Grand Opera of Belarus brings Madama Butterfly and La Boheme to Hull New Theatre
It was formed when the Soviet Union was in its pomp. Now, with the Iron Curtain nothing more than a memory, the Grand Opera of Belarus is returning to Britain.
The company, which will be performing at Hull New Theatre, last toured Britain during the mid-1980s.
These days, with the Cold War truly thawed, the company is again bringing its music to Western audiences.
"It has the title of Bolshoi, which means 'grand or big' in Russian," said the tour's producer, Alexej Ignatow.
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"Everyone knows the Bolshoi in Moscow and this is one of three theatres granted the title during the Soviet era. It is one of the great companies."
Based in Belarus's capital, Minsk, the company will be performing two operas at the Kingston Square venue.
The first, on Friday, February 8, will be Madama Butterfly. Puccini's opera tells of a trusting Japanese maiden who catches the affections of an American officer.
On the following night, there will be a staging of another well- known work by Puccini, La Boheme.
Set in 19th-century Paris, the opera follows the love between two young artists, Mimi and Rodolfo.
The productions are part of a six-week tour by the company, which will see a 30-strong orchestra, alongside 40 performers, arriving in Hull.
"Opera is not like touring ballet," said Alexej.
"It is more demanding on the singers because they have to rest their voices – they have to have days off – so there will be two or three different people rotating the same role."
The company opened in 1933 and was granted honorary Bolshoi status by the Soviet Union in 1940. In the past 15 years, the company has toured to more than 30 countries.