Verdi, Puccini and Ellen Kent

ELLEN Kent’s Opera and Ballet International returns to Bristol Hippodrome on 18th and 19th Jan­uary with productions of Rigoletto and Madama Butterfly.

Rigoletto, the masterpiece they tried to ban, will be seen at Bristol in a production featuring a magnificent golden eagle and two royal greyhounds.

Verdi’s dramatic opera is the  tale of the jester’s daughter whose heart is stolen by a charming but unreliable ruler. Her father’s attempts to prevent the love affair can only lead to tragedy.

Based on a play by Victor Hugo, who penned Les Miserables, the opera was almost banned because it exposed the licentious behaviour of the rulers at court. Verdi used  the tragedy in his opera, reflecting the sexual depravity of the Mantuan Ducal Court and featuring seductive, naked courtesans.

Ellen, a long-time campaigner for animal welfare, obtained the animals featured in this production  from small registered charity Bristol DAWG (Greyhound & Lurcher Rescue) and Black Mountain Falconry, based just over the bridge in Abergavenny.

The human cast includes baritone Iurie Gisca as Rigoletto with soprano Alyona Kistenyova as his daughter Gilda. Spanish tenor Giorgio Meladze sings The Duke of Mantua.

Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, the inspiration for  Miss Saigon,  is the story of a Japanese girl “married” to an American  naval lieutenant. She falls in love with her husband, but he is only using her while he is based overseas, waiting to return to his fiancee in the States.

The production features exquisite sets including a spectacular Jap­an­ese garden and sumptuous costumes with antique wedding kimo­nos from Japan designed by Russian Felix Bessonov  from St Petersburg.

The cast is led by Korean soprano Maria HeeJung Kim, making her UK debut in the  role of  Cio Cio San. Spanish tenor Giorgio Meladze will be singing the part of Pinkerton  (as well as the Duke of Mantua in Rigoletto.)   American mezzo-soprano Zara Vardanean returns to the com­p­any to sing the role of Suzuki.

The operas will be conducted by Vasyl Vasylenko. Both productions will be sung in Italian with English surtitles

Performances start at 7.30. For more details, telephone  08448 713012 or visit  the website,