This November, ‘opera’s coolest soprano’ (The New York Times Magazine) and Australian-American actress Danielle de Niese makes her ENO operatic debut at the London Coliseum, opening the festive period with the highly anticipated UK premiere of It’s a Wonderful Life. Composed by Jake Heggie in 2016 with the Libretto by Gene Scheer, this is an operatic adaptation of the classic 1946 festive film, sung in English.
A blended tale of fantasy and drama loosely based on Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, It’s a Wonderful Life tells the story of George Bailey, a humble man of humble origins in a humble small town. Having sacrificed many of his own dreams to help others around him, George is driven to breakdown, only to be shown by his guardian angel how his life enriches his community in ways he could never imagine.
Danielle de Niese stars in the role of Clara, George Bailey’s guardian angel. De Niese regularly appears on the world’s most prestigious opera and concert stages, and is a prolific recording artist, TV personality and philanthropist. She recently starred in the feature film of Poulenc’s one-women opera, La Voix Humaine (The Human Voice), alongside Sir Antonio Pappano which premiered in Spring 2022 on BBC Two along with international cinematic release.
De Niese says: ‘I’m thrilled to make my operatic debut at the ENO and to be involved in the operatic adaptation of one of the most beloved American Classic films which starred actor Jimmy Stewart. I was the first recipient of the Jimmy Stewart Vocal Scholarship at 16 years of age, so it’s a full-circle moment to bring this character from his iconic film to life. This opera has a dream-like quality and in these difficult times, the story will remind us what life is all about: not the riches of your wallet but the richness of your character. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the Christmas season.’
It’s a Wonderful Life is a family friendly opera, perfect for first-time opera goers of all ages. It is an all-singing, all-dancing tale of hope and redemption sprinkled with a smattering of festive magic. Tickets start from £10 for everyone, under 21s can access free tickets to all performances and under 35s can sign up for huge discounts.
De Niese will be joined on stage by Frederick Ballentine as George Bailey, Jennifer France as Mary Hatch Bailey, Donovan Singletary as Harry Bailey, Gweneth Ann Rand as Mother Bailey, Ronald Samm as Uncle Billy Bailey, Michael Mayes as Mr. Potter, and as the Angel Quartet is Keri Fuge, Idunnu Münch, Zwakele Tshabalala and Ossian Huskinson, Alex Otterburn as Ernie, Segomotso Shupinyaneng as Helen Bailey, and the award-winning ENO Chorus.
Directing and Choreographing It’s a Wonderful Life is Aletta Collins, with Nicole Paiement Conducting the award-winning ENO Orchestra. Giles Cadle is the Set Designer, Gabrielle Dalton is the Costume Designer, Andreas Fuchs is the Lighting Designer, Nick Lidster is the Sound Designer.
It’s a Wonderful Life opens on Friday 25 November for 10 performances: Nov 25, 29, 30 and Dec 3, 7, 9 at 19.30. Nov 27 and Dec 3, 10 at 15.00.
A fully staged relaxed performance will be on Wednesday 7 December at 11.00.
British Sign Language performance: Wednesday 7 December, 19.30.
ABOVE: Danielle de Niese (c) Genevieve Girling