Producer triumphs over war to bring opera tour to UK

Madama Butterfly at Buxton Opera House on March 1.
Madama Butterfly at Buxton Opera House on March 1.

Award-winning opera producer Ellen Kent is determined to see opera triumph over war.

Award-winning opera producer Ellen Kent is determined to see opera triumph over war.

During preparations for this year’s tour with the Ukrainian National Opera in Kharkiv, Ellen was caught just six miles from a very bloody civil war. Warned by the British Foreign Office not to travel due to fatalities, bombings and kidnappings, Ellen still managed to transport the complete sets, props and costumes out of the area.

Focussing on overcoming the difficulties of the conflict, Ellen has brought together a new companyincluding Ukrainians, Moldovans and Russians, working together in harmony, to bring a heart-wrenchingly emotional production of Puccini’s popular Madama Butterfly.

Ellen said: “I know it sounds like a cliche but really - the show must go on!

“I was in Odessa in rehearsals for Butterfly in 2005 when the Orange Revolution broke out and I just thought, here we go again.”

With magnificent sets by renowned Ukrainian designer Nadia Shvets and handpicked soloists from the national operas of Odessa, Spain and Rostov, the show visits the Opera House in Buxton on Sunday, March 1.

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.

Exquisite sets include a spectacular Japanese garden and fabulous costumes including antique wedding kimonos from Japan. Highlights of the performance include the melodic Humming Chorus, the moving area One Fine Day, and the unforgettable Love Duet.

Alongside a 70-strong company, soloists include international sopranos Alyona Kistenyova and Maria Tsonina, baritone Vladimir Dragos, and tenors Ruslan Zinevych, who has sung with Pavarotti, and Giorgio Meladze, who joined Jose Carreras on stage last year.

There are also local dancers, children from Stagecoach Derby and adults who join the cast.

Ellen said: “As ever my productions are huge and will be a feast for the eyes as well as the ears. After all we’ve been through bringing them to the stage, it’s definitely been worth it.

“Three members of our orchestra have joined the Chisinau Philharmonic for this tour because the Opera House in Donetsk, near the fighting, has closed. People often don’t realise when they’re watching it ontelevision the effect it has on ordinary people who still have to support their families.

“This is our way of fighting back, showing that whatever is happening over there, we will continue to showcase Eastern European talent and put on a tremendous show.”

Tickets £33 and £36. Contact 0845 127 2190 or go online at www.buxtonoperahouse.org.uk