If Opera North’s 2018/19 season opened with the Little Greats, it is closing with the Massive Classics.
For the new year we have Verdi’s A Masked Ball just after Madam Butterfly and shortly before Don Giovanni: works that would tax even the most generously subsidised companies.
Director Tim Albery and set and costume designer Hannah Clark choose to move the action out of time by first hinting at Fascist Italy, but then springing 18th century debauchery on us in the Act 2.
These are considerable contrasts, but ones that work.
The singing is universally splendid: not a weak link in the evening.
Opera North favourite Rafael Rojas, as King Gustavo, gives the kind of performacne we have come to expect from him.
His acting is as reliable as an atomic clock while the voice never fails to thrill.
He is not alone. Phillip Rhodes as Count Anckerstrom gives a good account of the betrayed husband with Adrienn Miksch as the tortured wife.
However, the accolades do not stop with the leads. Patricia Bardon, playing the fortune teller Ulrica, is that rare creature, a genuine contralto, and Tereza Gevergyan, as the mercurial Oscar, received thunderous applause at the curtain.
Another to be so acclaimed was the highly esteemed Richard Farnes, returning to the Leeds Grand podium.
Opera North is not afraid to take risks.
This production is challenging, but the audience left knowing they had experienced an original take on a gold standard opera.
A Masked Ball is at Leeds Grand until Friday March 2.
The season continutes with Mozart’s Don Giovanni .
It is on from February 17 to March 23.
The season then tours to Salford, Nottingham and Newcastle.
Opera North returns to Leeds with Salome by Richard Strauss is on from April 19 to May 16.
Tickets are available from the box office on 0844 848 2700.
Alternatively you can book on line.