Russell Hepplewhite's Laika the Spacedog is a multi-award-winning opera for young people. After touring in the UK, it won the International Jury prize for Best Production at the 2013 Armel International Opera Festival in Hungary, and subsequently toured to Opera d’Avignon in France in December 2013.

Laika was the Russian mongrel discovered in Gorky Park in Moscow in 1957, and destined to become the first animal in orbit. She is the most famous victim of the space race, and died like so many other animals sent up by both the Russians and the Americans. The story is a remarkable one, and touches on the true lives of the scientists involved (including the great Russian scientist Korolev), the relationship between men and animals, and the ethics of science and discovery.

The opera’s thrilling story is told in many diverse ways by 9 professional performers – with singing, playing, drama, archive film, animation (created with children) and puppetry. It features also such strange remnants of the mid-twentieth century as the theremin, one of the weirdest musical instruments ever conceived. The action takes us from an apartment in Moscow to Gorky Park, to the Kremlin (where we meet President Khrushchev), and finally to the Cosmodrome in Baikonur, brought to life with stunning design, and from where we launch the famous Sputnik rockets. The piece is highly interactive and includes songs for everyone.

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