It has been a long time coming and at times we wondered if Welsh National Opera would ever perform in front of a live audience again - but at long last there is light at the end the tunnel and we feel in a position to announce our 2021/2022 Season. April marked the actual 75th anniversary of the Company, and it was depressing that such an important moment could not be marked with a live performance. But just as the company initially arose from the ashes of WWII, it feels apposite that as we emerge from the current crisis, the first voices to be heard on the stage of the magnificent Wales Millennium Centre will be operatic.
The past year has presented extraordinary challenges for WNO, and for the opera sector as a whole. Behind the scenes, many of the WNO staff have worked far beyond the normal call of duty to help ensure that the Company stays afloat. For many others, it has been the polar opposite - a year of intense frustration as the enforced inactivity has prevented them from doing what they love most. For our singers, players and our various technical teams, the creation of an opera production is more than an event in which they simply play a vital part. It also defines a part of who they are as people, and this is, of course, also true of the freelance artists and technicians who would normally have played such a central role in our work. But one positive to emerge from the past year has been our creation of content specifically tailored for digital distribution. It has given us a perfect opportunity to showcase the myriad activity of our Programmes & Engagement team, much of which might not otherwise have been seen by the public, like A Song for the Future. Expect to see more in this vein in the coming years.
Planning the 2021/2022 Season has required a judicious blend of cautious optimism, a heavy dose of pragmatism and a dash of stargazing. Even now, we have no way of knowing whether social distancing will still be in place, both in the auditorium and on stage. As existing productions were gradually cancelled throughout the past year, we have tried wherever possible to re-programme them, so that artists might have something concrete in their diaries on our return, despite the inevitable domino-effect on our future plans. One production we were most keen to preserve at all costs is Migrations, which will now feature in Cardiff in Summer 2022, but will then continue on tour in the following Autumn Season. In recent years, the arts world has paid particular attention to the way that its work relates to contemporary issues, and opera, relying so heavily on existing repertoire, has sometimes struggled to do so. Migrations confronts head-on the human issues and consequences inherent in the act of migration, and promises to be one of the highlights of our year. Likewise, our new Madam Butterfly, will view Puccini’s work through a contemporary lens and highlight themes that are pressing in these times.
It is a huge relief to be back, and along with every member of the Company, I look forward to seeing you all back in the theatre once more.