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In June, Welsh National Opera launched two podcast series; The O Word presented by Gareth Jones in English and Cipolwg presented by Lorna Prichard in Welsh. We caught up with Gareth, to find out more about him, how he got involved and what you can expect from The O Word.
Tell us about yourself and how you got involved with WNO’s podcast.
I’ve been a journalist working in broadcasting for the best part of 40 years. It’s been great but I’ve never had enough time to cover the arts which is something that’s close to my heart. Now, having left the BBC, I have more say over what I do, and one of the first things I wanted to get off the drawing board was a podcast for WNO. Opera has been a great interest of mine, which may be something to do with my grandmother Eileen. She was in WNO Chorus in the mid-fifties, in the ‘Swansea section’, which according to her, was much better than the ‘Cardiff section’.
Tell us about an opera production that really stood out for you.
Peter Stein’s Otello, which I saw back in 1986 in Cardiff. If ever you wanted an illustration of what this art form can do when firing on all cylinders, this would be it. Verdi’s opening is musically and dramatically explosive anyway, but Stein heightened it further with extraordinary special effects, staging and costumes. The singing was magnificent and of course, the fabled WNO Chorus and Orchestra were deployed to full effect in those first fifteen minutes. It knocked my head off.
What do you think opera lovers will enjoy about our podcast?
A podcast is like radio, you use many of the same skills but a successful podcast builds up a more intimate relationship with the listener. I hope with The O Word I can get a good balance. I want to show the extraordinary talent and creativity that goes into making opera but also how it can reach out to all kinds of people everywhere. For me opera is a special and even sometimes rather curious, other-worldly, exotic thing. I want to celebrate that. I hope the audience will feel I’m their trusted host, ushering them around the music, ideas and personalities of opera.
What episode so far has been your highlight?
Every episode so far has had at least one highlight for me – I have really enjoyed them all. I have had the privilege of interviewing talented performers and creatives, and also folks who really value what opera and WNO does for them. But I think the real highlight so far was interviewing the team behind WNO’s new work, Migrations in episodes three and four. Listening to the composer Will Todd at the piano, taking me through some of his music; moments like this, with a real artist showing you how he works are rare and magical.
To hear these highlights and more, listen to The O Word, with new episodes released weekly.