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Opera North, Historical and Dramaturgical Perspectives on Opera Studies

Opera North, Historical and Dramaturgical Perspectives on Opera Studies.


Kara McKechnie, University of Leeds, UK


This illustrated study is a resource for opera scholars, opera workers and opera lovers. It explores the field of opera studies in three ways:

  • Through history: Opera North is presented through a historical lens within the UK operatic landscape. The chapter amalgamates extensive archival resources and interview material, including many illustrations from its 35 year history.
  • Through ethnography: the day-to-day workplace behaviour of an opera company is explored in its rehearsal and performance spaces, and the production cycle from first music rehearsal to first night is traced through detailed observation and photographic records.
  • Through production analysis: selected productions of recent years are given a dramaturgical focus, with aspects of conceptual, textual and visual analysis.

This study explores universal issues relating to the production of opera, based on the very specific example of this National Opera Company based in the North of England.

Opera North was founded as English National Opera North in 1978. It became independent from English National Opera in 1981 and holds a reputation for fostering artistic talent, for adventurous programming choices and for high production values.

Table of Contents


Introduction: Studying an opera company

Perspective 1: Opera North - a history from many sources

Perspective 2: Ethnographies - Opera North's productions in rehearsal

Perspective 2 (appendix): Don Giovanni backstage

Perspective 3: Opera North's productions in performance


Chronology of Opera North productions 1978 - 2013

List of illustrations, Bibliography, Index

Additional Information:

Excerpts from Perspective 1.
This section offers perspectives on Opera North's history through various strands of information which tell the story according to their function - for example, the narratives told by Arts Council documents will differ considerably from the narrative of a Company member. When scrutinising sources, the aim is not to prioritise the 'official' over the personal. The non-hierarchical positioning of sources and the belief that every person or every document has their own specific value helps to juxtapose and connect information. Read more....

Excerpt from Perspective 2.
Two kinds of acting are constant features in this section: social acting (working to a social script), as it takes place in any of the Company's spaces and professional acting (working to a score and direction), as it takes place in rehearsals and performance spaces. Read more....

Excerpt from Perspective 3.
was shown in the newly refurbished Grand Theatre in the autumn of 2006 and was revived in 2008 and again as part of the Company's Festival of Britten in the autumn of 2013. Similar to Gloriana during the 1990s, Grimes was one of the defining productions of Opera North's history, on account of its dramatic and musical ensemble achievement as well as the powerful simplicity of production and scenography. Lloyd broke with the convention of having blackouts or bringing curtains down during the Sea Interludes (also a popular part of the concert repertoire). She used these additional spaces in the opera to shape notions only suggested in libretto and score into narrative threads, adding depth to the interpretation. Read more....

Book Information

ISBN Print: 9781783505012
ISBN Electronic: 9781783505029
Publication Date: 01 October 2014
Format print: Hardback
Page count: 350
Dimensions: 297 x 210

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About the Author

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Dr Kara McKechnie, Lecturer in Dramaturgy and Literary Management, Leeds University

Kara McKechnie is a Scottish-German hybrid, born in the UK, educated in Germany to MA-level and in the UK from 1998. She has worked in the School of Performance and Cultural Industries since 2000. Kara teaches mainly on the Text and Performance study route on the (BA Hons) Theatre and Performance, but also enjoys working on collaborative performance projects and supervising postgraduate students. Her main research focus is the field of opera studies and particularly Leeds company Opera North, contributing to the partnership between the University and Opera North on a regular basis through working with undergraduate and postgraduate students in association with the company and through providing dramaturgical consultancy. She has also published on Alan Bennett, adaptation studies, as well as television and film studies.