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.

Laika the Spacedog takes a trip to Avignon

11th November 2013

Laika the Spacedog , English Touring Opera’s multi-award-winning opera for young people, is to be performed in one of France’s most prestigious opera houses, the Opéra Grand in Avignon this December.

The performance takes place in the opera house’s main hall, the Grande Salle, on Wednesday 4 December 2013 at 8.30pm, and comes after Laika won two awards for Best Production at the Armel Opera Festival in Szeged, Hungary on Tuesday 15 October, beating productions of operas including Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex and Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra.

One of these awards, the International Jury Prize for Best Production, brought with it the further prize of a chance to perform Laika at Avignon.

The performance this December reunites the cast who performed in Szeged, including singers Nicholas Rigas and Sarah Laulan, who were competitors in their own right at the Armel Festival.

They are joined by regular ETO singers Edward Lee, Abigail Kelly and Maciek O’Shea. Edward and Abigail reprise their roles in the performances of Laika at Szeged, and Maciek takes on the role of puppeteer.

Laika the Spacedog tells the story of the Russian mongrel, discovered in Gorky Park in Moscow in 1957, who was destined to become the first animal in orbit.

The show opened in January 2013 at London’s Science Museum, before touring to schools and theatres across England alongside ETO’s full-length Spring 2013 operas, with a cast of singers drawn from the company’s main-stage shows.

The opera was awarded the PRS David Bedford Music Education Award in 2013 as an exceptional music education project.

Tickets to the performance at Avignon on Wednesday 4 December start from €5 and can be booked here (French-language website).

The performance of Laika the Spacedog at the Armel Opera Festival was streamed live on French channel ARTE – the video is still available to watch again and can be viewed here

ETO is now preparing a new opera for young audiences in spring 2014 called Borka, the Goose with No Feathers, which opens in March 2014 and includes four special performances at Kew Gardens.

The production is based on the book Borka: The Adventures Of A Goose With No Feathers by John Burningham, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

To find out how you can play a vital role in making Borka come to life, please click here

For more information on Laika the Spacedog or Borka, the Goose with No Feathers call Talia Lash at ETO on 020 7833 2555 or email her at talia.lash@englishtouringopera.org.uk.

English Touring Opera and Buxton Opera House

6th November 2013

With great regret, English Touring Opera announces that the company will not be touring to Buxton Opera House in Spring 2014.

Dates were provisionally scheduled in Buxton for Thursday 1 to Saturday 3 May, with performances of The Magic Flute, Paul Bunyan and King Priam.

Due to unforeseen and unexpected circumstances, Buxton Opera House and English Touring Opera were unable to agree a deal which guaranteed ETO a sufficient level of income to enable the visit to go ahead as originally planned.

Buxton Opera House is a much beloved venue for ETO and we will continue to discuss with the theatre how best to secure a return in future ETO seasons.

In the meantime, the nearest venue to Buxton on ETO’s Spring 2014 tour is Sheffield Theatres, which is 27 miles away. In Sheffield we will be performing The Magic Flute on Friday 11 April and King Priam on Saturday 12 April.

Laika the Spacedog wins two Best Production awards at Armel Opera Festival

16th October 2013



English Touring Opera’s opera for young people, Laika the Spacedog, has won two awards at a major international opera festival.

Laika the Spacedog was awarded the International Jury Prize for Best Production at the Armel Opera Competition, part of the Armel Opera Festival in Szeged, Hungary. The opera saw off competition from productions of Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex, Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra and Britten’s The Turn of the Screw.

ETO’s production, with music by Russell Hepplewhite and words and direction by Tim Yealland, also received the University of Szeged prize for Best Production at the award ceremony, which took place on Tuesday 15 October.

The opera itself was performed in Szeged, and streamed live on the TV Network ARTE, on Monday 14 October – click the picture above to watch the performance again.

Laika is both the first ever British opera and the first opera for children to win the Armel Opera Competition’s prize for Best Production. Two of the roles in the opera were performed by Nicholas Rigas and Sarah Laulan, singers competing in the festival in their own right.

The opera that tells the story of Laika, the Russian mongrel discovered in Gorky Park in Moscow in 1957, and destined to become the first animal in orbit.

The show opened with a sell-out week of performances in January 2013 at the Science Museum in London, before touring to schools and theatres across the country alongside ETO’s full-length Spring 2013 operas, with a cast of singers drawn from the company’s main-stage shows.

Laika was awarded the PRS David Bedford Music Education Award in 2013 as an exceptional music education project for primary school children and family audiences.

The Armel Opera Festival was established in 2008 in Szeged, in southern Hungary, and judges singers on their ability to excel in all aspects of opera performance, including not only singing but also stage movement and acting. The Festival therefore stages performances each year of five new productions, in cooperation with opera companies and opera houses in five different countries, before awarding prizes to the winning production and singers.

The international jury this year for the Armel Opera Competition included Raymond Duffaut, General Director of the Chorégies d’Orange; Guy Coolen, the Artistic Director of the Operadagen Rotterdam Festival; Fabrizio Melano, Stage Director of the Metropolitan Opera House; and Henry Little, the Chief Executive of Orchestras Live and Chairman of the UK’s National Opera Coordinating Committee.

Tim Yealland, ETO’s Artistic Associate for Education, said: ‘We were thrilled to be able to take Laika to the magnificent theatre in Szeged, and for the juries to suspend their disbelief to trust in the power and value of opera for children.’

Ágnes Havas, Director of the Armel Opera Festival, said: ‘Laika the Spacedog was chosen to be presented at the Festival because this kind of work that shows the children the world and genre of opera in an interactive way does not exist in Hungary. That is the reason why we wanted to present it on a large stage, to show the public what is possible with this creative and effective piece. Moreover, the important acting skills that this opera requires from the singers is perfectly in line with the Armel Festival’s philosophy.Congratulations to English Touring Opera!’

We are now working to build on this success with a new opera for young audiences in spring 2014 called Borka. To find out how you can play a vital role in making Borka come to life, please click here

Let us know what you think of the Laika recording above: tweet us at @etopera or post a comment on Facebook

Click here for more information on Laika the Spacedog.

Browse a gallery of pictures from the original show below:

Laika the Spacedog

Laika the Spacedog live broadcast from Armel Festival

11th October 2013

Laika the Spacedog live broadcast from Armel Festival


English Touring Opera’s award-winning opera Laika the Spacedog will be broadcast live from Armel Opera Festival in Szeged, Hungary on Monday 14 October at 6:10pm.

Laika the Spacedog is a new children’s opera written and directed by Tim Yealland and composed by Russell Hepplewhite for ETO’s spring 2013 tour. It tells the story of Laika, the Russian mongrel discovered in Gorky Park in Moscow in 1957, and destined to become the first animal in orbit.

After a preview for BBC Stargazing Live at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich in January 2013, Laika opened with a sell-out week of performances at the Science Museum in London.

The opera was awarded the PRS David Bedford Music Education Award in 2013 as an exceptional music education project for primary school children and family audiences.

Following its successful UK tour, Laika is now landing in Hungary, where English Touring Opera will give a special performance as part of the Armel Opera Festival in Szeged on Monday 14 October.

The performance will be broadcast live at 6:10pm on the ARTE website, where it will also be available to watch until April 2014. To watch the live web broadcast, please follow this link

A public vote is also open to select the festival’s best-loved production. Please support ETO’s cast and crew by going to the ARTE website and voting for Laika the Spacedog as this year’s public favourite. CLICK HERE to vote.

Did you watch the broadcast? Let us know what you thought of Laika: tweet us at @etopera or post a comment on Facebook at www.facebook.com/EnglishTouringOpera.

ETO nominated for a 2013 UK Theatre Award

26th September 2013

ETO has been nominated for a 2013 UK Theatre Award for its ambitious and widely-acclaimed Autumn 2012 season.

The nomination is in the ‘Achievement in Opera’ category, one of 15 award categories announced this morning by the Theatrical Management Association (TMA).

ETO’s Autumn 2012 nationwide tour, produced in collaboration with Aurora Orchestra , presented three very different, highly dramatic twentieth century operas – Benjamin Britten’s Albert Herring, The Lighthouse by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, The Emperor of Atlantis by Viktor Ullmann – and, paired with Ullmann’s opera, a staged performance of the Bach cantata Christ lag in Todesbanden.

All three productions aimed both to delight seasoned opera-goers and to offer an exciting way into opera for those new to the art-form, through dance, drama and song.

The season has already won a Whatsonstage.com Opera award for ‘Most Outstanding Contribution to London’s Operatic Scene’, and was shortlisted for the RPS Music Award for Opera and Music Theatre.

The UK Theatre Awards are the only nationwide awards to honour creative excellence and the outstanding achievement seen on and off stage throughout England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The Awards will be presented on Sunday 20 October at a lunchtime ceremony at London’s historic Guildhall.

ETO plans pioneering research into opera cinema broadcasts

23rd August 2013


The current trend for large opera companies to broadcast their work in cinemas has changed the audience experience of opera. Now English Touring Opera is teaming up with researchers at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama for the first academic study of the phenomenon in the UK.

180 UK cinemas now regularly broadcast the Met Opera Live in HD series, with an ever-expanding list of more than 200 cinemas also broadcasting the Royal Opera House’s cinema season. The research will explore the appeal of live opera and cinema broadcasts, if the emotional experience for audiences differs, and if lessons from the success of the cinema broadcasts can be used to increase the audience for live opera.

The research is funded by Creativeworks London, which 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 of Music & Drama’s Understanding Audiences research programme.

Research in cinemas and theatres will take place between October and December, 2013, with the findings being announced in early 2014.

The Barbican is involved as initial research partner. Cinema companies that would like to know more about their audiences for opera cinema broadcasts are invited to participate in the research. For more information on this opportunity please contact English Touring Opera on 0207 833 2555.

ETO to host three Linbury Prize finalists working on 2015 production of rare Donizetti opera

8th August 2013

The finalists for this year’s Linbury Prize, the UK’s most prestigious award for Stage Design, include three graduates designing for ETO’s Spring 2015 production of Donizetti’s great rare work Il furioso all’isola di San Domingo.

Florence de Mare (RADA), Rosanna Vize (Bristol Old Vic Theatre School), and Faye Bradley (also Bristol Old Vic Theatre School) will all work on the early stages of the design for ETO’s production. One of the three will subsequently win a commission to realise their design.

ll 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.

In the opera, a poor fool, with periods of great lucidity, subsists on a Caribbean island in a community of farmers and slaves. The clash of cultures, dream-like isolation, storm sequence, and unusually existential discourse make this a very special design opportunity.

Florence, Rosanne and Faye join nine other finalists of the Linbury Prize, with three designers each working with the National Theatre of Scotland, Nottingham Playhouse and Scottish Dance Theatre. One of the twelve finalists will be awarded the overall winner’s title.

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.

The Linbury Prize for Stage Design is sponsored by the Linbury Trust, one of the Sainsbury Family Charitable Trusts. On the judging panel this year are renowned designers Es Devlin, John Macfarlane and Christopher Oram.

Tickets available for opera recital in Perth

7th May 2013

Join us for an evening of opera in support of Perth College’s Alzheimer’s Family Study at Methven Castle (pictured) near Perth on Wednesday 15 May 2013.

ETO soloists Paula Sides (Despina in our current production of Così fan tutte) and Cozmin Sime (Edward III in The Siege of Calais) will sing a selection of arias and duets from operas including The Magic Flute, La traviata, Eugene Onegin and Handel’s Agrippina.

To book your place call 01738 877275 or email: finla.chalmers@perth.uhi.ac.uk.

Evening’s programme

Der Freischütz (Weber)
Kommt ein schlanker Bursch gegangen (Paula Sides)

I puritani (Bellini)
Ah! per sempre (Cozmin Sime)

La traviata (Verdi)
Duet (Paula Sides and Cozmin Sime)

Werther (Massenet)
Frère! Voyez! (Paula Sides)

Eugene Onegin (Tchaikovsky)
Kogda bi zhizn domashnim krugom (Cozmin Sime)

Agrippina (Handel)
Bel piacere (Paula Sides)

Die Zauberflöte (Mozart)
Duet for Papageno and Papagena (Paula Sides and Cozmin Sime)

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