Puccini’s most famous opera, La bohËme tells the heart-breaking
story of writer Rodolfo and seamstress MimÏ. This new production directed
by PJ Harris and designed by Chloe Lamford, is a retelling of the classic
tale of doomed romance, set in the present day.
Featuring the combined forces of the award-winning ENO orchestra and
world-class live singers, the performance will use microphones, whilst the
wireless sound system will broadcast high quality audio directly to
audiences. Performers will be on a raised and covered stage, with large
screens to each side also relaying the performance to ensure all audience
members enjoy an immersive experience.
The cast, chorus and orchestra are double cast and will alternate
throughout the run. They will rehearse and perform in these two separate
‘bubbles’, whilst maintaining social distance as per the latest government
advice. Each bubbled group consists of; 34 members of the ENO Orchestra, 20
ENO Chorus members and 8 principals. Each bubble will have its own
individual crew to oversee their rehearsals and performances.
Those without a car will be able to enjoy the performance too. Distanced
bicycle spaces are available for those who wish to arrive on two wheels.
The ENO has also partnered with Uber who will coordinate 10 ‘Uber Boxes’
per performance – parked vehicles offering a front row experience for those
without car or bicycle access.
There will be 50 free tickets available to the dress rehearsal for NHS
staff via ballot and a number of free tickets will be available to drivers
who use the Uber app to thank them for their key worker roles.
Ticket buyers have the option of making a small £3 donation to contribute
towards carbon offsetting the impact of these events. These donations will
be directly transferred to a carbon offsetting charity within 30 days of
the final performance.
Artistic Director Annilese Miskimmon comments: ‘Here at the ENO we think of
ourselves as experimenters – trialling innovative ideas on behalf of the
whole opera industry. It’s no secret that COVID has had a major impact on
the arts, so we’re ripping up the rulebook with ENO Drive and Live. These
performances are an opportunity to create a thrillingly unmissable pilot
project, allowing opera fans to enjoy world-class opera without fear. It’s
a huge creative challenge, but the success of this will allow us to see how
best to roll the performances out nationally, bringing our award-winning
forces to audiences everywhere.’
The performance will be broadcast exclusively on Sky Arts, when the channel
becomes free for everyone across the UK to watch on Freeview and Freesat in
September; forming part of its supercharged mission to increase access to
and participation in the arts, at a vital time for the cultural sector. It
will also be available on streaming service NOW TV. The broadcast will be
produced by Somethin Else; Executive Producer is Jez Nelson and Live
Director is Marcus Viner. The programme was commissioned by Director of Sky
Arts Philip Edgar-Jones and the Commissioning Editor is Benedetta Pinelli.
Philip Edgar-Jones, Director of Sky Arts says: ‘As culture emerges slowly
back into the light and as Sky Arts becomes free for everyone to enjoy we
are thrilled to be partnering with the ENO on this ground-breaking project
to bring opera to the Drive-In. It’s fitting that this world first is
taking place at Alexandra Palace, the spiritual home of TV, and La bohËme
is the perfect story to reflect the time we are in right now.’
Safety is paramount – live singers and musicians will be spaced out in
accordance with government guidelines, throughout rehearsals and
performances. All public areas and Uber Boxes will be regularly cleaned and
social distancing will be observed at all times on site.
Louise Stewart Chief Exec of Alexandra Palace says: ‘We are thrilled to be
working in partnership with ENO on Europe’s first ever live drive-in opera.
This truly enterprising project, continues our long-standing tradition of
innovation at Alexandra Palace.’
Wielding the baton are the ENO Music Director and acclaimed conductor
Martyn Brabbins and the ENO Head of Music Martin Fitzpatrick. Martyn
Brabbins has conducted at La Scala and Bayerische Staatsoper and with the
Royal Concertgebouw, DSO Berlin, Philharmonia and BBC Symphony, and
regularly at the BBC Proms. He has conducted hundreds of world premieres
and made around 150 CDs. Martin Fitzpatrick is a conductor and translator
for the ENO. Other career highlights include work with companies including
the Royal Opera House, Glyndebourne, Scottish Opera and Royal Danish Opera,
where he was Head of Music.
Martyn Brabbins comments: ‘ENO’s irrepressible energy to bring great opera
to life, even in the most trying of times, has given rise to the unique and
splendid Drive & Live. Like most people, I have had many frustrating
car-park experiences – scraped my car, lost my car in a Heathrow long-stay,
been fined for overstaying – but the prospect of conducting La bohËme at Alexandra Palace, brings for me a new and exciting
significance to the potential of the car-park! The ENO orchestra and
chorus, and a cast assembled from the very finest of talent, are revving up
and more than ready to rekindle our passion for this supreme of art forms
in a way nobody ever imagined before.’
Directing this new production is PJ Harris. Trained at Scottish Opera, PJ
was named as ‘one to watch’ by the BBC’s performing Arts Fund in 2015.
Recent directing credits include Vespers of 1610 for Garsington Opera and
2018’s 5-star concert staged production of Salome for Opera North.
Production design is by internationally renowned designer Chloe Lamford.
Chloe’s opera work includes Ariadne Auf Naxos,? ?Alcina?, and P?elleas and
Melisande for Aix-en-Provence Festival and Miranda for Opera Comique,
Paris. Chloe’s oeuvre also includes contemporary art installations and
theatre design, notably in ?Amadeus (National Theatre) and Hilary and
Clinton on Broadway. Chloe is Associate Designer for the Royal Court
Director PJ Harris says: ‘It’s extremely exciting to be part of the ENO’s
ground-breaking project, bringing live opera back to audiences in such an
innovative format. In La bohËme we see what happens when young
love, passion, hopes, dreams and creative ambition are confronted with the
reality of loss and grief. The opera’s powerful mixture of intense emotion,
with Puccini’s incredible music and unforgettable storytelling, makes this
as poignant now as when it was first written.’
Designer Chloe Lamford says: ‘It’s so exciting to create a new production
in this way, and really stretch my and the audience’s imagination without
the confines of a predetermined space or traditional theatre. Here we’ve
got the chance to build the whole experience from the very beginning; a
rare chance to redefine what opera can be.’
Costumes are by Camilla Clark, whose previous work with the ENO includes
2018’s Paul Bunyan where the design was praised for its ‘wit and
style’ (Culture Whisper). Trained at the Royal Welsh College of Music and
Drama, Camilla was a winner of the Linbury Prize for Stage Design in 2015.
Lighting is by Olivier Award-winning lighting designer Nastasha Chivers,
whose credits include Orestia and Hamlet (Almeida) and Sylvia (Old Vic).
Sound Design is Ian Dearden. Ian was part of the original sound design team
for Birtwistle’s The Mask of Orpheus in 1986 at the ENO. Alongside his
production company Sound Intermusica, Ian returned to design sound for the
landmark opera in 2019. His recent credits include Orfeo and The Return of Ulysses (Royal Opera House at the Roundhouse) and
the sound design for the exhibition Opera: Passion, Power and Politics
Sharing the role of seamstress MimÏ are Natalya Romaniw and SinÈad Campbell
Wallace, whilst writer Rodolfo will be sung by David Butt Phllip and David
Acclaimed Welsh soprano Natalya last undertook the role of Puccini’s tragic
heroine in the 18/19 revival of Jonathan Miller’s much-loved production for
the ENO, making her house debut. Tipped as ‘one of the outstanding sopranos
of her generation’ (Daily Telegraph), Natalya’s most recent role was a
‘remarkable’ (The Sunday Times) Cio-Cio San in ENO’s Madam Butterfly.
Expert Irish dramatic soprano SinÈad Campbell Wallace will be making her
ENO debut in this production. Praised for ‘an excellent performance’ as
Silvia in Zanetto for Scottish Opera, SinÈad started her career as a
light-lyric soprano but through recent seasons SinÈad has moved into a
fuller dramatic repertoire. This summer she makes debuts at the Salzburg
Festival, Madrid and with the London Philharmonic Orchestra.
Olivier Award-nominated tenor David Butt Philip reunites with Natalya
Romaniw following Opera Holland Park’s 2019 Iolanta where their
performance was praised as ‘enough on their own to make the whole evening
worthwhile’ (the Guardian). One of the most outstanding British tenors of
his generation, David reprises the role of Rodolfo following his ENO debut
Sharing the role of Rodolfo is Korean tenor David Junghoon Kim. His ENO
debut last season as another Rodolfo (this time in Luisa Miller)
was ‘sung with radiance, lyricism and power’ (The Stage). A former Jette
Parker Young Artist, David is a winner of the much-coveted Francisco ViÒas,
Voci Verdiane and Toulouse singing competitions.
Sharing the role of Marcello are Roderick Williams OBE and former ENO
Harewood Artist Matthew Durkan. Olivier-nominated baritone Roderick is one
of the UK’s most sought-after opera singers and returns to the ENO
following last season’s Madam Butterfly. ENO favourite Matthew
most recently sung Dancairo in 2020’s Carmen, and received praise
for his Polyphemus’ ‘considerable pathos’ (Bachtrack) in 2018’s Acis and Galatea at Lilian Baylis House.
Dubbed ‘one to listen out for’ (the Guardian) on the basis of her ‘creamy’
voiced ENO debut as Michaela in Carmen this January, British
soprano Nardus Williams shares the role of Musetta with fellow Harewood
Artist Soraya Mafi. Hailed as ‘a diamantine Titania, scattering colatura
like stardust’ (Daily Telegraph) in 2018’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, British soprano Soraya made her ENO
debut in 14/15 as Edith in The Pirates of Penzance and has since appeared
in numerous roles for the company including Love (Orpheus and Eurydice),
and Yum-Yum (The Mikado) in the 19/20 season.
Joining the production for their first roles as ENO Harewood Artists are
British bass William Thomas and New Zealand born Samoan baritone Benson
Wilson, who take the respective roles of Colline and Schaunard. These roles
are shared with New Zealand born Samoan bass Jonathan Lemalu and British
baritone Ross Ramgobin.
This will be the first ENO Drive & Live, details about further plans to
bring drive-in opera to audiences across the country will be announced
ENO Drive & Live’s La bohËme opens on Saturday 19 September
2020 in the grounds of Alexandra Palace for 15 performances: September 20,
22, 23, 24, 25, 26 and 27 at 15:30. September 19, 20, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26
and 27 at 19:30.
The dress rehearsal is at 14.30 on Saturday 19 September.
Tickets for cars (including Uber Boxes) carrying up to four people cost
£101.50 plus £2.25 booking fee. Tickets for bicycles cost £36.50 plus £2.25
booking fee. Ticket prices include a £1.50 restoration levy for Alexandra
Uber is the official partner of ENO Drive & Live.