Never been to an opera and unsure what to expect? We have gathered all the facts you need to know about English Touring Opera’s visit to us this season. We will be welcoming three of their shows to our stages, from familiar tales of broken dreams with a hint of horror to a children’s show about poo in Victorian Britain.
The Rake’s Progress | Norwich Theatre Royal | 8 Mar 24
This show is kicks off English Touring Opera’s run in Norwich with its tale of a young man’s decline into insanity. Despite the subject not seeming the cheeriest, this story has become a modern classic within the opera world.
The story follows the life of Tom Rakewell, a young man who deserts his sweetheart to travel to London in the company of a gentleman called Nick Shadow, promising Tom wealth and fortunes. However, we soon discover Nick’s real identity… the Devil. Thus, resulting in some serious misadventures on Tom’s end. The poor chap ends up in a madhouse, resulting in some serious misadventures on Tom’s end. The poor chap ends up in a madhouse, and his dreams of the future are shattered.
The opera is sprinkled with strong and stunning vocals throughout, with Frederick Jones taking the lead as Tom and Jerome Knox as Nick Shadow. There are clear parallels in the show to modern life, befriending the Devil aside. The show delicately explores the hopes and dreams we all yearn for, delving into what sacrifices must be made to achieve these dreams. And ultimately, the message is to not leave your sweetheart for the Devil because karma will haunt you forever.
Fun fact: The show’s plot is based upon the infamous series of paintings by William Hogarth. Stravinsky was inspired to write the opera after seeing them in an exhibition in 1951.
Manon Lescaut | Norwich Theatre Royal | 9 Mar 24
Unlike A Rake’s Progress, Manon Lescaut is slightly less melodramatic. But it is still an opera, so do expect some ill-fated incidents. This story focuses on the love life of Manon, a woman being sent to live out her days as a nun by her brother, Lescaut. On their journey, she meets a charming young man who is enthralled by her beauty, and they run away together. Manon tires of life with her lover when their cash begins to dry up, so leaves him for an older and far richer gentleman. Growing bored of the richer man and missing the passion of her previous lover, she returns to him. This is when things start to go downhill for Manon, drastically.
To avoid spoilers, we won’t go into finer details but there’s a few run-ins with the law, a trip to the USA and some incredibly difficult farewells. Showcasing a range of English Touring Opera’s best voices, Manon Lescaut is a devastating drama that explores and exposes the rigid double standards imposed on women by society.
Fun Fact: Near the end of the show, there is an emotional section called the Parade Chorus, where it mirrors an infamous Game of Thrones scene, parading the ‘bad’ characters down the street!
The Great Stink | Norwich Theatre Stage Two | 10 Mar 24
A far cry from the other operas English Touring Opera are bringing to Norwich, The Great Stink is a fun show for a far younger audience… about poo! This hilarious production is created for children aged 7-11, who enjoy all things stinky.
Set in the depths of Victorian London, the audience gets to meet a range of interesting characters. Queen Victoria turns up, along with Prime Minister Disraeli, and even the River Thames herself! Though she has certainly seen better days. The Great Stink is brought to life using interactive moments, peculiar puppetry, marvellous musicians and, of course, amazing singers.
Fun Fact: This is the second show in English Touring Opera’s series of operas about climate change for children!
All English Touring Opera’s shows are sung in English, so you don’t have to worry about not following along. Plus, The Rake’s Progress and Manon Lescaut also feature English surtitles! If it’s your first time at an opera show, just sit back and relax, knowing that you’re in for an adventure. Let the vocal skills of the singers sweep you away, using purely their lungs to project their voice across the auditorium.
Don’t miss English Touring Opera whilst they’re here between 8 – 10 Mar. For more information or to book, visit norwichtheatre.org or call the Box Office on 01603 630 000.