Friday, 28 March 2014

WNO New Season

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Welsh National Opera has announced its new season, David Pountney's second season in charge, and it is a strong one. The operas are divided into three themed seasons, Liberty or Death! (Autumn 2014), Spellbound (Spring 2015) and A Terrible Innocence (Summer 2015). There is much to enjoy , with Summer 2015 bringing Richard Ayres Peter Pan, Mozart's Magic Flute and a new production of Debussy's Pelleas et Melisande whilst Spring 2015 includes Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel, Magic Flute and a new extravaganza entitled Chorus. But it is the Autumn 2014 season which will be inciting the most interest, with a revival of Carmen plus Pountney's own new productions of Rossini's Guillaume Tell and Moses in Egypt. As with their Tudor Queens trilogy last year, WNO seems to be making a welcome space for bel canto opera.


Rossini's Guillaume Tell will premiere on 12 September at the Wales Millennium Centre and Moses in Egypt premieres on 3 October. Both productions are directed by David Pountney, with set designs by Raimund Bauer and cosutmes by Maire-Jeanne Lecca. Carlo Rizzi, WNO's former music director, returns to conduct both operas. Barry Banks will be singing the role Arnold, with David Kempster as William Tell, Gisela Stille as Mathilde, Clive Bayley as Gesler, Fflur Wyn as Jemmy, Leah-Marian Jones as Hedwige, Richard Wiegold as Melchthal and Nicky Spence as Rodolphe. Three cast members are common to both operas, Barry Banks also sings Aronne in Moses in Egypt, Leah-Marian Jones sings Amenofi and Nicky Spenc as Mambre, with Miklos Sebestyen as Moses, David Alegret as Osiride, Christine Rice as Amaltea, and Claire Booth as Elcia

Guillaume Tell is a long opera, and it is being performed on tour, so inevitably there will be cuts. We need to be able to hear it uncut, and it was disappointing that the recent Proms performance was in Rossini's shortened version, but WNO's tour is hardly the context for Guillaume Tell in all its luxuriant uncut glory. Moses in Egypt is being performed in Rossini's original version which was premiered in Naples in 1818. Rossini revised the work heavily when he performed it in Paris, and it is this version which has gained a degree of currency during the 20th century Rossini revival. But the original 1818 version has many virtues, and is far less pompous than the revised Paris version. Both works are designed to be seen in the theatre and I look forward to them immensely.

Pountney is also doing the new production of Debussy's Pelleas et Melisande with Jacques Imbrailo, Jurgita Admonyte, Christopher Purves and Leah-Marian Jones - quite a tempting cast indeed. But with three productions over the year, in addition to directing Chorus! which features Leslie Garrett and the WNO chorus. Let us hope Pountney is not spreading himself too thinly.

The other new production is Richard Ayres Peter Pan, directed by Keith Warner. This is the British premiere of Ayre's new opera and stars Iestyn Morris as Peter Pan, Marie Arnet as Wendy and Ashley Holland as Captain Hook. I'm not sure whether Peter Pan is the most operatic of subjects, so it will be interesting to see whether Warner, Ayres and librettist Lavinia Greenlaw can work their magic.

Dominic Cooke's production of Mozart's Magic Flute gets two outings in the season, with a very tempting array of young singers in the cast including Allan Clayton, Benjamin Hulett, Sophie Bevan, Anita Watson, Jacques Imbrailo and Daniel Grice. Ailish Tynan and Anna Grevelius are the children in Richard Jones production of Hansel and Gretel, with Adrian Thompson as the witch.
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