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Olivier Award-winning English Touring Opera returns with new Italian season

Photo of English Touring Opera cast performing onstage

The Olivier Award-winning English Touring Opera (ETO) is performing a new season of fully-staged Italian opera at Exeter Northcott Theatre this April and May.

Puccini’s masterpiece La bohème is joined by two rare Donizetti titles, The Wild Man of the West Indies (Il furioso all’isola di San Domingo) and The Siege of Calais(L’assedio di Calais). All three are sung in full costume, in Italian with English surtitles, accompanied by ETO’s chorus and 25-piece orchestra.

One of the greatest and most moving operas of all time,La bohème is a story of young love, starting on Christmas Eve in a Parisian garret. On this festive, snowy night the lovers Mimi and Rodolfo draw close, but poverty and ill-health force them apart.

The production features a group of 12 young local singers from Ladysmith Junior School in Exeter, recruited especially for ETO’s tour to sing a children’s chorus of street urchins.

La bohème is performed at Exeter Northcott Theatre at 7.30pm on Tuesday 28 April, Thursday 30 April and Friday 1 May.

Donizetti’s The Wild Man of the West Indies (Il furioso all’isola di San Domingo) was hugely successful when first performed in 1833, but then vanished until the late 20th century. The opera has never been staged in the UK, and this is its first performance in Exeter.

A love story of Shakespearean depth set on a Caribbean island, The Wild Man of the West Indies features beautiful arias in the Italian bel canto or ‘beautiful singing’ style, characterised by an elegant, highly melodic and refined sound. After his wife Eleonora is unfaithful, Cardenio flees for the island of San Domingo in the West Indies, where he loses his senses and his mind.

ETO’s new production is sung in Italian with English surtitles, directed by Iqbal Khan, who has previously worked for the National Theatre and Royal Shakespeare Company, for which he will direct Othello later this year.

The Wild Man of the West Indies is performed at Exeter Northcott Theatre at 7.30pm on Saturday 2 May.

Donizetti’s The Siege of Calais (L’assedio di Calais) tells the story of the citizens of Calais who offer up their lives to save their city from the besieging English army. Their sacrifice culminates in one of the most moving ensembles in all of opera, the momentous O sacra polve, o suol natio (O Sacred Earth).

The opera combines Donizetti’s sparkling score with a gritty depiction of the harsh realities of a city gripped by siege.

The Siege of Calais is performed at Exeter Northcott Theatre at 7.30pm on Wednesday 29 April.

James Conway, General Director of ETO, said: ‘This spring ETO’s opera productions are all Italian, and all sung in that beautiful language – even though not one is actually set in Italy!’ He added: ‘All three operas are romances, and all have music of great power, drawing out the very best of that remarkable thing, the human voice.’

ETO’s season also continues the company’s record of work for younger audiences, with two new productions touring to schools in the region.

Shackleton’s Cat, designed for children aged 7-11,is based on the true story of the tabby cat that accompanied Ernest Shackleton’s 1914-16 Antarctic expedition, and incorporates elements of the geography and history curriculum. Waxwings is a new interactive opera for children with severe special educational needs, based on the story of flight and the myth of Icarus.

Tickets: £33, £30, £24, £19
Concessions: £2 off all tickets except £33 tickets for u.26, benefits recipients, 60+.
Student standby: £8

For more information, please contact Jenny Hogg on 01392 223 989 or email her at j.l.hogg@exeter.ac.uk

Notes to editors
The winner of the 2014 Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Opera, English Touring Opera is the most prolific touring opera company in the UK, travelling annually to around 70 venues, more than any other English opera company. With its mission to offer opera to everyone, the company presents as many as 140 performances a year. There are two major annual tours, both performed in full costume with a live orchestra. The spring tour tends to be larger scale, while autumn tours tend to be more intimate: both seasons often come to venues which receive little or no other live opera. ETO’s outreach programme focuses on creative work, and ranges from community operas and music theatre workshops to productions for young people and their families, featuring artists from the company’s main-stage shows, touring to schools across the UK. The company is also a national leader in the provision of arts for dementia sufferers. ETO has helped launch the careers of singers including Amanda Echalaz and Sarah Connolly and gave the world première of Alexander Goehr’s opera Promised End in 2010. www.englishtouringopera.org.uk