Monday 20 February 2017

Looking ahead: WNO 2017/18 - Russian themes, new Verdi, Elena Langer and a Welsh suffragette

Mussorgsky: Khovanshchina The Chorus of Welsh National Opera - credit Clive Barda
Mussorgsky: Khovanshchina - The Chorus of Welsh National Opera - credit Clive Barda
Welsh National Opera's 2017/18 season starts with a Russian-themed Autumn with Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin, Mussorgsky's Khovanshchina and Janacek's From the House of the Dead (which is based on a book by Dostoyevsky), all part of R17, a cultural exploration of the centenary of the Russian Revolution involving arts organisations across Wales. The Spring 2018 season, Rabble Rousers includes Verdi's La forza del destino (the first in a planned new Verdi trilogy), Mozart's Don Giovanni and Puccini's Tosca. And in Summer 2018 there will be the premiere of a new work by Elena Langer a smaller-scale entertainment touring to venues across England and Wales.

The revival of Eugene Onegin is conducted by Latvian Ainars Rubikis with Nicholas Lester (whom we last saw as Dandini in Opera Holland Parks 2016 La Cenerentola) in the title role and Natalya Romaniw as Tatyana (a role she sang at Garsington last year, see my review). The revivals of From the House of the Dead and Khovanshchina will be directed by David Pountney and conducted by WNO's music director Tomas Hanus and the casts will feature a number of singers appearing in both productions including Robert Hayward, Mark Le Brocq and Adrian Thompson. From the House of the Dead will be the premiere of a new critical edition by John Tyrrell.

Also in Autumn 2017, WNO will give the premiere of Tom Green's The World's Wife a piece for soprano and string quartet with a libretto by Carol Ann Duffy which looks at the men of history from the perspective of their better halves.

2018 marks the start of a new trilogy of Verdi operas which WNO is producing in collaboration with Oper der Stadt Bonn. Verdi's La forza del destino premieres in Spring 2018, with Un ballo in maschera in Spring 2019 and Les Vepres Sicilienne in 2020. The operas will all be conducted by Carlo Rizzi and directed by David Pountney. The design team, Raimond Bauer, Marie-Jeanne Lecca and Fabrice Kebour, will be creating a 'design machine' common to all three opera but capable of making each look different.

The cast for La forza del destino includes Gwyn Hughes Jones as Don Alvaro, Mary Elizabeth Williams as Leonora and Luis Cansino as Don Carlo, plus Mikos Sebestyen, Justina Gringyte, and Donald Maxwell. Kerem Hasan joins WNO as associate conductor, initially assisting Carlo Rizzi on La forza del destino.

The Spring season is completed by a revival of John Caird's production of Mozart's Don Giovanni which includes Elizabeth Watts as Elvira and David Stout as Leporello, and Puccini's Tosca conducted by Carlo Rizzi with Claire Rutter and Mary Elizabeth Williams in the title role, Hector Sandoval and Gwyn Hughes Jones as Cavaradossi and Mark Doss as Scarpia.

Summer 2018 sees the world premiere of Rhondda Rips is up! a new entertainment by Elena Langer. The composer describes it as a vaudeville or cabaret. It has a libretto by Emma Jenkins in which an all female cast, including soprano Lesley Garrett, tells the story of the Welsh suffragette Margaret Haig Thomas. The production's small scale will enable it to tour to venues across England and Wales including the Hackney Empire. Elena Langer's previous opera Figaro gets a divorce was a great success as part of WNO's 2015/16 season.

Music director Tomas Hanus will conduct the WNO orchestra in three concerts at St David's Hall, Cardiff with programme complementary to the opera seasons so in November 2017 they will be performing a Russian programme including Shostakovich's Symphony No. 7 'Leningrad'

New educational initiative during the season include the first concert from the newly formed WNO Community Chorus North, which takes place at North Wales International Music Festival, and the 2017/18 season sees the launch of a fully integrated international opera school at the Royal Welsh College of Music an Darma

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