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Ukrainian Opera & Ballet Theatre Kyiv bring stunning classical productions of Bizet’s Carmen and Puccini’s Madama Butterfly to Oxford

Award-winning producer Ellen Kent returns to Oxford’s New Theatre this week with the Ukrainian Opera & Ballet Theatre Kyiv, presenting stunning classical productions of Bizet’s Carmen on Wednesday, January 17 and Puccini’s Madama Butterfly on Thursday 18.

Carmen - cigarette girls
Carmen - cigarette girls

Bizet’s masterpiece Carmen is an evening of passion, sexual jealousy, death and unforgettable arias. Carmen is the story of the bewitching gypsy girl whose tantalising beauty lures a soldier to desertion and leads to her own murder. The opera includes some of the most evocative and best-loved melodies in opera; The Habanera, The Seguidilla, The Flower Song, The Chanson Bohème and perhaps the best-known baritone aria of all The Toreador’s Song.

The stunning set reflects the magnificent architecture of Seville with its Roman and Moorish influences, which includes the main square, the bull ring and the famous tobacco factory. The set was built for Ellen Kent in England by Setup Scenery, who also build sets for the Royal Opera Covent Garden.

Carmen will star Ukrainian mezzo-soprano’s Natalia Matveeva and Irina Sproglis. It is Sung in French with English surtitles and is directed by Ellen Kent.

Madama Butterfly
Madama Butterfly

Ellen’s Madama Butterfly, the winner of the 'Best Opera Award' by the Liverpool Daily Post Theatre Awards, returns in a new production with exquisite sets including a spectacular Japanese garden and fabulous costumes including antique wedding kimonos from Japan. One of the world’s most popular operas, Puccini’s Madama Butterfly tells the heart-breaking story of the beautiful young Japanese girl who falls in love with an American naval lieutenant – with dramatic results. Highlights include the melodic Humming Chorus, the moving aria One Fine Day and the unforgettable Love Duet.

In Madama Butterfly the fabulous Korean soprano Elena Dee returns alongside Ukrainian soprano Alyona Kistenyova and Ukrainian mezzo-soprano’s Natalia Matveeva and Irina Sproglis. Directed by Ellen Kent, it will be sung in Italian with English surtitles.

Like Ellen’s past UK and Ireland opera tours, Ellen personally hand-picks and directs all soloists to create visually beautiful and moving productions.

She said “I am delighted to be working with the Ukrainian Opera & Ballet Theatre Kyiv again after the huge success of the spring 2023 tour. I started working with Ukraine in 2000 and have continued these strong relationships ever since, working with the Odessa National Opera for which I was awarded The Golden Fortune Honorary Medal from the President of the Ukraine, as well as the Kharkiv National Opera and for the last couple of years with the brilliant Opera & Ballet Theatre Kyiv.”

Tickets for Carmen and Madama Butterfly at Oxford’s New Theatre are available from atgtickets.com/oxford fees apply.

For full tour listings please visit ellenkent.com or senbla.com

The cast is subject to change.

Ellen Kent: biography

“Since 2002, we have always been committed to touring with Ukrainian Opera companies and giving them the highest profile throughout the UK. We have taken the Ukrainian National Operas of Odessa and Kharkiv many times to the Royal Albert Hall and to many important venues in the UK such as the Manchester Opera House. Most recently, we toured the Ukrainian Opera and Ballet Theatre Kyiv in the UK and Ireland in Spring 2022 which was a huge success, and the Ukrainian National Anthem was proudly played after every performance.”

The award-winning producer is one of the top opera producers in the UK and has been the biggest supplier of opera and ballet in the UK and Ireland for 30 years. Since 1992, Ellen has created a niche market for the best of traditional opera and ballet from Eastern Europe. She was the first producer to put out a major tour of foreign opera on the British theatre circuit and she dominated the ballet market in the UK for many years. To celebrate her long love affair with the many operas which she now personally directs, in Spring 2024, Ellen is bringing her audiences three brand new productions: Madama Butterfly, Carmen and La Traviata. Her patrons are the actress, Dame Judi Dench, and the acclaimed artist Ralph Steadman.

Since 1983 Ellen Kent has achieved huge success with her theatre, ballet and opera productions. She has raised hundreds of thousands of pounds in sponsorship over her esteemed career and has been awarded 12 separate British Government Business Sponsorship Incentive Scheme (BSIS) awards from 1987–1996. She has also been awarded a large sponsorship grant for the tour of the Romanian National Opera in 1996, and has won awards in two consecutive years from SFX (Live nation) for breaking all opera box office records in the history of the Manchester Opera House. Ellen was also one of the first businesses to gain a grant from the National Lottery. Her first opera was ‘Nabucco’ with the Romanian National Opera staged to an audience of 7,000 at Rochester Castle. Ellen brought the critically-acclaimed Moldovan National Opera to large SFX venues throughout the UK, including sell-out performances of more than 7,000 people at the Royal Albert Hall.

In 1998 Ellen Kent was nominated for the Manchester Evening News Opera Award for the production of Turandot by the Latvian National Opera and in 1998, Opera & Ballet International were nominated for the Opera of the Year Award. In 1991, she became the first British producer to receive an Arts Council grant to tour a foreign company in the UK.

The autumn 1999 programme started with a highly successful major ballet tour of Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake, followed by a major sell-out tour of Nabucco and The Marriage of Figaro.

In autumn 2000, Ellen was presented with an award from Apollo/SFX Management, which is one of the biggest owners of entertainment venues in the UK and America. She achieved the award for breaking all opera box office records in the history of the Manchester Opera House.

In 2001, Ellen’s national tour of Apollo/SFX venues including the London Apollo, with the famous Bolshoi Ballet’s Nutcracker directed by the acclaimed Yuri Grigorovich, broke all box office records for ballet in the SFX major regional theatres.

In 2002, Ellen Kent and Opera and Ballet International launched the Ukrainian National Opera Odessa with a summer tour of the UK with La Traviata and The Barber of Seville. La Traviata which received a standing ovation at the prestigious Royal Albert Hall on the company’s premier tour of the UK.

As a thank you for introducing the Ukrainian Opera to the UK, in 2005, Ellen was awarded The Golden Fortune Honorary Medal by the Ukrainian president Vladimir Yushchenko. The prestigious ‘Golden Fortune Award’ was awarded by the President of Ukrainian for Ellen’s pioneering work with the Ukrainian National Opera of Odessa. Past winners include Sofi Loren, Margaret Beckett, and Pope Giovanni Paolo II.

Ellen has also been awarded a medal from the president of Moldova for the ‘Best contribution to the arts in Moldova’ linked to her support and investment in the Chisinau National Ballet and the Chisinau National Opera. The award ceremony was part of the 60th anniversary celebrations for the arts council of Moldova and Ellen has been selected as the person who has made the most important contribution to the arts in their history. Ellen became the very first British citizen to be honoured with this award.

March 2004 saw Ellen branch out into the Middle Eastern audience becoming the first British Producer to perform Carmen in the Gulf in front of an audience with the Emir of Qatar in Doha and 4,000 Royal Guests. Ellen went on to open the Beiteddine Festival in Lebanon later that year with her production of Turandot.

In 2006, Ellen Kent’s opera production of Madama Butterfly with the Ukrainian National Opera won the title of ‘Best Opera Award’ in the highly regarded Liverpool Daily Post Theatre Awards.

Ellen has herself also been nominated twice as ‘European Women of the Year.’

In 2008 Ellen continued her love of outdoor opera launching her new company ‘Ellen Kent & Amphitheatre Productions’ at Leeds Castle in Kent, with an arena production of Carmen to an audience of 12,000.

From her first opera in Rochester Castle, Ellen has devoted every minute of her life to ensuring her public get the best opera and ballet productions. She has successfully filled theatres throughout Britain and Ireland, regularly playing prestigious venues including The Royal Albert Hall, Manchester Opera House, Liverpool Empire Theatre, Edinburgh Playhouse, and the Oxford New Theatre. Throughout Ellen’s illustrious career, millions of people have enjoyed her shows.

In 2019, Ellen was approached by Ollie Rosenblatt, the MD of Senbla Ltd (which has recently been acquired by Sony Music Masterworks), leading promoters of large-scale arena productions, to continue opera touring in the UK and Ireland under their banner.

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