Friday 29 July 2022

2117 / Hedd Wyn: Stephen McNeff & Gruff Rhys' Welsh-language music theatre piece for WNO to be released on Tŷ Cerdd Records

Stephen McNeff - 2117 / Hedd Wyn
2117 / Hedd Wyn is a Welsh-language music theatre piece by composer Stephen McNeff and librettist Gruff Rhys (best known as a member of Super Furry Animals) that was originally commissioned by Welsh National Opera (WNO) in 2017 for cinematic distribution followed by TV broadcast. An audio recording was made but plans for the film were put on hold. Now 2117 / Hedd Wyn is being released on Tŷ Cerdd Records in partnership with WNO.

2117 / Hedd Wyn celebrates the death of the Welsh bard Hedd Wyn. Hedd Wyn was the nom de plume of Ellis Evans who was killed in the World War I trenches and posthumously awarded the Chair at the 1917 National Eisteddfod. Born in the village of Trawsfynydd, Wales, he wrote much of his poetry while working as a shepherd on his family's hill farm. His style, which was influenced by romantic poetry, was dominated by themes of nature and religion. He also wrote several war poems following the outbreak of war on the Western Front in 1914. 

The music theatre piece takes place in 2117, 200 years after Hedd Wyn's death. A nuclear disaster at the Trawsfynydd power station has displaced communities. An intense dose of radiation has blurred the distinction between past, present and future, and the Welsh language faces extinction. The drama instils a dystopian future with Welsh mythology and Hedd Wyn’s own verse.

Hedd Wyn (Ellis Evans) in 1910
Hedd Wyn (Ellis Evans) in 1910

Stephen McNeff conducts the WNO Orchestra, with members of members of WNO Youth Opera and Only Boys Aloud, plus Steffan Lloyd Owen (baritone), Meinir Wyn Roberts (soprano), Paul Carey Jones (bass baritone), Llio Evans (soprano), Alys Mererid Roberts (soprano), Craig Yates (baritone), Laurence Kilsby (tenor) and William Rennie (tenor).

The recording is released on 5 August 2022, and it will be launched with an event on the #Encore stage at the National Eisteddfod on Friday 5 August at 3pm, where Gruff Rhys will be interviewed by Sioned Webb, and soprano Ellen Williams, baritone Dafydd Allen and répétiteur Rhiannon Pritchard will perform excerpts from the work.

Stephen McNeff commented, "The release of 2117 / Hedd Wyn is a milestone in the development of this opera, a project I have wanted to fulfil for over ten years. Working with Welsh National Opera – a company I grew up with and watched since my earliest interest in opera began – has been an ideal outcome, as has collaborating with such a range of unique and diverse creative talents and the cream of young Welsh singers."

Full details from the Tŷ Cerdd website.

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