Friday 11 June 2021

WNO returns to large-scale touring with a new look at Madam Butterfly and plans for the premiere of Will Todd's Migrations

Welsh National Opera - Puccini: Madama Butterfly
Welsh National Opera will be returning to large-scale touring this Autumn as part of its recently announced plans for the 2021/22 season. Autumn will see the return of Rossini's The Barber of Seville alongside a new production of Puccini's Madama Butterfly which will aim to create socially relevant telling of the classic tale. 2022 will features Mozart's Don Giovanni and Katie Mitchell's new production of Janáček's Jenůfa which will be conducted by the company's music director Tomáš Hanus. Will Todd's Migrations which was due to be premiered in 2021 will be premiered in Cardiff in June/July 2022 and will tour in Autumn 2022.

Giles Havergal's long-running production of Rossini's The Barber of Seville will be conducted by Tomáš Hanus and Frederick Brown and feature a cast including Nico Darmanin, Nicholas Lester, Heather Lowe, Andrew Shore and Keel Watson.

Puccini's Madama Butterfly will be directed by the Australian director Lindy Hume with Carlo Rizzi and James Southall conducting, Leonardo Caimi and Peter Auty as Pinkerton, Joyce El-Khoury and Alexia Voulgaridou as Butterfly, Mark Stone as Sharpless plus Tom Randle, Keel Watson, Anna Harvey, Kezia Bienek, and Neil Balfour. 

With the great beauty of the music, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that the essential drama of Puccini's well-loved opera is rather complex in our modern day. I remember WNO's production in the late 1970s (with Eiddwen Harrhy as Butterfly) included rather more of Puccini's first version which emphasised more Pinkerton's racism, and then of course there is the issue of Butterfly's age! The issue of opera's approach to the treatment of women is one that Hume has addressed before. In an interview ahead of Seattle Opera's 2019 performances of her production of Verdi's Rigoletto she said, 'In the most famous and beloved operas—Rigoletto, Don Giovanni, Carmen, Tosca, Madama Butterfly—the tragic heroine is part of the vernacular. Sopranos must rehearse how to fall, be stabbed, brutalized, and thrown across the room, behaviors they would never accept in real life. In 2019, if opera aspires to be a progressive, future-focused art form with relevance in contemporary society, then it must evolve and be responsive to a changing society. The topic of sexual assault and violence against women in opera is right there in front of us, either to explore, or to ignore.' So we look forward with interest to Madama Butterfly.

Will Todd's Migrations explores different elements of migration including the human impact via a text created by five diverse writers, Shreya Sen Handley, Edson Burton and Miles Chambers, Eric Ngalle Charles and Sarah Woods, working with Sir David Poutney. Pountney will direct and Matthew Kofi Waldren conducts, with a cast of 100 including a gospel choir, a children's chorus, Bollywood dancers and soloists from across the world.

WNO Youth Opera will be busy too. In May 2022 they will be performing Judith Weir's The Black Spider at Wales Millennium Centre with South Wales Youth Opera. The Black Spider was premiered in 1985 in Canterbury Cathedral and Weir (who also wrote the text, loosely based on the 1842 novella Die schwarze Spinne by Jeremias Gotthelf) describes the opera's tone as “somewhere between a video nasty and an Ealing comedy”.

And in July 2022, 18–25-year-old members of WNO Youth Opera will present a new production of Shostakovich’s Cheryomushki, directed by Daisy Evans, conducted by Alice Farnham, with members of WNO’s Youth Opera and Youth Opera alumni, the production will also include assisting roles, technical placements and student instrumentalists.

Tomáš Hanus will be taking the WNO Orchestra back onto the concert platform with concerts at St David's Hall, Cardiff in November 2021 and May 2022. There will also be a programme of family concerts and schools concerts.

WNO is aiming to move its community engagement programmes to ‘in person’ sessions from online activity when safe to do so over the coming months, including its activity in schools, its performances in hospitals and care homes and projects in partnership with Oasis Cardiff and Welsh Refugee Council.  WNO’s Cradle Choir for people living with dementia will also continue as part of the broader intergenerational Cradle project, bringing together children from schools in Milford Haven with local people living with the disease in creative activity culminating in Summer 2022.

WNO’s Talent Development Programme, which has been online during the past year, is returning to live engagement, and this will involved WNO Associate Artists Aaron O’Hare, Adam Gilbert and Isabelle Peters, Weston Jerwood Directing Fellow Gareth Chambers, as well as an Associate Conductor role in collaboration with the Donatella Flick-LSO Conducting Competition. 

Full details from the WNO website.

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