Opera must triumph over war, says producer Ellen Kent

Madama Butterfly
Madama Butterfly

Award-winning opera producer Ellen Kent is determined to see opera triumph over war as she brings Eastern Europe talent to the UK stage with stunning performances of Madama Butterfly, Rigoletto and La Traviata.

During preparations for this autumn’s tour with the Ukrainian National Opera in Kharkiv, Ellen was caught just six miles from a very bloody civil war.

Warned by the British Foreign Office not to travel due to fatalities, bombings and kidnappings, Ellen still managed to transport the complete sets, props and costumes out of the area.

Focussing on overcoming the difficulties of the conflict, Ellen has brought together a new company including Ukrainians, Moldovans and Russians, working together in harmony, to bring a heart-wrenchingly emotional production of Puccini’s popular Madama Butterfly, the searingly passionate La Traviata, and the dramatic tragedy Rigoletto, complete with a live golden eagle, hunting dogs and naked women.

Ellen said: “I know it sounds like a cliché but really – the show must go on!

“I was in Odessa in rehearsals for Butterfly in 2005 when the Orange Revolution broke out and I just thought, here we go again.”

With magnificent sets by renowned Ukrainian designer Nadia Shvets and handpicked soloists from the national operas of Odessa, Spain and Rostov, the shows visit the Congress Theatre in Eastbourne on February 10 (La Traviata) and the Theatre Royal in Brighton on February 17 (Rigoletto) and February 18 (Madama Butterfly).

Puccini’s popular tale of Madama Butterfly is a heartbreaking true story of a beautiful Japanese girl who falls in love with an American naval lieutenant with dire consequences. Exquisite sets include a spectacular Japanese garden and fabulous costumes including antique wedding kimonos from Japan.

La Traviata is a tragic true story of searing passion and memorable music telling of the life and love of the passionate but consumptive Violetta and her doomed romance with the aristocratic Alfredo.

Verdi’s outstanding interpretation of one of the most popular love stories of the 19th century, La Dame aux Camelias, includes highlights such as the Brindisi, the best-known drinking song in opera, the duet Un Di Felice and the haunting aria Addio Del Passato.

Meanwhile Verdi’s masterpiece Rigoletto is a dramatic tale of a jester’s daughter whose heart is stolen by a charming but unreliable ruler – and how her father’s attempts to prevent the love affair lead to tragedy.

Wishing to reproduce Verdi’s original intentions, Ellen’s production reflects the decadence of Renaissance Italy and includes naked women on stage, as well as a magnificent golden eagle with a 6ft-wingspan and two hunting dogs from the local area.

Ellen said: “As ever my productions are huge and will be a feast for the eyes as well as the ears. After all we’ve been through bringing them to the stage, it’s definitely been worth it.”

Tickets are on sale now. In Eastbourne contact the box office on 01323 412000 or visit www.eastbournetheatres.co.uk. In Brighton contact the box office on 08448 606650. For more information, go to www.ellenkent.com or follow the group on Twitter @OperaBalletIntl.