Live Opera Returns to London with Star-studded Cast

PAGLIACCI by Ruggero Leoncavallo
Saturday 3rd October 8pm, St James’ Church, Islington, N1 8PH

Tickets released at 10am on Thursday September 17th on

Peter Auty
Elin Pritchard
Robert Hayward
Nicholas Lester
Aled Hall

Conducted by John Andrews
Directed by Christopher Luscombe
Berrak Dyer – piano
Fenella Humphries – violin
Sophie Gledhill – cello

After six months without opera and theatre, celebrated Welsh soprano, Elin Pritchard, dared to dream. Let’s gather together some friends and colleagues and put on a show. Not easy with social distancing, no theatre and, let’s face it, no budget. But if we were to strip opera to its emotional core of music and drama, and if everyone takes a leap of faith, with a few days of intense rehearsal maybe we can make some magic happen again.

She turned to one of the most exciting operas in the repertoire. Pagliacci has been thrilling audiences ever since its sensational première in 1892. One of the finest and most vivid examples of Italian verismo, it explodes onto the stage and doesn’t loosen its grip until the final curtain. It’ll be heard for one night only at St James’s Church in Islington. Opera at its most visceral. A riot of raw passion, set in the sun-drenched Calabrian countryside. Love, betrayal, jealousy and revenge . . . 75 minutes of high drama and soaring melody.

This production, deliberately fleet of foot, is all about the music. Five leading British soloists, three distinguished instrumentalists, a compact chorus of recent graduates, Royal Shakespeare Company Associate Artist Christopher Luscombe directing and John Andrews at the helm – ‘one of our liveliest, most elegant and talented conductors.’ (Opera Now)

Elin Pritchard (Nedda) said: ‘By coming together to perform Pagliacci we will keep our passion for opera alive whilst promoting this wonderful art form. Between us there’s a wealth of experience, dedication and creativity topped off with friendship and huge respect. Let’s hope this is a recipe for a great evening out.

Conductor John Andrews said: ‘This seems such a timely piece at the moment. Performers are struggling so much under current conditions, but the need to put on your costume, do your make-up and give an audience a damn good show, is as strong as ever.’

Director Christopher Luscombe said: ‘I’m overjoyed to be back in a rehearsal room, especially as it means I get to work with Elin, Robert and Nicholas, who were all so splendid in my Falstaff last year at the Grange Festival. Not only that, but John Andrews and I lost a show this summer to the wretched coronavirus, so this feels like the best kind of revenge!’

When Peter Auty sang Canio in Pagliacci for Opera North, The Spectator wrote: ‘Peter Auty’s Canio stood out, dramatically frightening and with his voice on its best form…Jon Vickers set the standard here, but Auty can be ranked alongside him.’

Elin Pritchard’s performance as Tatyana in Eugene Onegin at Danish National Opera was acclaimed by ‘It is rare that I have experienced such an expressive and intense sound with such superior technical expertise in a lyric soprano. The fragile pianissimo is expressively piercing and passionate, the fortissimo gets the nuances and colours that so few can achieve.’

The Sunday Times said that Robert Hayward ‘musters a voice to curb thunder as Wotan’ at English National Opera. ‘He summoned the fire god Loge with ringing tone, effortless and dead in the centre of the notes.’

Nicholas Lester sang Orphée for English National Opera ‘with all the style, panache and ego-driven confidence the part required, offering a vocal performance to match, often of great beauty.’ (Seen and Heard International) said of Aled Hall’s performance in Tosca for English Touring Opera: ‘One of this country’s busiest and best character tenors, he makes far more of the baleful henchman Spoletta than exists on the page. The voice is in fine fettle too, so he’s a luxury piece of casting.’

The Guardian, reviewing English Touring Opera’s Elisabetta commented: ‘John Andrews conducts with an ideal combination of care and panache.’

Christopher Luscombe’s production of Falstaff at the Grange Festival was described by The Financial Times as ‘breathtaking in its accuracy and elan.’