Sunday 24 August 2014

Wagner in Berwick-upon-Tweed

The Maltings, Berwick-on-Tweed
Berwick-upon-Tweed seems an unlikely  place to go for Wagner but if you visit The Maltings this weekend (23 & 24 August 2014), then Wagner is just what you will find. And not Wagner on the big screen, though The Maltings has an admirable programme of telecasts from Covent Garden. They are performing Act one of Wagner's The Valkyrie, preceded by the Siegried Idyll. The opera will be performed in Jonathan Doves's reduction,  originally made for Graham Vick's City of Birmingham Opera.  Gwenneth-Ann Jeffers is Sieglinde, Ronald Samm is Siegmund and Stuart Pendred is Hagen, with the instrumental ensemble formed from the Hebrides Ensemble and advanced players from the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland, conducted by Peter Selwyn.

It all seems rather wonderful and rather unlikely. In fact The Maltings is the largest auditorium between Edinburgh and Newcastle. A 311 seat theatre along with studio theatre. The venue's CEO and Artistic Director, Matthew Rooke hopes to capitalise on the venue's remote geographical location and allow artists to experiment a bit. He also feels that there are a number of venues in the UK which could never host a full scale opera but which deserve something more than a piano accompanied production and that there is a danger of audiences only having telecasts in cinema.

The Maltings is already something of a success story; in a town of around 14,000 people they manage to sell over 50,000 tickets a year. Rooke's goal is to establish The Maltings as a showcase for presenting works in the opera canon in especially re-conceived orchestral/instrumental reductions. Under the banner of Berwick Festival Opera they are already planning on launching a Ring cycle in 2016.

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