In January 2020, WNO Orchestra embarks on its annual New Year concert tour. This year we take you across Europe on A Journey to Vienna and the Orchestra is joined on stage by one of WNO’s favourite leading ladies, soprano Mary Elizabeth Williams.
Audiences will recognise Mary Elizabeth from a number of recent opera roles, but it’s the first time she’s embarked on a tour with the Orchestra and she is looking forward to it tremendously. In fact, she admits that she ‘foisted herself’ on the Orchestra because she was so keen to tour Wales with such a big and beautiful repertoire. Although she has appeared in Cardiff, Llandudno and Swansea in the past, those productions weren’t able to tour to some of the theatres that the Orchestra regularly performs in. Mary Elizabeth told us ‘it’s scandalous that in the 7 – 8 years I’ve been performing with the Company I haven’t performed anywhere else in Wales. I want to see more of the country and sing more for the Welsh people.’
The Orchestra is used to playing in both the pit for main scale operas and on stage for their regular programme of concerts. This is the first time Mary Elizabeth has joined them up-close. She explains that the preparation has been very different – in an opera the singer arrives at rehearsal having prepared their own role and then works with their colleagues, conductor and director to bring all elements together, whereas in a concert the singer has a lot more control and involvement in the programming and planning.
For this series of concerts in particular, Mary Elizabeth has worked closely with Leader of WNO Orchestra, David Adams who also acts as Concertmaster and who she describes as ‘a wonderful and giving leader’. Having worked with the Company so often, she knows the Orchestra well and they know her, and this concert highlights so many of the hugely talented players through the variety of music played.
We asked Mary Elizabeth the impossible question – does she have a favourite piece in the programme? She struggled to pick as there are so many to choose from – an aria from Die Fledermaus, which she performed with WNO in Summer 2017, was one example. However, Vilja from The Merry Widow did stand out for her as Hanna is a role she hasn’t sung, although she has performed the aria previously in concert. ‘Whenever I sing the piece I look out and see the smiles of recognition in the audience. I’m hoping that they’ll sing along with me.’
To sum up the concert, Mary Elizabeth hopes it will be intimate, and an opportunity to usher in the New Year.
Mary Elizabeth Williams
Come along, enjoy yourselves, and start the New Year right!
Take A Journey to Vienna from 3 to 14 January.