Described as “genuinely exquisite”, with “extraordinary performances” *, Ellen Kent’s Madama Butterfly returns to Tunbridge Wells – joined by a new powerful and emotional production of La Boheme.
The internationally acclaimed Ukrainian National Opera of Kharkiv, joined by a host of handpicked soloists from across the world, has been singing to rave reviews.
It’s back at the Assembly Hall in Tunbridge Wells on May 1 (La Boheme) and 2 (Madama Butterfly).
After a two-year break to concentrate on other projects, Ellen’s comeback tour has proved a triumph – prompting packed theatres and sackfuls of good-will messages.
The award winning director and producer said: “It’s so rewarding to hear how much enjoyment people get from my operas. It’s good to know I haven’t lost my touch!”
And true to Kent form, the new production of La Boheme features a few surprises alongside the stunning sets and glorious music. Madama Butterflys feature children from local weekend drama schools. Now the appeal has gone out for dogs and a brass band – as La Boheme introduces a local element to each venue.
The production took 18 months to bring to stage – and has been well worth waiting for – with Russian designer Nadezhda Shvets praised for the gorgeous sets and the £25,000-worth of silk gowns, including antique wedding kimonos from Japan, borrowed from Ellen and described as “ravishingly beautiful” **.
Ellen said: “I try to make my operas engaging and sometimes I get carried away with interesting additions but with these there is no spin – just the drama and the beauty. I honestly think they are the best I’ve ever done.”
Sung in Italian with English surtitles, Puccini’s popular tale of Madama Butterfly, which was used as the basis for West End musical Miss Saigon, is a heartbreaking true story of a beautiful Japanese girl who falls in love with an American naval lieutenant with dire consequences.
Meanwhile, La Boheme, based on Henri Murger’s novel Scenes de la vie de boheme, focuses on the love between seamstress Mimi and poet Rodolfo. After falling in love instantly, Rodolfo later leaves Mimi due to her flirtatious behaviour, although he is wracked by guilt since their life together has probably worsened Mimi’s delicate constitution. In true tragic opera fashion, the pair reunite briefly at the end before Mimi dies.
International sopranos Maria Tsonina and Elena Dee take the leading roles of Cio Cio San and Mimi, while “ladies favourite” Andriy Perfilov is Pinkerton and Rodolfo. They are joined by a 70-strong company including tenor Ruslan Zinevych, who has sung with Pavarotti and performed Ellen’s operas at the Royal Albert Hall in London.
Conductor Gheorghe Stanciu, artistic director of the Constanta Opera in Romania, has joined the tour, bringing a new focus to the music, provided by the esteemed Kharkiv Theatre Orchestra.
Presented by Derek Block Concert Promotions, one of the biggest international promoters in the entertainments industry, the 75-date UK and Ireland tour features performances of Madama Butterfly, La Traviata and La Boheme.
To book tickets in Tunbridge Wells on 01892 530613 or go online at www.assemblyhalltheatre.co.uk.