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  • Dalia Stasevska returns to the orchestra of Opera North for Huddersfield and Leeds concerts

    After making her UK debut with the Orchestra of Opera North last year, the BBC Symphony Orchestra’s new Principal Guest Conductor Dalia Stasevska returns to the ensemble for a moving programme of music by Lutosławski, Richard Strauss and Bruckner, at Huddersfield Town Hall on Thursday 4 April and Leeds Town Hall on Saturday 6 April.

    The concerts culminate in Bruckner’s soaring, dramatic Seventh Symphony, which marked a turning point in his career as he moved out of the shadow of his “Master” Wagner, who died during its composition. Legend has it that the cymbal clash in the second movement was Bruckner’s response to news of the death, and the German composer’s influence can be heard most directly in the rich sound of the Wagner tubas.

    “Bruckner has always impressed me with the way he is able to manipulate time”, says Dalia. “His symphonies are like enormous cathedrals filled with important questions about life and death that he is trying to find answers to.”

    Written in the 1950s to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Bartók’s death, the first piece in the programme, Musique funèbre by Witold Lutosławski, establishes the theme of contemplation. But like the Bruckner, this work also symbolises new life: “It is the beginning of a new period”, said the Polish composer, “and it is the first word – though obviously not the last one – spoken in what is a new language for me”. Lutosławski’s experiments with 12-tone composition don’t prevent it from being intensely emotionally involving, opening with mournful cello lines and climaxing in a series of dense chords among the strings.

    Dating from a decade earlier, Richard Strauss’s radiantly beautiful Four Last Songs find the composer looking back on his long life with warmth and wisdom. “On first hearing I couldn’t believe that the pieces by Bruckner and Strauss were composed just 10 years apart”, says Dalia. Strauss’s glowing orchestration features quotations from his earlier works, and even the musical structure of the suite – a soprano voice supported by a horn – is personally symbolic, paying tribute to his father, a virtuoso horn player, and his wife, the singer Pauline de Ahna. Ana Maria Labin returns to Opera North for the first time since her acclaimed performance as the Countess in 2015’s The Marriage of Figaro for this extraordinary love letter to the soprano voice.

    Dalia Stasevska closed last year’s Kirklees Concert Season with her rapturously received UK debut, and in the 17th year of the groundbreaking partnership of Opera North and Kirklees Council, this programme of reflections on life, death and renewal provides a fitting conclusion to the current season.

    “I’m very my much looking forward to my return to Opera North, and especially with this exciting programme. Every single piece is a monument in itself,” she says.

    The Orchestra of Opera North is joined by soprano Ana Maria Labin and conductor Dalia Stasevska for Lutosławski, Strauss and Bruckner at Huddersfield Town Hall on Thursday 4 April and at Leeds Town Hall on Saturday 6 April. For more information and to book tickets, visit operanorth.co.uk or contact Box Office on 0113 2233600.