at Covent Garden.

King Priam and Paul Bunyan opened at the Linbury Studio Theatre, Royal Opera House in February 2014, and are currently touring alongside a revival of The Magic Flute and two operas for children, as part of ETO’s Spring 2014 season.

King Priam is ETO’s first ever production of an opera by Michael Tippett. Its staging was a personal ambition of director James Conway since he began work as ETO’s General Director in 2002.

The opera is based on sources including Homer’s Iliad and depicts the fall of Troy from the perspective of its ageing king, focusing on the difficulties and consequences of moral choices at a time of warfare.

Conway, with season designer Anna Fleischle and lighting designer Guy Hoare, staged the opera in an ancient yet timeless setting, with extensive use of natural materials such as antlers, leather and bone, chosen to reflect the sparse beauty of Tippett’s score.

The Guardian’s review praised a ‘performance of ravaged majesty from Roderick Earle in the title role’, and the opera overall as ‘Unnerving, seductive stuff, and utterly compelling’.

King Priam is still to tour to The Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury (Wed 23 April), Norwich Theatre Royal (Sat 26 April), Exeter Northcott Theatre (Sat 17 May), Gala Theatre, Durham (Tue 20 May) and Cambridge Arts Theatre (Tue 27 May)

Paul Bunyan marks ETO’s final contribution to the Britten 100 centenary celebrations, and is one of the composer’s least-performed operas.

Liam Steel’s production –also produced with Anna Fleischle and Guy Hoare – sees the action unfold in the naturalistic setting of an early twentieth-century lumber camp.

It draws on its director’s extensive choreographic experience to present a show that features strong elements of musical theatre as well as opera. The off-stage title role was pre-recorded for ETO’s current tour by award-winning actor Damian Lewis.

In its five-star review of Paul Bunyan, The Independent wrote that ‘this inventive marriage of sight and sound is flawless from start to finish’.

Remaining performances of Paul Bunyan are at York Theatre Royal (Wed 16 April), Norwich Theatre Royal (Fri 25 April), The Hawth in Crawley (Tue 6 May), Warwick Arts Centre (Thu 8 May), Exeter Northcott Theatre (Fri 16 May) and Cambridge Arts Theatre (Wed 28 May).

ETO’s General Director James Conway said: “It’s a great honour for English Touring Opera’s work to be recognised by SOLT nominators and judges, especially in such august company. Our wonderful regional audiences recognise our work now, and that is hugely gratifying; to be noticed in London’s exciting theatre world is almost more than one could have hoped for.”

He added: “The longstanding, generous support of the Arts Council makes the work possible; in this particular, highly risky programme, we also had support from the Britten-Pears Foundation, and from a wonderful syndicate of ‘Angels’ who believe in Michael Tippett’s great, and greatly human work. ETO is certainly strong in one thing: highly trained, gifted, generous performers and technicians, who work hard every day they are with us for very modest rewards. They are on the road now, performing in five shows for audiences of all ages. This recognition is all for them.”

Established in 1976 and organised by Society of London Theatre (SOLT), the Laurence Olivier Awards celebrate the world-class status of London’s theatre and are recognised internationally as British theatre’s highest honour.

ETO's 'brave and challenging' Spring 2014 productions nominated for Olivier Award

10th March 2014

ETO’s current Spring season has been nominated for an Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Opera, for its “brave and challenging touring productions” of Tippett’s King Priam and Britten’s Paul Bunyan.

The two productions opened at the Linbury Studio Theatre, Royal Opera House last month, and together with a revival of The Magic Flute which itself opened last Saturday at Hackney Empire, are touring the country until the end of May.

All of ETO’s venues in England are receiving at least one of the two new productions; King Priam is touring to a further nine theatres and Paul Bunyan is performed at 12 more venues during the Spring 2014 tour.

The nominations, which are in 26 categories across the fields of theatre, opera and dance, were revealed by actors Nigel Harman and Leigh Zimmerman at a ceremony in central London earlier today.

ETO is the only opera company and the only British recipient of this year’s nomination for the award. The other nominees are the world-famous artists Joyce DiDonato and Juan Diego Flórez for their performances in La Donna Del Lago at the Royal Opera House, and Placido Domingo for his performance in Nabucco, again at Covent Garden.

The winners in all categories will be revealed at a star-studded ceremony to be held on Sunday 13 April at the Royal Opera House, with highlights of the event due to be broadcast on ITV shortly afterwards.

Established in 1976 and organised by Society of London Theatre (SOLT), the Laurence Olivier Awards celebrate the world-class status of London’s theatre and are recognised internationally as British theatre’s highest honour.

James Conway, ETO’s General Director, said: “It’s a great honour to receive this Olivier nomination, and a mighty encouragement. I am proud of bringing these two great works to the stage, and of touring them alongside three other productions this season. Getting into the West End was a treat for ETO, and this is a treat of rare delicacy – a tribute to all the hard-working artists and technicians now on tour”.

Damian Lewis is the voice of Paul Bunyan in ETO's new production

11th December 2013

Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning actor Damian Lewis has given his voice to the title character in English Touring Opera’s new production of Benjamin Britten’s Paul Bunyan, which tours England from February to May 2014.

The production, set in a lumber camp, brings to life the mythical lumberjack who is one of the most famous figures in North American folklore.

Paul Bunyan is a spoken role, and only ever portrayed off stage. Lewis, famous for his roles in Homeland and Band of Brothers, has pre-recorded the voiceover of his part, which will be played during performances. Click the audio player below to listen to Paul Bunyan’s greeting from scene 3 of act 1.

Directed by Liam Steel and conducted by Philip Sunderland, ETO’s Paul Bunyan forms part of the Britten 100 centenary celebrations. Written when the composer was resident in the USA in WWII, it features a libretto by the great English poet W. H. Auden. The music incorporates a wide variety of styles, including folk songs, blues and hymns, to make a witty and irreverent response to the American Dream.

The production opens at the Royal Opera House’s Linbury Studio Theatre on Monday 17 February, before touring with a full orchestra to 13 theatres across the country. This is the first time Britten’s opera has toured England, giving audiences a rare chance to see it live.

Damian Lewis, who recently showed his support for UK theatre by hosting the London Evening Standard Theatre Awards 2013, is happy to be helping ETO’s mission to take high-quality live opera to audiences in towns and cities that wouldn’t otherwise get a chance to enjoy it.

Paul Bunyan is performed as part of ETO’s spring 2014 season. For more information and to find a performance near you, please click here.

Florence de Mare to design for ETO after winning Linbury Prize

22nd November 2013

Set and costume designer Florence de Mare has been announced as a winner of this year’s Linbury Prize for Stage Design.

Florence, who graduated from the postgraduate Theatre Design course at RADA earlier this year, will design for ETO’s Spring 2015 production of Donizetti’s rare opera Il furioso all’isola di San Domingo.

The four winners of this year’s prize were announced at a ceremony at the National Theatre yesterday evening, with fellow designers Ana Ines Jabares Pita, Madeleine Girling and Alexander Ruth each also winning a commission to design for a major company.

They will now design productions for the National Theatre of Scotland, Nottingham Playhouse and Scottish Dance Theatre respectively.

As well as the chance to design for a full-scale production, the designers each receive £2000 in prize money, with Jabares Pita, as the overall winner, receiving an additional £1000.

An exhibition of work by all the finalists runs until Saturday 30 November at the National Theatre.

Florence said: ‘The possibility of realizing my design for ETO was but a dream until last night’s announcement – I feel incredibly honoured and utterly elated.’

She added: ‘It’s been an all-consuming couple of months delving into this relatively unknown Donizetti opera and the process has taken James and me on an intriguing journey. I’ve become particularly attached to this magical West Indian island and even to the furioso himself, so I’m very excited that this is just the beginning.’

Il furioso all’isola di San Domingo is recognised as one of Donizetti’s very greatest works, though it has only been performed twice in the UK, and never outside of London.

A semi-seria (mixed genre) opera, the story is based on a brief episode from Don Quixote. On the shore of a colonised island a ‘wild’ white man refuses to socialise, or to conform to the suggested social organisation of the island, dedicated to profit.

The plot requires several characters to enter from the sea, whilst the chorus comes from the farm – the centre of profitable organisation.

The Linbury Prize for Stage Design was founded by Lady Anya Sainsbury in 1987 as a springboard for recent graduates from theatre design courses around the UK. It gives applicants an unparalleled opportunity to work with professional arts companies and to collaborate with writers, directors and technical teams at a crucial stage in their careers.

Below: winning designer Florence de Mare. Top of page: One of Florence’s sketches for Il furioso all’isola di San Domingo.

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