Ukrainian performers to stage Carmen and Madama Butterfly at Sunderland Empire

A touring opera production will be flying the flag for Ukraine’s wealth of artistic talent when it takes to the stage at Sunderland Empire next month.

Thursday, 24th March 2022, 4:55 am

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Carmen is heading to Sunderland Empire

Ninety-five percent of the cast in Ellen Kent’s productions of Madama Butterfly and Carmen, which will be performed at the Empire on April 5 and April 6, live in the Ukraine where there’s a rich history of the art from.

Vasyl Vasylenko, artistic director and conductor for the National Municipal Opera and Ballet Theatre, Kiev, has returned to the opera. As has guest conductor and artistic director of the National Opera of Moldova, Nicolae Dohotaru, with 30 members of the National Ukrainian Orchestra, Kiev.

Producer Ellen has long worked with Eastern European artists since 1992 in ballet and opera and her elaborate sets are stored in Moldova. She was the first producer to put out a major tour of foreign opera on the British theatre circuit and she has dominated the ballet market in the UK for many years.

Madama Butterfly

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To show solidarity with the war in Ukraine, recent dates on the tour have been closing with a moving performance of the Ukrainian national anthem.

"The performers have to check every day to see whether their homes have been bombed, which is unimaginable,” said Ellen. “But at least they are here, and safe.

"There are some beautiful opera houses in Ukraine and excellent performers. To see the bombing of the theatre in Mariupol is awful."

Speaking about the support performers have been receiving from audiences, she said: “It really bucks the company up. On a recent performance at Richmond Theatre, the mayor asked to take them out for a meal afterwards which was lovely.

Madama Butterfly

"The tour is selling really well and we’re selling out in smaller venues we never have before, I’m not sure if that’s because people want to show their support. People have been very kind.”

Ellen’s performers currently have work visas, but she’s hoping they will obtain refugee status after the tour ends so that those who don’t wish to return to Ukraine won’t have to.

One of the sopranos from the chorus, who didn’t want to be named, said: “I’m from Odessa. My relatives are safe, as it is quiet in Odessa right now. But many

residents of Odessa continue to evacuate, because the situation is uneasy, sirens are constantly sounding and it is necessary to run to shelters. There is always a danger of shelling. I am very worried about my brothers and relatives who stayed in Odessa, about my friends."

Madama Butterfly

The singer’s parents are now in Moldova.

She said: “I am very happy that my parents were able to go to Moldova. There they were met by people with a big heart, who take care of them. On February 24, the first day of the war, my parents, along with other residents of Odessa, woke up at 5am because of bomb blasts. Since then, they have lost their


“My parents are doctors, they have worked in intensive care units for a long time in hospitals, they are not so easy to intimidate. But I have never seen them so confused in my life. There are now a lot of Ukrainians in Moldova, including women with children and the elderly. Everyone is upset by the uncertainty, where to live and where to work. And everyone is very worried about their relatives who stayed in Ukraine.”

Madama Butterfly

On song at the Empire

Bizet’s masterpiece, Carmen, is an evening of passion, sexual jealousy, death and unforgettable arias. Carmen is the story of the bewitching gypsy girl whose tantalising beauty lures a soldier to desertion and leads to her own murder.

The opera includes some of the most evocative and best-loved melodies in opera –The Habanera, The Seguidilla, The Flower Song, The Chanson Bohème and perhaps the best- known baritone aria of all The Toreador’s Song.

Madama Butterfly is Puccini’s popular tale after which the hit West End musical Miss Saigon is based. One of the world’s most popular operas, Puccini’s Madama Butterfly tells the heart-breaking story of the beautiful young Japanese girl who falls in love with an American naval lieutenant – with dramatic results.

Highlights include the melodic Humming Chorus, the moving aria One Fine Day and the unforgettable Love Duet.

It features exquisite sets, including a spectacular Japanese garden and fabulous costumes including antique wedding kimonos from Japan.


:: Ellen Kent’s Carmen will play at Sunderland Empire for one performance on Wednesday, April 6, 2022. Ellen Kent’s Madama Butterfly will play at Sunderland Empire for one performance on Tuesday, April 5, 2022. Tickets priced from just £13 are available from the Ticket Centre on 0844 871 7615 or online at www.ATGtickets.com/sunderland

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