Friday 16 April 2021

Welsh National Opera is 75

Yesterday (15 April 2021) marked Welsh National Opera's 75th birthday. The company's first performance was on 5 April 1946 at Prince of Wales Theatre, Cardiff with a double bill of Cavalleria rusticana and Pagliacci (Taking part in the performance was the tenor Robert Tear, who was a schoolboy at the time).

Merthyr-born musician Idloes Owen (1894-1954) initially had the idea to form a national opera company for Wales. Idloes Owen was a composer, conducter and singer, and considered to be one of the finest singing teachers in Wales (Sir Geraint Evans was one of his pupils). In 1943, he led a group of amateur singers from all walks of life including miners, teachers and doctors, to come together through their passion for music and singing. The first meeting and rehearsal of the Welsh National Opera Company took place in a chapel in Crwys Road, Cardiff. Idloes Owen conducted WNO’s first performances in 1946 and continued to be the Company’s musical director until his death in 1954.

Inevitably celebrations are somewhat more muted than planned, but WNO has commissioned a poem, Intermezzo from the National Poet of Wales, Ifor ap Glyn. There are two versions of the poem, one in Welsh [YouTube] the other in English [YouTube], both have been recorded by a series of distinguished Welsh voices  including opera singer Sir Bryn Terfel, Baroness Tanni Grey Thompson, rugby legend Sir Gareth Edwards, harpist Catrin Finch, singer/songwriter Caryl Parry Jones, opera singer Rebecca Evans, Welsh folk singer Dafydd Iwan, Welsh actors Dame Siân Phillips, Mark Lewis Jones and Rakie Ayola. 

WNO Chorus and Orchestra releases a special newly recorded version of 'Easter Hymn' from Cavalleria rusticana [YouTube] takes a walk through history, from the Company’s humble origins in Llandaff, Cardiff to our current home at Wales Millennium Centre, conducted by James Southall with soprano soloist Camilla Roberts.

More information from the WNO website.

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