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
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