What it is like for you returning to the role of Robin Oakapple and to Opera North?

Grant Doyle as Robin Oakapple and Amy Freston as Rose Maybud in Ruddigore

“It is such an honour to be asked to reprise the role for Opera North in this brilliant production of Ruddigore. I am very grateful for being given the opportunity in the first place, and to know that it was successful enough to be revived so soon is just icing on the cake.” 

How does the rehearsal process differ for a revived role rather than a new one?

“The rehearsal process is quite different, it begins with simply remembering what we did the first time around, and then becomes an exercise in finding freshness and spontaneity. Also it is a chance to polish up some rough edges. I have done revivals before where I wasn’t in the original production and I find that more difficult – wearing another’s shoes – but this is a joy. The rehearsals have been progressing very swiftly because we are lucky enough to have all of the original cast back, who are all brilliant actors and singers and are fantastic to work with. We are now ready for Jo Davies and her team to put it on the stage again.” 

How do you find performing the two different ‘characters’ of Robin Oakapple and Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd?

Grant Doyle (seated) as Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd, with members of the Opera North chorus as the ghosts of the Murgatroyd ancestors

“The important thing I have to remember is that there aren’t two characters, it is really Robin all the time. I try to keep him as normal and affable as possible. When he becomes Sir Ruthven, he is forced into playing the part of a bad Baronet but never feels comfortable and after much guilt and comedy torture, finds a way out of it.  It is a gift of a role – a character playing a character, with all the over-the-top fun that brings.”

What do you enjoy most about this production?

“The best things about this production is all of my colleagues, who create a mad world of comedy characters around me which still make me chuckle, the clear and deft storytelling of Jo Davies’ direction and the exquisite sepia flavoured costume and design – love that hat and cape!”


Grant Doyle plays Robin Oakapple / Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd in Gilbert & Sullivan’s Ruddigore, which opens on Friday 30 September at Leeds Grand Theatre, before touring to Nottingham Theatre Royal, Newcastle Theatre Royal, The Lowry, Salford and the Barbican, London. More details and booking information is available here.

With two weeks to go until the opening of Gilbert & Sullivan’s Ruddigore, Kay Shepherd explains why returning to the choreography is like meeting old friends:

Hal Cazalet as Richard Dauntless (centre). Photo: Robert Workman

“Having had such a joyous time choreographing the original production of Ruddigore for Opera North in 2010, I was both excited and a little apprehensive about returning for the revival. Happily, any concerns about keeping the working process fresh were unfounded and I am now at the start of rehearsal week  three, with two really positive weeks behind me.

“Most of the cast is the same as before and I was correct in believing that the majority of the movement and dance would ‘come back’ to the performers’ bodies with a little help from music, lyrics, props, other actors and myself.

“The rediscovery of movements is sometimes like bumping into old friends… much excitement! We then have to remember why we became friends in the first place and not get overtaken with the joy of muscle memory.

Richard Burkhard as Sir Despard Murgatroyd. Photo: Robert Workman

“Most of the choreography in the production is as before, but there have been natural developments through re-rehearsal and I have made a few small changes.

“The main objective for me is for the final product to be clear in style and narrative, and for the performers to look and feel comfortable with what I ask them to do.

“And so onwards. I like Leeds, I like Opera North and I like Ruddigore. Happy Days.”

Kay Shepherd
Choreographer, Ruddigore

Opera North’s production of Ruddigore, by Gilbert & Sullivan, directed by Jo Davies, opens at Leeds Grand Theatre on Friday 30 September. For more information and booking details, click here.

Listen to some sound clips from the production here.

Ruddigore – ‘Cheerily carols the lark’ by Opera North

Ruddigore – ‘I once was a very abandon’d person’ by Opera North

Heather Shipp (right) as Mad Margaret in Ruddigore. Photo credit: Robert Workman

Week Four of rehearsals for Carmen.  We have been enacting steamy, sweltering scenes in Acts I and II whilst trudging through the snow to and from rehearsals.  This is my biggest role for Opera North to date, the last being Mad Margaret in Ruddigore, .

Daniel Kramer and I have been looking forward to a project together for over two years and you couldn’t get any better than Carmen.  This will be my 6th production and it couldn’t be more different.  Carmen is very challenging physically and vocally but can also be a role that my other mezzo friends and I have felt that somehow can be really difficult to pull off. I say that in that there are so many perceptions of her being this Bohemian femme fatale that is so removed from just you and I, ordinary girlies.  Daniel’s view has made her seem really real to me for the first time and there is so much more proper interaction with the other characters and real relationships being forged.

The cast is great. I am so excited.  I had my first costume fitting the other day and couldn’t wipe the huge smile off my face for the whole of the two hours.  I’ve got my eye on the gorgeous pair of boots I get to parade in in Acts III and IV.  Was I going to be taller than my tenor I wondered as I tried them but no, I think that will be just right!  The dresses are just the right length to cover the increasing amounts of bruises I am collecting on my arms and legs too!!! Never have I been more man-handled!

Out of hours it is so great to keep bumping into colleagues that I haven’t seen for years or work with regularly, particularly my pals from Bregenz.  I worked with Rossyn who is conducting The Portrait, in Bregenz two years ago (another Opera North production).

So, things are good, challenging, inspiring and the first night really isn’t that far away. After Christmas it will be all guns blazing as we start on stage.

Carmen opens on 17 January in Leeds Grand Theatre

Don Carlos

2009 has already proven to be a momentous year for Opera North; our 30th birthday year and the opening of the Howard Assembly Room alone,  and Opera North’s 2009/10 season is set to show even more creativity and ambition for opera and arts lovers alike, with an exciting repertoire on the mainstage and in our new venue.

Presenting five new productions, including our third World Premiere in as many years, Swanhunter, we will show innovation, with our first ever production of Janáček’s offbeat comedy, The Adventures of Mr Brouček, Opera North’s nurturing of young talent in Massenet’s Werther, our continued commitment to exploring the lighter areas of musical theatre in Gilbert & Sullivan’s Ruddigore and our desire to continually reach out to new audiences with our family focused commission, Swanhunter. All this in addition to championing fantastic vocal talent in Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda.

This season we revive two popular operas, Puccini’s La Bohème and Mozart’s Così fan tutte. Phyllida Lloyd’s La Bohème returns after nearly a decade, whilst Tim Albery’s Così fan tutte has a largely young cast of familiar and unfamiliar faces to Opera North. We hope that both will bring a whole new generation of audiences to opera.

Following on from the success of The Adventures of Pinocchio in 2007, Opera North has commissioned the same writing partnership of composer Jonathan Dove and librettist Alasdair Middleton to produce a family-focused chamber opera for the Autumn. Swanhunter is based on a Norse myth and is being lead by Opera North’s highly esteemed education department, further extending our relationships and relevance to young people. It will premiere in November at the Howard Assembly Room in Leeds and will then tour to small scale venues throughout the North of England.

The culmination of Transformation was the opening of the Howard Assembly Room at Opera North earlier this year and we have seen an exciting programme to date, in addition to the venue now functioning well as the home and rehearsal space of the Orchestra of Opera North and the education department. This is the first space to be programmed by Opera North and we look forward to announcing the future programme, which will continue to encompass a diverse range of artforms, from classical recitals and contemporary concerts to small-scale opera and visual art.

We very much hope you enjoy the new season and you can access the full press release here.

Richard Mantle, General Director