“Hee haw” at the Opera for Porridge

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A local donkey will be set to hit the stage next month at His Majesty’s Theatre for a starring role in Carmen.

Porridge from Aboyne will be joined by Rupert from ? to join the cast of opera director Ellen Kent’s dazzling new production of Carmen at HMT in April.

Porridge and Rupert will be treading the boards in turn alongside the Chisinau National Opera and Philharmonic Orchestra on Wednesday 10 April and Thursday 11 April.

On both nights, there will be a collection to raise money for donkey welfare.

The award-winning producer and director of Carmen spent her teenage years in Spain and has a rich store of experiences to draw as she weaves passion and drama into the production.

Ellen said: “Incorporating a donkey into the production lends it a real taste of Spain.

“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!

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.