Two less-than-dainty hoofers are set to join the cast of opera director Ellen Kent’s dazzling new production of Carmen at His Majesty’s Theatre in Aberdeen next month.
For local donkeys Porridge and Rupert are to tread the boards in turn alongside the Chisinau National Opera and Philharmonic Orchestra at the city theatre on Wednesday and Thursday April 10 and 11. And a collection on both nights will raise money for donkey welfare.
The award-winning producer and director spent her teenage years in Spain and has a rich store of experiences to draw as she weaves passion and drama into the production.
“Incorporating a donkey into the production lends it a real taste of Spain,” said Ellen. “My mother used to run the equivalent of the RSPCA in Spain when I was growing up and the farm was full of 30 to 40 donkeys, the same number of dogs and even more cats.
“We used to travel miles across the countryside to festivals when they were planning to sacrifice a donkey. We’d buy the donkey off them and run – often chased by villagers. There was never a dull moment.
“The animals were always my mother’s top priority - it’s a tribute to her really, that I use donkeys in the show – she would have been delighted and the audience always love it, especially as we try to use rescue donkeys from the local area.”
Thirty-four-year-old Porridge, a 10.2hh dapple-grey, who lives near Aboyne, is no stranger to the limelight having appeared in fashion shows, Christmas productions and the Olympic Torch procession as well as various fundraising events in aid of The Brooke animal charity.
Owner Diana Milligan says Porridge, who will appear in the April 11 performance along with handler Iona Campbell (18) from Turriff, loves people, music, being the centre of attention and a mug of sweet tea!
Meanwhile, four-year-old Rupert, a 10.3hh grey nicknamed Donk, will appear in the April 10 performance alongside owner Pamela Duncan from Huntly. He competes in showing and driving competitions, loves stealing food off the dinner table, especially cakes and chocolate biscuits – and also likes to sing!
Ellen is drawing inspiration from paintings by Goya for her production of Carmen, set against the backdrop of the bullring and full of images of orange trees, fountains, flowers and the hot, dusty Moorish architecture.
Bizet’s dramatic and sensuous opera Carmen tells the story of the downfall of soldier Don Jose, who is seduced by the fiery, beautiful and passionate gypsy Carmen. Abandoning both his childhood sweetheart and his military career, he pursues Carmen but loses her to the glamorous bullfighter Escamillo.
In true tragic operatic fashion, Jose can’t bear to be without Carmen and stabs her in a jealous rage.
The new show marks the return of Opera and Ballet International as Ellen revives her role as promoter after a four-year break.
The celebrated Chisinau National Opera and Philharmonic Orchestra perform, alongside international soloists mezzo soprano Nadia Stoianova as Carmen and tenor Sorin Lupu as Don Jose.
Tickets for Carmen are availableonline at www.boxofficeaberdeen.com, by phone at 01224 641122 and at Aberdeen Box Office at the Music Hall and His Majesty’s Theatre.