Ladies and gentlemen please be up-standing and welcome the new canine celebrity Hugo, who will take centre stage in the beautiful and romantic opera La Bohème.
The Border Terrier from Hull and his owner Yvonne Batten were crowned top dogs at recent auditions and will join the cast of the production, which comes to Hull City Hall on 17 March.
Hugo is a PAT dog (Pets as Therapy) and visits several wards at the Hull Royal Infirmary, care homes and volunteers for the Cinnamon Trust, a charity which supports elderly people with pets.
Yvonne said: “The patients and staff love it and when Hugo and I visit and it is very rewarding to see the pleasure it gives, especially to the elderly.
“He is my constant companion since my Mum died a short time ago. I had to give up my full-time work to care for her. I really don’t know what I would do without him.”
It appears the talented pooch was always destined for the stage as he also enjoys dancing and drama classes, but according to Yvonne he has a slight addiction to tennis balls.
She said: “I have a dance and drama school and he loves coming along to the classes with me and sometimes joins in. His hobby is being addicted to tennis balls, it’s a good job I play tennis, because he has hundreds.
“Despite his many talents, he hasn’t tried acting, so goodness knows how he will behave on stage.”
Award-winning opera director and producer Ellen Kent said: “People say never work with children or animals, but I love to do both. The first time was 20 years ago when my pet cat Holly Go-Lightly was in one of my productions and was an instant hit. Since then we’ve had horses, dogs, goldfish and even a golden eagle with a 6ft wingspan on stage.
“Many years ago, when we last did La Bohème and asked local people to volunteer their pets it was a huge success. We even used a rescue dog once and found him dozens of new owners. We’re a nation of animal lovers after all.”
Puccini’s masterpiece is one of the most romantic operas ever written. It tells the tragic tale of the doomed, consumptive Mimi and her love for a penniless writer. Set within the attics and backstreets of Bohemian Paris it reflects the art of the period and includes, a brass band, snow effects, full choir and orchestra and of course Muzetta’s dog.
This classic tale of Parisian love and loss features many famous arias including Your Tiny Hand is Frozen, They Call Me Mimi and Muzetta’s Waltz.
La Bohème is followed by another Puccini classic Madama Butterfly on 19 March, which sees a welcome return for Korean soprano Elena Dee and celebrated soprano Alyona Kistenyova. This brand new production is traditionally staged with an exquisite Japanese Garden and spectacular costumes including antique wedding kimonos from Japan.
Tickets for both shows are on sale now. Book at the Hull City Hall Box Office, call 01482 300 306 or visit www.hulltheatres.co.uk to book online.
Tickets are on sale Friday 7 February at 10am. Book at the Hull City Hall box office, call 01482 300 306 or visit www.hulltheatres.co.uk to book online.
[David Paine – Hull Culture and Leisure]