By Stuart Leeks, Marketing Officer, Opera North

I went to a wonderful concert at Huddersfield Town Hall last week, as part of the orchestral season that Opera North runs throughout the year for Kirklees Council in Huddersfield and Dewsbury Town Halls. The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic played, conducted by their tall, handsome, prodigiously talented Russian Music Director Vasily Petrenko.  At only 33, he’s done wonders for this orchestra since he took over there three years ago.

Petrenko can be a showman when it’s called for – his conducting of Stravinsky’s Scherzo à la Russe became an elegant and entertaining little dance routine. But he and his orchestra also had the measure of the serious business of the evening, Mahler’s 4th symphony.  I had the good fortune to find myself sitting next to the conductor Alexander Ingram at the concert.  Alex is working with us at Opera North at the moment, assisting Richard Farnes on the Spring season production Don Carlos, and he will assist Petrenko at Glyndebourne next summer on Verdi’s Macbeth.  We both agreed that we have mixed feelings about Mahler – I love the first two symphonies, but struggle somewhat thereafter.  (My problem, obviously, not Mahler’s)  But with playing of this quality it was hard not to be won over, especially in the 4th symphony’s beautiful slow movement.  

Anyway, enough of that one – you’ve missed it!  But it’s not too late to catch the RLPO in Huddersfield again on 12 June, conducted on this occasion by Owain Arwel Hughes.

We’ve been going through a bit of a Russian phase recently at Opera North.  Shostakovich’s light and crazy 1950s musical comedy Paradise Moscow is on the main stage and we’ve just come to the end of a Russia season in our new-ish Leeds venue, the Howard Assembly Room.  So there could hardly be a better way to end the Kirklees season than with Shostakovich’s most popular symphony, the 5th, written, so the composer is alleged to have claimed, as ‘a Soviet artist’s response to justified criticism’ (Stalin hadn’t liked an opera he’d written).  People have been arguing about what he really meant by this for years, or even if these words were his, or those of a Party hack.  But, whatever the case, the symphony itself is an overwhelming experience – emotionally and sonically – and that will be especially true in Huddersfield Town Hall.  Staying home and listening to the CD is not an option: if you haven’t heard it live, you haven’t heard it. 

The lion’s share of the Kirklees Concert Season is given by the Orchestra of Opera North, but most of the leading orchestras in the North make guest appearances; the RLPO, the BBC Philharmonic, the Northern Sinfonia and the Manchester Camerata are all regulars.

Visit our website to see what else is coming up for the Orchestra of Opera North.

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