The Yorkshire-dialect version of Barber of Seville could be a “seminal moment” for Bradford’s status as City of Culture.

Set in 1960s Bradford, The Barber of Seville will bring a tale of class, marriage, mischief, and young love to St George's Hall.

The adaptation by celebrated Yorkshire poet, playwright, and broadcaster Ian McMillan will open the inaugural Bradford Opera Festival.

From ‘dead reyt’ to ‘ey up’, it is hoped people of all ages and backgrounds will take a seat in the audience.

Those behind the show have one shared dream - a return to a world where opera was not seen as entertainment for just the privileged few.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus:

London and many industrial cities in the North once hosted the art form in spaces beyond the traditional opera house.

Working-class families would gather for a night of operatic entertainment in music halls, cinemas, restaurants and schools.

Conductor Ben Crick said: “It’s really exciting. I believe opera is an art form that can speak to anyone.

“Art at its best reflects the values and cultures that create it. Bradford 2025 sinks or swims on that, getting as many people as possible to engage with culture.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Barritone Oscar Castellino plays FigaroBarritone Oscar Castellino plays Figaro (Image: R)

“It’s a commentary on social class. The opera questions if people rise on their merit or the positions they were born into. That's relevant today.”

Speaking about the show’s impact, Ben said: “It’s a seminal moment for Bradford if we get this right. If we get this right there’s a story to be told about the post industrial North in art and it’s not just cloth caps and Last of the Summer Wine. These opportunities don’t come around.”

Julian Close, who plays the cheeky music master Don Basilio, said: “In this country opera’s been used as a class tool. But when my father was growing up in Bradford they all went to the operas.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: The people bringing Barber of Seville to life, pictured in City ParkThe people bringing Barber of Seville to life, pictured in City Park (Image: PR)

“Verdi and Mozart all wrote about people they knew, or people of high stations they wanted to ridicule. It was their way of taking the mickey out of people.

“My character is seen as a servant by the upper classes but music masters, they moved through all echelons of society. A music master would have been one of the only people allowed in big houses. He would of course pick up all the gossip and listen in and use that.” 

And it’s characters like this who will define the show’s plot.

Milana Sarukhanian’s character, Bertha, has been transported 100 years into the future while the Barber of Bradford, played by Oscar Castellino, is a self-made man trying to seize any opportunity he can.

The opera represents the time when Bradford was a booming giant in the textile industry and people from around the world migrated to the city.

In a message to opera novices, Milana said: “Don’t try to get the plot before. Try to immerse yourself.”

The Barber of Seville, a co-production of Bradford Opera Festival, Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra and Bradford Festival Choral Society, is at St George's hall on November 23. Call (01274) 432000 or visit