English Touring Opera’s 2023 production of Cinderella © Richard Hubert Smith

  • New English translation of Manon Lescaut by director Jude Christian
  • New productions and opera for children, The Great Stink, to reach thousands of people in more than 20 towns and cities across the country

24 February – 28 May 2024

English Touring Opera (ETO) presents new productions of Puccini’s Manon Lescaut and Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress for its Spring 2024 tour. The season explores the temptations and pitfalls of the big city, both in the larger-scale productions and their new opera for children, The Great Stink. Continuing ETO’s mission to make exceptional artistic experiences available to all, the tour brings outstanding live productions and impactful education and community projects to more than 20 towns and cities across the country.

The tour opens with a radical, dreamlike interpretation of Manon Lescaut, a devastating depiction of a woman wrestling with her desire for love on her own terms, and the double standards imposed on her by society. Packed with memorable music and heartbreaking drama, this new production presents a unique modern take on one of Puccini’s most loved operas. The production is directed by Jude Christian – recently acclaimed for her “brilliantly provocative” (The Guardian) Titus Andronicus at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse – who also brings her sharp, punchy new English translation to the piece. Gerry Cornelius, ETO’s Music Director, conducts. Soprano Jenny Stafford, whose previous roles for English Touring Opera include Despina in Così fan tutte, Melissa in Amadigi, Mimì in La bohème and soloist in their staging of St John Passion,sings the title role for the first time, with Gareth Morris as Des Grieux, Aidan Edwards as Lescaut and Edward Hawkins as Geronte.

The tour also includes a new production of Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress, charting young Tom Rakewell’s journey from unexpected inheritance to ruin – an initially cynical tale which develops into one of redemption and humanity. Polly Graham, Artistic Director of Longborough Festival Opera, directs this multilayered production, and musical polymath Jack Sheen, who recently conducted Last Days at the Royal Opera House, conducts. Tenor Frederick Jones sings the role of Tom Rakewell, a role he has performed before to critical acclaim – Bachtrack stated that he “seemed born to sing Rakewell, so far did his fine singing and acting make it difficult to recall a more persuasive interpretation”. Nazan Fikret, fresh from performing Clorinda in ETO’s 2023 production of Cinderella, stars as Anne Trulove, with Jerome Knox as Nick Shadow and Lauren Young as Baba.

ETO’s Learning and Participation programme is central to the company’s mission and reaches over 10,000 people each year through productions in theatres, schools, museums and libraries. This continues in the Spring 2024 with The Great Stink, the second in ETO’s trilogy of operas for children exploring climate change and the environment. Set against the backdrop of the Great Stink of 1858 – when the Thames was so polluted that London was covered in a foul fog – this fun-filled family opera is brought to life with singers, musicians and puppets as well as interactive moments where children will get to meet Queen Victoria, Prime Minister Disraeli and even the Thames herself. Written by Hannah Khalil and composed by Omar Shahryar, the opera will tour to theatres, libraries and museums across the country.

Robin Norton-Hale, ETO’s General Director, said“With their themes of the importance of love and human connection over greed and isolation, Manon Lescaut and The Rake’s Progress – and The Great Stink too – have a great deal to say about how we live in an increasingly divided world. The three operas showcase a variety of musical styles, and I’m delighted that we have assembled such exciting creative teams to respond to these brilliant composers with different – and thrilling – approaches to design and staging. At ETO we strive to bring the best in opera to audiences up and down the country, and this season should have something for everyone; romance, modernism, puppetry, poetry – and of course excellent music-making”.

Audiences will also be able to experience insights into the world of opera with ETO Unboxed, a programme of live and digital events exploring the multi-disciplinary and multi-genre nature of opera covering music, theatre, design, language, movement and more. ETO Unboxed events will focus on the themes of the temptations of the big city, with more details to be announced soon.

Later in the year, ETO and Britten Pears Arts co-produce Judith Weir’s Blond Eckbert, a dark fairy tale of isolation, guilt and despair in a new production directed by Robin Norton-Hale and conducted by Gerry Cornelius. The production will open the Aldeburgh Festival on 7 June, with cast to be announced soon.

The spring tour opens at London’s Hackney Empire with Manon Lescaut on 24 February and The Rake’s Progress on 2 March before both shows are toured across England until the end of May. More information and tickets can be found on the English Touring Opera website.