Meeting Orpheus and Eurydice at The Lowry

Opera North’s latest pop-up opera collaboration with South Asian Arts-uk is about to conclude its tour at The Lowry
June 30, 2022

Inspired by the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, Opera North’s latest pop-up opera has been created in collaboration with South Asian Arts-uk and takes audiences on an unforgettable journey celebrating love, storytelling and the enduring power of music. Currently touring across the north, the final performance of A Tale of Orpheus & Eurydice takes place at The Lowry in Salford Quays on Tuesday 5 July. Nicholas Watts and Ashnaa Sasikaran play the two star-crossed lovers – roles they will be revisiting in Orpheus, the new reimagining of Monteverdi’s Orfeo which opens at Leeds Grand Theatre in the autumn. We caught up with them both to find out more about the show, but first we asked director Simone Ibbett-Brown for her thoughts:

“So much of art is about going on a journey to find something new about yourself and I think A Tale of Orpheus & Eurydice very much follows that. The characters in this show have definitely been inspired by Monteverdi’s Orfeo characters and by the characters that Anna Himali Howard (Director), Jasdeep Singh Degun (Musical Director) and Laurence Cummings (Musical Director) are shaping for the production on the mainstage.” 

Ashnaa Sasikaran as Eurydice and Nicholas Watts as Orpheus
Photo credit: Tom Arber

Nicholas shared how the character of Eurydice has been written back into both shows:

“In the original Monteverdi Orfeo, Eurydice hardly features at all, so one of the lovely aspects about this show is that it has enabled us to develop her character. You learn a lot more about her which also gives the production a slightly different viewpoint.” 

A Tale of Orpheus & Eurydice opens at the couple’s engagement party where they reminisce about their very first meeting when they spent several hours negotiating their way around an unfamiliar city together. Their memories spark a celebration of different musical styles including opera, folk, jazz, blues, soul – and Indian classical music which is where Ashnaa’s own musical journey began: 

“I grew up listening to, and learning, South Indian classical music: Carnatic music. The pivotal point for me was when I went on this trip to India and watched this amazing festival with loads of artists in one place. After coming back, I just decided to see what else I could do with music, exploring other genres like jazz, funk, R&B. Through that, I decided to work on some of my own compositions and started putting some on social media.” 

Sharing her work in this way attracted not only Opera North’s attention but has also led to the release of Ashnaa’s first single which audiences will be able to hear live during the show. In fact, Indian music threads throughout the piece with tabla player Mendi Singh and British Indian composer and keyboardist Kavi Pau, who is trained in both Western and Indian classical music, providing a musical backdrop throughout. Working with Indian classical musicians in this way and experiencing their ability to improvise at first hand has been a real eye-opener for Nicholas:

“I come from a background of Western classical music, where everything is written down and you learn everything in advance. Suddenly, that’s all out the window for this project where improvisation takes centre stage.” 

For Ashnaa, the challenges have been more about having a set structure to follow:

“With our music, improvisation is one of the biggest parts of it. Everything is based around improvisation. I’ve learnt so much about opera doing this. My knowledge of it was very, very minimal – the scope of it all has been pretty mind-blowing.” 

Mendi Singh on tabla
Photo credit: Tom Arber

In the original Greek myth, Orpheus makes friends and influences people through his amazing talent with music, so it felt right that this stayed at the heart of A Tale of Orpheus & Eurydice. However, the action has been brought bang up-to-date for a contemporary audience. As Nicholas says:

“It’s so different to your preconceived idea because it’s in a modern setting. That’s nice though because, as a singer, you’re allowed to explore parts of the character that are relevant to the modern world, which means you can empathise with the character that little bit more.” 

At just 45 minutes long, the show is a great introduction to both opera and South Asian music and aims to be both accessible and fun. Nicholas continues: 

“I was having a conversation with Mendi today and he was saying ‘you know, I actually think you might have got me into opera’. I think it’s great to come at something from a totally different perspective, providing a different door into a different art form. I really hope that people will come and experience something new; I really hope that.” 

A Tale of Orpheus & Eurydice will be performed at 7pm in The Lowry Studio on Tuesday 5 July. Tickets start at £6 and are available from

Article Header Image: Ashnaa Sasikaran as Eurydice and Nicholas Watts as Orpheus
Photo credit: Tom Arber