Lancashire Telegraph: Kate Royal and Henry Waddington in Falstaff and (below) the company on stage                                                                                  (Pictures: Richard H Smith)IF ever the world of opera needed a passionate ambassador to draw new audiences into one of the most beautiful forms of theatre then Kate Royal would fit the bill nicely.

Kate is making her Opera North debut at The Lowry this week in Verdi’s Falstaff and she is refreshingly honest about the challenges touring opera productions face with regard to attracting new audiences.

“Lots of people are scared of opera and I do understand why,” she said. “I think one of the main reasons people don’t get opera is the language barrier - they think ‘what can I get from people making a whole load of noise in a language that I don’t understand?’

“And there are some operas where a little bit of homework can really enhance the experience.

“But Opera North have done pretty much everything they can with this production to open it out to literally anyone.

“People who have never been to the theatre; people who have been to the theatre but don’t know much about classical singing or people who love a concert, even children - they will all love this.

“It really is a piece of musical theatre and it’s sung in English. It’s a comedy with lots of silly jokes too. And there are surtitles so you don’t have to just rely on our diction to follow the story.”

Verdi took the character of Falstaff created by Shakespeare who appears in three of the Bard’s plays The Merry Wives of Windsor and Henry IV parts 1 and 2 and created a whole opera around him.

In the Opera North production, Falstaff - sung by Henry Waddington - is down on his luck, living in a ramshackle caravan. He hatches a plan to woo two wealthy married women to restore his fortunes but they quickly see through his plan and turn the tables on him.

Kate plays Alice Ford, one of the women.

“She’s great fun to play,” said Kate. “So many of the roles I sing are incredibly serious and to be honest I find it much harder work being funny but it’s worth it. It does take a lot more concentration and I think it’s harder to play comedy than to do tragedy; timing is everything.”

Lancashire Telegraph: Kate Royal and cast of Opera North's Falstaff (Picture: Richard H Smith)

Opera North began touring their new season, including Falstaff, in September and Kate said audiences have been loving the production.

“What’s so interesting is that the audience reaction is different every night,” she said. “Some moments which really get a laugh one night don’t have the same response another night; instead it’s another line or comment which hits home.

“Audience members do feed off each other. If there’s a group that’s really into it and openly enjoying it, it encourages others to do that.

“We’ve had performances where some of the characters who are baddies get almost a pantomime boo at the end. We love that.”

Kate admits that her character definitely fits that bill.

“Oh I’m probably the meanest character of the lot,” she laughed. “I don’t think she’s a particularly nice person. She doesn’t think very much about the consequences of her actions but instead just makes everything very much about her.

Falstaff is one of three operas being staged at The Lowry this week by Opera North alongside Masque of Might featuring the music of Purcell, and Puccini’s La Rondine.

All three are part of the company’s Green Season meaning all scenery and props have been repurposed from previous productions and all costumes have been sourced from the company’s wardrobe department or from second hand and charity shops.

“I think it’s a great initiative,” said Kate. “Falstaff is set in the Eighties and we’re fully embracing the era so there’s loads of shoulder pads and big jewellery. Falstaff’s caravan was rescued from a pub car park and repurposed and according to my family it’s the star of the show.”

This is Kate’s first time performing with Opera North and at The Lowry and she’s delighted to be part of such an accessible show.

“It is a work of genius, there’s no other word to describe it,” she said. “Musically it is incredible. It’s the kind of work you could listen to every day and never get bored.

“And it’s so accessible, so funny and such fun. The fact Verdi wrote it when he was 80 is just amazing.”

Opera North are at The Lowry, Salford Quays, until Saturday. For details visit