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Opera and Ballet International: Three Ellen Kent Productions

The award-winning producer Ellen Kent returns to the New Theatre with Rigoletto, La Traviata and Madama Butterfly
Enduring love can and does survive despite all efforts to corrupt it

The award-winning producer Ellen Kent returns to the New Theatre after her recent critically acclaimed British and Irish national tours of Nabucco, Aida and La Boheme with three stunning productions Rigoletto (February 19), La Traviata (February 20) and Madama Butterfly (February 21).


 

Kent has had many adventures over the past 24 years producing Opera’s from Eastern Europe, working with Presidents and national opera houses throughout. Even encountering the Orange Revolution in Odessa, which broke out during her rehearsals of Butterfly and Traviata in 2005. This year Ellen set out to work on a tour with The Ukraine National Opera in Kharkiv and found herself 6 miles from a very bloody civil war. Kent thought: “Here we go again.” But as she previously said in 2005 ‘The show must go on!’ And was still prepared to travel and rehearse in Kharkiv. However, Ellen was persuaded by the British Foreign Office not to travel due to fatalities and kidnappings, not to mention bombings in the area. With the support of the Kharkiv Opera, Ellen managed to transport the complete sets, props and costumes for all three productions, despite being close to the bombing and insurgents robbing transport on the Ukrainian roads. Ellen moved the entire operation to the safe haven of the National Opera of Moldova where she has worked for over 18 years. Ion Grosu the director offered Ellen the entire support of the opera house to enable Ellen to complete the project. The company on tour, where the operas are receiving excellent notices, includes Ukrainians, Moldovans and Russians all working together in perfect harmony, it seems that Ellen’s powers of diplomacy have succeeded where many heads of state have failed in recent days.

Rigoletto is based on a play by Victor Hugo, who wrote Les Miserables, so Verdi has a libretto worthy of his talent. In keeping with Ellen Kent’s eye for detail and flair for the dramatic this production includes a highly praised chorus, full orchestra and handpicked soloists. The international baritone Vladimir Dragos, will be starring beside the beautiful soprano, Alyona Kistenyova from the Odessa Opera, singing Gilda together with the Spanish Tenor Giorgi Meladze. Originally from Georgia, he has acquired critical acclaim in Europe, singing in Milan, Spain and across Europe. Giorgio Meladze sang with Jose Carreras at the Austrian opera festival Tiroler Festspiele Erl this summer. Meladze will also be singing the Duke. Maria Tonina will be starring as Gilda. In 2005 her operatic talent won her a scholarship from the CEE Musiktheater, Vienna, which led to taking part in the Summer Academy Master Classes in Heiligenkreuz, Austria.

This Spectacular magnificently-staged production is inspired by the tradition of renaissance painting. Reflecting the sexual depravity of the Mantuan ducal court, the opera will feature seductive naked chorus girls. When Hugo originally wrote the story it was called The King Who Amuses Himself, and it was banned, because of its sexual content – officially but in reality for political reasons as it made covert jabs at politicians of the time. Verdi turned the tragedy into an opera and tried to recreate the setting in a very licentious court. Although, entirely fitting for naked women to appear, it incurred the outrage of the censors and the rape scene in Verdi’s original version created an uproar at the time. The opera was banned after one performance until he agreed to remove the scene. He then battled with censors in Italy and renamed the Opera, Rigoletto.

Wishing to reproduce Verdi’s original intentions Ellen Kent has included beautiful naked women on stage and has tastefully reintroduced the rape scene. Also appearing will be the magnificent golden eagle, (UK only) last seen in Kent’s Tosca and two regal hunting dogs.

La Traviata is Verdi’s outstanding interpretation of one of the most popular love stories of the 19th century, La Dame aux Camelias by Alexander Dumas, a tragic tale of searing passion and memorable music Dumas made no secret of the fact that his book and play were autobiographically based on his own affair with Marie Duplessis, who died in 1847 of tuberculosis at the age of 23. Kent was fascinated by the book which she read whilst rehearsing Traviata in the Ukraine in 2011. Kent adds a scene from the book to the overture where Dumas, known in the book as Amand, attends an auction at a Paris apartment not realising it is his ex mistress who has recently died and her effects are being sold off to pay her debts. Starring opposite Alyona Kistenyova is Ruslan Zinevych the international Ukrainian tenor who sang many times in Italy including singing with Pavarotti. Winner of many international awards, Ruslan has sung many times for Ellen over the last few years including her La Traviata at the Royal Albert Hall and continues to impress audiences with his passion and power. Making his debut as Alfredo in an Ellen Kent production is the Spanish Tenor Giorgio Meladze. Originally from Georgia, he has acquired critical acclaim in Europe, singing in Milan, Spain and across Europe. Giorgio Meladze sang with Jose Carreras at the Austrian opera festival Tiroler Festspiele Erl this summer. Maria Tonina will be starring as Violetta. In 2005 her operatic talent won her a scholarship from the CEE Musiktheater, Vienna, which led to taking part in the Summer Academy Master Classes in Heiligenkreuz, Austria.

This operatic version of La Dame Aux Camelias tells the romantic story about the love and life of the courtesan, Violetta. Based on a true story, it tells of the passionate consumptive Violetta and her doomed love for the aristocratic Alfredo. There are many echoes of Verdi’s own life in Traviata and he threw himself into the music. This was also Verdi’s venture into operatic realism as was Rigoletto, rejecting distant historical settings. The highlights include the Brindisi, the best known drinking song in opera, the duet Un Di Felice and the haunting aria Addio Del Passato.

The clarity of the plot seems matched by a single moral idea – that enduring love can and does survive despite all efforts to corrupt it. If in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, it is Pinkerton’s callous abandonment of Butterfly on which the tragedy hinges, in Traviata it is Alfredo’s dogged determination to stand by his fallen woman, against all odds, which brings out a sense of redemption. Brilliantly, only in death, are Violetta’s bourgeois values relinquished, and she is redeemed, ultimately, not as a fallen woman, but a risen one.

Madama Butterfly is Puccini’s popular tale which the hit West End musical Miss Saigon is based. International Korean soprano Elena Dee, whose emotional portrayal of Mimi in Ellen Kent’s recent La Boheme received such high praise, will be singing the role of the tragic Cio Cio San. Zinevych who’s Rudolpho in La Boheme so captured hearts and who has sung with Pavarotti returns with the 70 strong company to perform his Pinkerton. Making his debut as Pinkerton in an Ellen Kent production is the Spanish Tenor Giorgio Meladze. Originally from Georgia, he has acquired critical acclaim in Europe, singing in Milan, Spain and across Europe. Giorgio Meladze sang with Jose Carreras at the Austrian opera festival Tiroler Festspiele Erl this summer.

Music is provided by the esteemed Chisinau National Philharmonic orchestra and conducted by Nicolae Dohotaru.

Madama Butterfly – the heart-breaking story of the beautiful Japanese girl, who falls in love with an American naval lieutenant, resulting in heart wrenching drama. This magnificent production boasts beautiful sets and costumes and a large live orchestra. Highlights of the performance include the melodic Humming Chorus, the moving aria One Fine Day and the unforgettable Love Duet.