After weeks of rehearsals and preparation, it is finally here – opening night! Welsh National Opera’s Autumn 2019 Season kicks off in style at 7.15pm tomorrow (Saturday 21 September), in the Donald Gordon Theatre here at Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff, with Jo Davies’ new production of Carmen.
This production of Bizet’s dramatic opera takes Carmen’s socio-economic status as the basis for its setting, reflecting on the realism of Bizet’s portrayal of a working class woman, a factory worker – not something that was generally shown on stage at that time. Choosing to set it in Central America in the early 1970s, in the heart of the favelas, with the constant presence of the military/police and the ‘clearing’ of the slums, provided the creative team with an understandable and relatable interpretation of the story without losing the heat, the passion, that Carmen is renowned for. Jo Davies, who last worked with WNO on Kiss Me, Kate in 2016, teamed up with regular collaborators, costume designer Gabrielle Dalton and set designer Leslie Travers on this production.
The next opera to hit the stage is our 1960s-era production of Verdi’s Rigoletto, with its topical setting of the White House and Washington DC. But we mustn’t forget that back in 2002 original director, James Mcdonald and set designer Robert Innes Hopkins, were working in a completely different political climate. Directing our performances this year is Caroline Chaney (who also directed it in 2010); with Mark S Doss returning to the Company in the title role following his appearances as Scarpia in our Tosca during Spring 2018 Season, playing against David Junghoon Kim as the Duke. Who will win in the battle over Rigoletto’s daughter, Gilda, the protective father or the powerful player? Come along and find out – opening on Friday 27 September.
Finally we make a welcome return to the pastoral forest setting of The Cunning Little Vixen, David Pountney’s much-celebrated version of Janáček’s uplifting opera where humans learn from the animals. For those of you in Cardiff, you may have seen the colourful, illustrated, posters around town for our brand new Augmented Reality experience, A Vixen’s Tale, which runs alongside our Season in Cardiff and will take you into the world of the Vixen and her forest friends. Meet them on stage from Saturday 5 October, with our Music Director, Tomáš Hanus who hails from Janáček’s home town of Brno, conducting for the whole tour.
Once our Cardiff run has ended, with a performance of Rigoletto on Saturday 12 October, everything gets packed up, loaded onto a multitude of lorries and we head out on tour, stopping at Plymouth, Llandudno, Birmingham, Oxford and Southampton. Toi toi toi to all involved.