ETO Returns to Lancashire

27 April 2015

Olivier Award-winning opera company returns to Blackpool for the first time in ten years with new Italian season


The Olivier Award-winning English Touring Opera (ETO) is performing a new season of fully-staged Italian opera at The Grand Theatre Blackpool this May.  

Puccini’s masterpiece La bohème is joined by a rare Donizetti title The Siege of Calais. Both are sung in full costume, in Italian with English surtitles, accompanied by ETO’s chorus and 25-piece orchestra. 

ETO has not visited the North West region since 2009, and Blackpool since 2005. The return to Blackpool comes after several years of searching for an appropriate partner venue.

One of the greatest and most moving operas of all time, La bohème is a story of young love, starting on Christmas Eve in a Parisian garret. On this festive, snowy night the lovers Mimi and Rodolfo draw close, but poverty and ill-health force them apart.

The production features a group of 12 young local singers from St Nicholas' Church of England Primary School, recruited especially for ETO’s tour to sing a children’s chorus of street urchins.

La bohème is performed at The Grand at 7.30pm on Monday 11 May.

Donizetti’s The Siege of Calais tells the story of the citizens of Calais who offer up their lives to save their city from the besieging English army. Their sacrifice culminates in one of the most moving ensembles in all of opera, the momentous O sacra polve, o suol natio (O Sacred Earth).

The opera combines Donizetti’s sparkling score with a gritty depiction of the harsh realities of a city gripped by siege. ETO’s production was acclaimed as one of the company’s greatest achievements when it had its first ever UK professional tour in 2013, and is being performed in Blackpool this Spring for the first time.

The Siege of Calais is performed at The Grand at 7.30pm on Tuesday 12 May.

James Conway, General Director of ETO, said: ‘La bohème is the ideal first opera, and one to which everyone loves to return – a nostalgic look at the pathos and folly of youth’ He added: ‘The Siege of Calais is a testament of extraordinary power and beauty to those who resist and recognise value in a city or a family under threat.’

The company’s Head of Marketing, John Holmes, who was born and raised in Lancashire, said: ‘In the years we’ve not been coming to the North West, we’ve always felt it was a big gap in our touring schedule, especially as several of the ETO team are from the region, and dearly wanted to bring our operas back there. The Grand is as beautiful a theatre as we’ll ever get to play, and it’s a perfect environment for all the thrills, sensations and intensity of a top class opera performance.’

ETO’s season also continues the company’s record of work for younger audiences, with two new productions touring to schools in the region.

Shackleton’s Cat, a new opera designed for children aged 7-11, is performed at Boundary Primary School and Anchorsholme Primary Academy. Based on the true story of the tabby cat that accompanied Ernest Shackleton’s 1914-16 Antarctic expedition, the opera  incorporates elements of the geography and history curriculum, as well as interactive songs.

Another new production, Waxwings, is performed at Highfurlong School. An interactive opera for children with severe special educational needs, Waxwings is based on the story of flight and the myth of Icarus.


Listings Information

The Grand Theatre, Blackpool, Lancashire, UK

Mon 11 May 2015, 7.30pm: La bohème

Tue 12 May 2015, 7.30pm: The Siege of Calais

Booking information: 01253 290 190 /

Tickets: £32.50, £26.50, £22.50, £16.50

Concessions: £3 off. U26s: £10 tickets. Student Stampede offer: £6 on the day (capped at 60 tickets)

Multibuy: Book both shows, get 25% off

Notes to Editors

The winner of the 2014 Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Opera, English Touring Opera is the most prolific touring opera company in the UK, travelling annually to around 70 venues, more than any other English opera company. With its mission to offer opera to everyone, the company presents as many as 140 performances a year. There are two major annual tours, both performed in full costume with a live orchestra. The spring tour tends to be larger scale, while autumn tours tend to be more intimate: both seasons often come to venues which receive little or no other live opera. ETO’s outreach programme focuses on creative work, and ranges from community operas and music theatre workshops to productions for young people and their families, featuring artists from the company’s main-stage shows, touring to schools across the UK. The company is also a national leader in the provision of arts for dementia sufferers. ETO has helped launch the careers of singers including Amanda Echalaz and Sarah Connolly and gave the world première of Alexander Goehr’s opera Promised End in 2010.    


Photo credits: Shackleton's Cat : Robert Workman;  La Boheme: Richard Hubert Smith 

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