Kitty’s coming back to her roots

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Lavish opera productions are gearing up to set the Durham stage alight. Katy Wheeler finds out more.

THE daughter of one of the North East’s most famous actors is due to star in The Barber of Seville in Durham this month.

Award-winning mezzo soprano Kitty Whately, daughter of actor Kevin Whately, will sing the lead role of Rosina in English Touring Opera’s (ETO) new production of The Barber of Seville, which will be performed alongside a revival of Eugene Onegin at Gala Theatre in Durham, on May 14-15.

ETO’s production of The Barber of Seville, directed by Thomas Guthrie, was premiered in London in March. It is touring the country alongside James Conway’s acclaimed interpretation of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, last performed by ETO in 2007.

Both operas are performed in English with a live orchestra and in lavish period costume.

Kitty Whately said: “Having spent so many happy childhood holidays in the North East it will be a thrill to return and perform up there.

“My dad went to school in Durham, so it will be interesting to visit his old haunts. My relations are coming en masse so it will be lovely to have a team of Geordie groupies.”

Set in 17th century Seville, The Barber of Seville tells the story of Rosina and Count Almaviva, a pair of young lovers who, with the help of Figaro, outwit Rosina’s guardian – Doctor Bartolo.

The opera is based on a play by French writer Philippe Beaumarchais, whose famous Figaro plays also inspired Mozart to pen The Marriage of Figaro.

Conducted by Paul McGrath and directed by Thomas Guthrie, The Barber of Seville features Nicholas Sharratt in the role of Count Almaviva alongside Kitty Whately.

For ETO’s production, Thomas Guthrie has included the Count’s bravura final aria, often omitted from live performances.

Meanwhile, Eugene Onegin is a romantic opera based on a story by Russian author Alexander Pushkin.

Set in 19th century St Petersburg, Eugene Onegin features grand ballroom scenes and a dramatic duel to the death.

Directing the opera is ETO’s general director James Conway, and its music director, Michael Rosewell, conducts ETO’s 32-piece orchestra.

Emerging star Nicholas Lester takes the title role of Onegin.

Joining him, in the role of Tatyana, is Welsh soprano Sarah-Jane Davies who represented Wales at BBC Cardiff Singer of the World.

l The Barber of Seville is at Gala Theatre, Durham, on May 14 at 7.30pm. Tickets are £10-25.

l Eugene Onegin will be performed on May 15 at 7.30pm. Tickets are £10-25. They are available from Tel. 332 4041 and www.galadurham.co.uk.