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Commentary

08 Feb 2019

English National Opera to reprise its 5* production of Paul Bunyan at the historic Alexandra Palace Theatre

Following its sell-out success at Wilton’s Music Hall in September 2018, English National Opera’s acclaimed production of Benjamin Britten’s Paul Bunyan will be revived in May at the equally historically remarkable venue of Alexandra Palace Theatre.

Above: Aerial view of Alexandra Palace

 

The new venue follows the ‘inspired choice’ (Bachtrack) of Wilton’s with another painstakingly restored Victorian music hall. ‘London’s oldest new theatre’ was reopened in December 2018, the interior retaining the charm of the original 1875 hall but with the facilities to put on the most sophisticated new productions. The £23m restoration’s opening was widely praised, with the BBC declaring it ‘like walking into a novel’.

Paul Bunyan , an ENO Studio Live production, is a parable on the American Dream from Benjamin Britten and WH Auden, telling the story of the eponymous giant as he builds a lumber farm with a sprawling cast of accomplices. Seldom performed, its first ENO staging in 2018 was called ‘an exhilarating experience’ (5* The Mail on Sunday) ‘thrilling’ (The Guardian) and ‘a joyful spectacle’ ( The Daily Telegraph).

Jamie Manton returns to direct along with many of the original cast. ENO Harewood Artists Elgan Llŷr Thomas (‘particularly lovely singing’ -The Daily Telegraph) and Rowan Pierce (‘captivating’ - The Daily Express) reprise their roles as Johnny Inkslinger and Tiny respectively.

Zwakele Tshabalala takes the role of Hot Biscuit Slim in his second ENO performance after forming part of the Porgy and Bess ensemble in 2018. ENO Harewoood Artist Alex Otterburn also makes his second ENO appearance after singing Squibby in the world premiere of Iain Bell’s Jack the Ripper: The Women of Whitechapel. Former ENO Harewood Artist Barnaby Rea, last seen as Iolanthe’s Private Willis in 2018, takes the role of Ben Benny the cook.

The ENO Chorus (‘triple threats to a man’ - The Spectator) return to the secondary roles they filled with ‘boundless skill and personality’ ( The Stage)the first time round. Simon Russell Beale reprises his pre-recorded performance as Paul.

ENO Chorus Master James Henshaw conducts his second ENO production, having made his conducting debut in 2017 with another Studio Live production, The Day After.

ENO Studio Live is part of ENO Outside, which takes ENO’s work to arts-engaged audiences that may not have considered opera before, presenting the immense power of opera in more intimate studio and theatre environments. Other venues the company has appeared at include Hackney Empire, Regent’s Park Outdoor Theatre and The Gate Theatre, Notting Hill.

Performances will take place on the 9, 10, 11 (matinee and evening performance), 13 May.

Tickets will go on sale on the 8 (priority booking) and 11 February (public booking) (eno.org, 020 7845 9300)

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