From the Blog

Opera North



  • Puccini’s much-loved tragedy Madama Butterfly returns alongside Opera North’s first ever production of Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera (A Masked Ball).


  • Whistle Stop Opera takes a bite-sized Don Giovanni into community settings and schools.


  • Little Listeners explores the thrilling sound of brass in a special concert for children under 5.


  • The Kingdom under the Sea offers an interactive family performance inspired by Madama Butterfly and traditional Japanese folk tales.


A trio of powerful Italian blockbusters is bringing desire, betrayal and revenge to the Theatre Royal this Spring as award-winning opera company Opera North returns to Newcastle with a thrilling season of Fatal Passions.

The Company’s critically-acclaimed production of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly is followed by a whirlwind of seduction on a grand – and ultimately deadly – scale in Mozart’s tale of the irredeemable hedonist, Don Giovanni. Saturday sees a performance of the lesser-known Un ballo in maschera (A Masked Ball), Verdi’s insightful look at the tragic consequences of mixing politics and personal passions which still resonates as strongly as ever in today’s world.

A deeply poignant tale of love and betrayal, Madama Butterfly is an iconic example of Puccini’s dramatic genius. A young Japanese girl, Cio-Cio-San (Anne Sophie Duprels), falls in love with, and marries, a U.S. naval officer (Merūnas Vitulskis), only to be cruelly deserted by him when he returns to his homeland. Together with Pinkerton’s child and her maid Suzuki (Ann Taylor), she patiently awaits his return, not realising that her husband has taken an American wife in the intervening years.

Madama Butterfly features some of Puccini’s most famous and beautiful music including the haunting aria ‘Un bel di’ (One Fine Day) and the gentle ‘Humming Chorus’ which Butterfly sings while still hopeful for Pinkerton’s return. To enable even more people to enjoy its haunting power, there will be an audio-described performance for blind and visually-impaired audience members on Thursday 22 March, with a touch tour beforehand so that they can experience the set and costumes prior to the performance.

Passion at its most extreme leads to cold-blooded murder in Mozart’s masterful re-telling of the story of Don Juan and his licentious lifestyle, Don Giovanni. This revival of Alessandro Talevi’s imaginative and compelling production takes the audience on an exhilarating trip through different eras, each of which is brought imaginatively to life through set and costumes designed by Madeleine Boyd.

We join the unrepentant Don (William Dazeley) as he seduces his way across Europe, little realising that he is being pursued not only by a wronged ex-lover, Donna Elvira (Elizabeth Atherton), but also by Donna Anna (Jennifer Davis) seeking to avenge the death of her father, and Masetto (Ross McInroy) who wants his bride, Zerlina (Kathryn Rudge), back. Mozart’s darkest, craziest work mixes broad comedy, tense drama and spine-tingling music.

Politics come to the fore in the Company’s first ever production of Un ballo in maschera (A Masked Ball), Verdi’s opera is based on a real-life event: the assassination of King Gustavus of Sweden in 1792. However, it is an unrequited love triangle which lies at the heart of all the political intrigue which ultimately sets the seal on the fate of the King – despite his having already decided that duty and loyalty must take precedent over his feeling for Amelia, the wife of his most loyal ally.

Rafael Rojas returns to the stage as King Gustavus, following his acclaimed appearance last year in the title role in Andréa Chenier. He is joined by Hungarian soprano Adrienn Miksch who makes her UK debut as Amelia, and by New Zealand-born Phillip Rhodes who sang Silvio in Pagliacci and Alfio in Cavalleria rusticana in the recent Little Greats season. Richard Farnes, Opera North’s former music director, conducts.

Away from the stage, Whistle Stop Opera returns with a lively, accessible half hour introduction to the characters and plot of Mozart’s Don Giovanni. The work will be performed on Monday 19 March at 4pm in The Lit & Phil on Westgate Road. While Opera North is in residency in Newcastle, the Whistle Stop performers will also be going into secondary schools across the city where the pupils will be invited to question the cast following the performance.

For even younger members of the family, the brass players from the Orchestra of Opera North will be holding a relaxed Little Listeners concert at Seven Stories on Thursday 22 March. During the 45-minute session, the tots and toddlers will be encouraged to move around freely, while discovering all about the different brass instruments and the unusual noises the musicians can make with them.

This will be followed on the Saturday by three performances at Seven Stories from nationally-acclaimed storyteller Ursula Holden-Gill who will entertain children from 4+ with an adaptation of the traditional Japanese folktale, The Kingdom under the Sea. This interactive, magical adventure will ignite imaginations and stir creativity as it whisks audiences to the bottom of the ocean to visit the majestic palace of the Dragon King, ride on the shell of a turtle and discover a mysterious treasure.

Opera North’s Education Programme is supported by the Opera North Future Fund and The Whitaker Charitable Foundation.




Performance Diary

Theatre Royal, Newcastle-upon-Tyne

Box office: 08448 11 21 21 or


Tue     20 Mar                      Madama Butterfly             7.30pm

Wed    21 Mar                      Don Giovanni                     7.00pm

Thu    22 Mar                      Madama Butterfly              7.30pm     audio-described performance

Fri      23 Mar                       Don Giovanni                      7.00pm                               

Sat      24 Mar                      Un ballo in maschera        7.00pm


Whistle Stop Opera: Don Giovanni

Lit & Phil, Westgate Road

Monday 19 March, 4pm

Tickets: Free



Little Listeners

Seven Stories, Ouseburn Valley

Thursday 22 March, 11.30am

Tickets: £5 per person (entrance to the centre additional but not required)

Box Office: 0300 330 1095 ext 300



The Kingdom under the Sea

Seven Stories, Ouseburn Valley

Saturday 24 March, 11.30am, 12.45pm and 2.30pm (relaxed performance)

Tickets: £5 per person (entrance to the centre additional but not required)

Box Office: 0300 330 1095 ext 300





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