Welsh National Opera announces its 70th birthday plans - two years early
WNO declares its hand, the first major company to unveil its 2015-16 season
Welsh National Opera has got in early with its 2015-16 season announcement, but with so many exciting projects lined up for the company's 70th anniversary it's no surprise they couldn't keep things to themselves any longer.
Music and Madness is the season's theme, with new productions of Bellini's I Puritani, Handel's Orlando and Sondheim's Sweeney Todd.
Annilese Miskimmon will direct a new production of Bellini's last opera I Puritani, famous for its deranged heroine, Elvira. Carlo Rizzi, the company's former music directorwill conduct. Barry Banks, who is currently singing Arnold in WNO's William Tell, will return to sing the role of Lord Arturo Talbo with David Kempster as Sir Riccardo Forth.
Directed by Harry Fehr, the production of Orlando originated with Scottish Opera in 2011 and sets the opera during World War II, contrasting the glamour of the late 1930s with the devastation of the Blitz. The world-class cast is headed by Welsh soprano Rebecca Evans as Angelica, with counter-tenors Robin Blaze as Medoro and Lawrence Zazzo in the title role.
The current glut of Sweeney Todds continues as WNO adapts the West Yorkshire Playhouse production, directed by WYP artistic director James Brining and conducted by James Holmes. There will be an extra pre-Christmas run of the production at Wales Millennium Centre following WNO's Autumn UK tour.
The season will be devoted entirely to a Figaro trilogy under the theme Figaro here, Figaro there . Alongside new productions of Rossini's The Barber of Seville and Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro, WNO will present the world première of Elena Langer's Figaro Gets a Divorce, with libretto by WNO's artistic director David Pountney. All three operas will be sung in English and presented in the same scenic environment, with a production team led by veteran set designer Ralph Koltai and costume designer Sue Blane.
Opening the trilogy is Rossini's Barber. Director Sam Brown makes his debut with WNO, with Andrew Shore singing Bartolo and Claire Booth as Rosina. Nico Darmanin and Nicholas Lester will make their debuts with WNO as Almaviva and Figaro respectively.
Lothar Koenigs ends his tenure as WNO music director by conducting The Marriage of Figaro, to be directed by the artistic director of the Grand Théâtre de Genève, Tobias Richter. Figaro will be sung by David Stout and Countess Almaviva by Elizabeth Watts. Susan Bickley will sing Marcellina with Alan Oke as Don Basilio and Don Curzio.
Oke will also contribute a key role in Figaro Gets a Divorce, a WNO commission from composer Elena Langer to a libretto by Pountney, who will also direct. Many of the singing roles will be shared with The Marriage of Figaro, with Andrew Watts joining the cast as The Cherub – a grown up version of Cherubino.
The company's 70th birthday will be marked by the world première of In Parenthesis (An Artist's Vision of the Somme), based on the poem by World War One poet David Jones. This new opera is composed by Iain Bell with a libretto by David Antrobus and Emma Jenkins. David Pountney will direct an exciting ensemble cast scheduled to include Alek Shrader, Peter Coleman-Wright, Graham Clark, Donald Maxwell and Alexandra Deshorties.
As well as performances in Cardiff and Birmingham, In Parenthesis will visit the Royal Opera House as part of WNO's residency in London with a performance coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of the Somme on 1 July 2016; a fitting commemoration of the conflict in which the regiment now known as The Royal Welsh suffered such terrible casualties.
The season will be rounded off fittingly with a revival of Cavalleria rusticana and I Pagliacci, a repeat of the first programme ever staged by WNO in Cardiff on 15 April 1946.
- Welsh National Opera's 2015-16 season goes on sale in early spring 2015