To quote a very iconic band, ‘All you need is love’, and boy Welsh National Opera has received plenty of it over the last 75 years from audiences, critics, artists, supporters but most importantly, its staff. Today, on Valentine’s Day, we are sending our love to all those people who have helped make WNO what it is today; from the staff located at our home in Wales Millennium Centre to the staff that join us on tour, from those performing on the stage to those who build the scenery and last, but not least, our supporters.
With an outstanding reputation both on the operatic and concert platform, WNO Orchestra has been delighting audiences both nationally and internationally for nearly 50 years. At the helm, Chorus and Orchestra Director Peter Harrap, who he himself has dedicated over 25 years to the Company. Alongside the devoted leader, 20 musicians form a stable foundation to the Orchestra, serving a minimum period of 20 years each. Diolch Martin Kegelmann, Robert Tonkin, Susan Plessner, Peter Lilley, Ann Jones, Donald McNaught, Marilyn Shewring, Philip Heyman, Barry Friend, Stephen Lloyd, Louise Rabaiotti, Christopher Hodges, Alexandra Robinson, Arthur Davies, Mikeal Price, Mary Condliffe, Jonathan Burgess, Stephen Marsden, Angus West, Dean Wright, Martin McHale, Roger Cutts.
Mary Condliffe, Double Bass
No day is the same at WNO. Since joining the Orchestra in 1984, I’ve been involved in education projects, concerts, side by side projects, foreign tours and festivals. This is on top of the variety of main scale operatic repertoire. I’ve had numerous highlights - working with world class conductors like Pierre Boulez, performing at the BBC Proms with Sir Bryn Terfel and not forgetting Wagner’s Ring Cycle. I'm very lucky.
Dean Wright, Trumpet
The Company is very dear to me for a number of reasons. The work we produce is first class, it’s always a musically thrilling journey, but for me, it is the people within the Company that make it a special place to work. A seminal day for the Orchestra and Chorus and a day that I’ll never forget – performing Die Meistersinger Von Nurnberg with Lothar Koenigs. The Royal Albert Hall was full, it was live on television and the atmosphere was electric.
From one performing ensemble to another, WNO Chorus was recently placed in The Daily Telegraph’s top 50 moments that defined the decade. Over the years they’ve attended masked balls (Un ballo in maschera), kidnapped the president’s daughter (Rigoletto) and fought in wars (In Parenthesis; War and Peace) and our longest serving performers have totalled a staggering 120 years of service between them. Diolch Rosie Hay, Sarah Pope, Michael Clifton-Thompson, Gareth Lloyd, Philip Lloyd-Evans and Jack O’Kelly.
From on stage to off stage. Working tirelessly behind the scenes to make every performance a success – the administrative, music, technical and finance staff and not forgetting the people that make WNO Chorus look good, the wardrobe department. Among our long standing members of staff across the various departments are Jacquie Owen, Sharon Hunt, Caroline Chaney, Ian Douglas, Sara Evans, Sally Ann Bird, David Watkins, Valerie Watkins, Russell Moreton, Jan Michaelis, Liz Walker, Siân Price, Sue Crowle, Andy John, Ian Jones, Barbara Leith, Paul Woodfield, Julia Carson Sims, John Hayel, Constandinous Micallef, John Stewart, John Riemer, Chris Macauley, Robert Andrews, Marshala Hayel, Steve Harris, Dean Marshall and Siân McCabe.
Sara Evans, Head of Events
I remember seeing WNO’s new (at the time) production of Madam Butterfly. I was 17 years old. Nothing beats live theatre and live orchestral playing and ‘un-mic-ed- singing.’ A few years later I saw a job advertised at WNO, marketing assistant. I applied and the rest is history. 35 years later and I’m still here, enjoying (nearly) every minute. It’s emotional and relentless, but it’s so rewarding. Working alongside people I respect and admire every day, what a privilege.
Moving outside our home venue, we have seasoned professionals over at Cardiff Theatrical Services, the Company responsible for creating our truly outstanding scenery. Formed by WNO back in 1984, some members of staff have been with us along our operatic journey from day one. We would be lost without you Ian Siddall, Marilyn Stolz and Stephen Rees.
Last, but definitely not least, where would we all be without WNO Friends and Partners. What began as three small, independent groups in the 1970s has now become a force to be reckoned with, raising much needed funds for the Company. Without their support we wouldn’t be able to stage our ambitious catalogue of work. To date, WNO Friends have been responsible for raising over £1 million pounds for various new productions, from Salome to Don Carlos, The Sacrifice to most recently, Carmen.
My own involvement with WNO comes from my belief that the more you put in, the more you will get out. I began as an audience member, became a WNO Friend, of which I was fortunate enough to become Chairman. I’m a former WNO Board Member and now a WNO Partner. My WNO highlights include Jephtha, The Cunning Little Vixen, The Trojans and the Peter Stein productions of Otello and Falstaff.
From those that have matured with the Company to those that have recently joined us, you’ve all helped shape WNO and for that we say diolch. You are the heart and soul of Welsh National Opera.
Looking ahead, our Spring 2021 Season sees the beginning of our 75th year and what better way to celebrate than to stage a new production of Gounod’s Faust, one of the first operas performed by WNO in April 1946 at Cardiff’s Prince of Wales Theatre. Featuring Jung Soo Yun, who’s currently performing in Les vepres sicilienes, this devilishly sumptuous new production, which is supported by WNO Friends, will leave you on the edge of your seat.