ETO's spring tour features three Italian operas: The Siege of Calais; The Wild Man of the West Indies, La bohème - plus an English cat
Puccini’s Parisian tragedy La bohème needs no introduction; it is one of the most familiar and most frequently performed operas in the world. This is a new production directed by ETO’s General Director James Conway and sung, as with all the operas in this season, in Italian with surtitles.
The other two operas in the season, however, may come as more of a surprise.
Donizetti’s The Siege of Calais (L’assedio di Calais) may be slightly familiar, at least to ETO audiences, as it was toured in 2013. The story of the burghers of Calais who offer up their lives to save their city from the besieging English army, it raises the question of what a citizen owes to his city or country. Donizetti was never entirely satisfied with the third act and it is frequently staged without it. The company is reviving James Conway’s two-act adaptation with designs inspired by the siege of Stalingrad.
The third opera in the season is the real surprise, another work by Donizetti which has never been staged in the UK or toured as extensively anywhere in the world in modern times. The Wild Man of the West Indies (Il furioso all’isola di San Domingo) was premiered in 1833 and was hugely successful both in Italy and abroad before vanishing from the repertoire until the 1950s. The libretto is an adaptation of a play based on the story of Cardenio and Lucinda from Cervantes’ Don Quixote - a love story which most unusually focuses on a baritone as the hero; a husband sent mad by his wife’s infidelity and discovered, when the opera opens, on the island of Santo Domingo.
Alongside the tour is a programme of operas for primary schools and families. Shackleton’s Cat, which has some half dozen performances open to the public, is a new opera aimed at 7-11 year olds and tells the story of the voyage and destruction of the Endurance 100 years ago, and the subsequent tale of survival against the odds. It’s created by composer Russell Hepplewhite and the team behind ETO’s award winning Laika the Spacedog.
English Touring Opera’s spring tour opens on March 7 with Donizetti’s The Siege of Calais, (director James Conway, conductor Jeremy Silver) and continues with Donizetti’s The Wild Man of the West Indies (director Iqbal Khan, conductor Jeremy Silver) opening on 12 March and Puccini’s La bohème (director James Conway, conductor Michael Rosewell) opening on 13 March, all at London’s Hackney Empire. The first public performance of Shackleton’s Cat is in Poole on March 21.