Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Walking on Wild Side

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Walking on Wild Side

Article excerpt

Byline: By Gordon Barr

Fish, hunting dogs, a golden eagle - they're all taking to a North East stage next week. But this is no pet show.

No conversation with opera impresario Ellen Kent is ever boring.

When you get her on the other end of the phone, you can do little but sit down and listen in amazement and admiration as she waxes lyrical about her latest projects.

"I've got something incredible lined up for my operas next year," she says. "Something bigger and more extravagant than before."

And that's saying something. For this is the woman who earlier this year had a Spanish stallion (horse, not a hunk) appear in La Boheme and Carmen at Sunderland Empire.

And next week at the same venue, she's got hunting dogs, four tanks of fish and a golden eagle taking to the stage, in productions of Rigoletto and Madama Butterfly.

"People think I'm mad," confesses Ellen, who will give a pre-show talk at the theatre on Thursday, which promises to be highly entertaining.

"But I think it's fun, I like to get more ambitious each time."

Ellen Kent and Opera International bring Rigoletto to the Empire on Thursday, in a traditionally-staged production which features not only a host of international soloists but genuine Russian Borzoi hunting dogs, a falcon and naked chorus girls!

Based on a play by Victor Hugo, who wrote Les Miserables, the libretto is by Verdi.

The tale of a dissolute duke and a jester whose overwhelming love for his daughter leads to tragedy, stars the lead baritone from the Chisinau National Opera, Vladimir Dragos, and the international Ukrainian soprano, Larisa Zuenko, who has sung at the Paris Opera House.

The opera will feature naked chorus girls to reflect the moral degradation and sexual excess of the Mantuan Ducal court.

When Hugo originally wrote the story it was called the King Amuses Himself, and it was banned, officially because of its sexual content, in reality for political reasons as it made covert jabs at politicians. …

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