It is wonderful to be back in Leeds. I love working with Opera North. It is some fifteen years or so since I first started treading the boards at The Grand Theatre with the Company and I hope it will continue for many years to come. I have sung in five of Janacek’s operas over the years. Jenik in The Makropulous Case at WNO, Tichon in Katia Kobanova at Opera Holland Park and here in Leeds I have sung Laca in Jenufa, Mazal in The Adventures of Mr Broucek and now Luka in From the House of the Dead.

Janacek is an extraordinary composer. From the House of the Dead was written at the end of his life and much of his rhythmic pattern in the vocal lines is based on spoken Czech. You feel he is pushing the boundaries of his own musical language to its extremities. The vocal line can seem very exposed, but this allows the narrative of the piece to flow with great ease. We are very lucky of course to have Opera North Music Director Richard Farnes conducting us. He has been very patient in these early rehearsals, and has given a great flow and journey to the music already. Its still very much work in progress and we are all still coming to terms with the music, but it could all lead to something very exciting indeed. I am surrounded by fantastic colleagues as is always the case with Opera North. David Kempster, who will sing Chekunov/Don Juan/Brahmine, is an old friend from our Royal Northern College of Music days. We haven’t worked together for many years, so it is great to catch up outside work as well. Alan Oke, Roddy Williams and Stephen Richardson were with me in Opera North’s Peter Grimes so it is so lovely to be in a piece with them again.

Having worked together in the past there is a trust and mutual respect there from the outset. However do please keep a place in your heart for Clare Wild who (besides Vick Sharp who has a cameo in act 2) is the only female singer in the cast. I’m quite sure that after a few weeks of a room full of men of all ages, shapes and sizes she will be screaming for a bit of girlie pampering. She is playing a lad of about thirteen in the piece and we are experimenting with pushing the boundaries of the relationship between Clare’s character Alyeya and my character Luka. Life in prison can often be harsh and brutal so I think I will be joining her for some pampering as well. It’s all very exciting and I’m sure it will be a unique evening at the opera. I will keep you informed on how we progress…