Back in March, when everything came to a halt due to Covid, none of us imagined how long the standstill would last for Welsh National Opera. Of all the performing art forms, opera works to the most far-reaching timelines, and we hoped we would be back in time for our Autumn Season; but the true complexity of the situation became apparent quite soon. A company like WNO that tours to partner venues is part of, and depends on a much wider arts ecosystem, so this led to the unfortunate cancellation of WNO’s entire Autumn Season. Thus, we have shifted our focus to digital performances and projects, and are now looking forward to Spring 2021.
As the largest arts organisation in Wales we are of course subject to guidelines put in place by the Welsh Government and are considering carefully how we might return to work and produce live performances under safe conditions in the next few months. It’s bitterly ironic that singing and instrumental playing – joyful, life-enhancing activities and the very essence of what we do at WNO – are now perceived as life-threatening due to the pandemic.
In line with Welsh Government guidelines, Wales Millennium Centre has informed us that it is unlikely that the Donald Gordon Theatre will be open in time for our Spring 2021 Season, so we are now working closely with the team at St David’s Hall and the New Theatre to plan ways to return to performances in Cardiff, once it is deemed safe to do so, following Welsh Government advice as to how our industry might work in a Covid environment.
Unless circumstances prevent, we intend to tour as planned to all our English and Welsh touring venues in Spring 2021. The past six months have been such a frustrating time for WNO’s famed Chorus and Orchestra and its highly skilled technical teams, but we will be ready to go as soon as the opportunity arises.
Of paramount importance is the safety of you our audiences and our performers, and the sheer scale of some operas means that they cannot be safely performed in these restrictive times. Therefore, the productions of Gounod’s Faust and Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier must be postponed until a later date. Accepting that our plans may be subject to change, we are planning for the Spring 2021 Season tour with Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, which Tomáš Hanus will conduct, alongside Il trovatore and Play Opera LIVE, a family concert following on from our successful and popular online Play Opera series. Ticket holders will be notified by venues in due course on how to make or change ticket bookings.
But there is one area of activity where we have not been idle during the past six months as many of our community programmes and performances have moved online. And over the coming months, we will be releasing even more online content that has been specially created for that purpose. The first of which is Poulenc’s intense monodrama, La voix humaine, directed by Sir David Pountney and will be released on World Opera Day, 25 October.
These new strands of our work open the way for us to make deeper connections across the many communities in which we work. The arts speak to our common humanity and have a vital role to play. WNO’s vision is of a world enriched and made inclusive by the power of opera: WNO aims to be a company for everyone - that reflects the society we live in.
Welsh National Opera marks its 75th Anniversary in 2021. Just as the Company was formed by a group of amateur singers who came together in 1946, so will today’s WNO bounce back from a world crisis to bring the wonders of our art form to the communities we so proudly serve throughout Wales and England. We hope that before long – when it is safe to do so – all at WNO will be able to see you in person once again.